‘Glamorous Bait for an Amorous killer!’: How post-war audiences were Lured by Lucille and the working-girl investigator

By Ellen Wright

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There exists a well-established rhetoric regarding the immediate post-war era and American women; the narrative runs that having been urged to enter the workforce to aid the Allied war effort, once peace was declared America’s female populace were systematically coerced into the belief that their patriotic duty was once again as housewives rather than workers.  It is claimed that Hollywood, along with other popular culture industries, was complicit in the propagation of this message. The existence of this campaign and the degree to which it was successful has been a point of contention for various film scholars 1 who have both supported and discredited this claim utilising a variety of films with differing agendas.

Whilst individual films can, and do, indicate to their audiences (and to the historian) a range of ideological constructs, the advertising materials and publicity used to promote these films in many ways can offer more immediate, lasting and public, but by no means any less ideologically contentious or complex, examples of the messages and values, both direct and mixed, that producers wished and considered acceptable to express to their audiences in order to sell their products during this period.

During the classical era studios frequently had more than one property which they were promoting within any one film campaign; the film and the longer term investment of their star, and while the star leant their value to the marketing of the film, equally the film and its reception had to add to and not damage the star’s currency. Film advertising and promotion then presented a carefully constructed and multifaceted blend of textual signifiers which amongst other saleable commodities, such as genre or prestige, commonly emphasised elements upon which this study focuses – a star’s established persona and a recognisable character archetype (frequently closely linked and complimentary to the performers established star persona; what Barbara Klinger refers to as the “character/star unit” 2) and an indication as to the function of that character within the films narrative, with a view to creating what Barbara Klinger terms as a “consumable identity” 3 for the film and making the film as appealing and saleable to as broad an audience as possible.

The late 1940s saw a raft of Hollywood films – cycles of thrillers, gangster and detective pictures – which have subsequently been grouped together initially by critics and academics and more recently by studios and distributors marketing and re-branding their back catalogue, as a single, apparently coherent genre: film noir. While the initial academic interest in these films centred around particular qualities and commonalities of films from this period, the desire to re-brand films as quality products and expand the canon of a fashionable and saleable genre has led to an ever-increasing and often dubious labelling of films as noir, despite both the ahistorical and increasing vagueness of the generic term.  The subsequent reclassification by both industry and academics of these films, makes many assumptions drawn around the films, their meanings and their social relevance – in both their reflection of and influence upon audiences and wider society, moot.

One group of thriller-detective pictures often incorporated into the noir brand are those featuring what Hansen refers to as the “working-girl” investigator. A female clerical figure “[who] use[s] their position in the city to investigate and solve crime enigmas” 4 and the working girl investigator is located within and associated with the public sphere; a figure whose placement within that sphere was not only justified but necessary, whose conduct was agent and assured, and who was considered both respectable and virtuous despite, in fact because of, her entering of that sphere. She is therefore an archetype who stands outside of what Place 5 terms as a “vice/virtue” dichotomy of traditional film noir theorising. However, given the ahistoric baggage that comes with noirs post-hoc generic grouping, the study of a group of films such as working girl investigator narratives may be better served by an analysis through the prism of their contemporaneous marketing advertising and publicity materials, than by a more usual genre / film text analysis.

Pressbooks for film texts provide the historian with an expansive range of print based promotional materials and suggested advertising and exploitation strategies offering a complex and fruitful resource for the gathering of ‘epiphenomena.’ 6 As Haralovich notes:

“Throughout Hollywood’s classical era, every studio release was accompanied by a pressbook, an oversized and glossy booklet which outlined the films national sales campaign and contained basic materials crucial to that campaign. Pressbooks included two types of material: advertising (primarily mats used for newspaper ads) and publicity (stories and exploitation ideas). Advertising was designed to engage the potential moviegoer’s interest in the films story by stressing genre, the conjunctures of star and character, narrative suspense, and the special qualities of a film, such as its adaptation from a popular novel. Publicity presented a film in more detail through prepared reviews, and it also extended beyond the film itself through production stories and stills, merchandising tie-ins, praise for the studios expertise, suggestions for exploitation stunts and so on.” 7

Owing to the “lack of self-containment” 8 and the deliberate engagement of film texts and their marketing with wider cultural and media phenomena through “complex external referential systems” 9 pressbooks offer a rich seam of cultural artefacts through which it is possible to re-examine films and their contexts; in this instance Hollywood’s marketing of its female stars during the post-war period, the gender politics of post-war labour, and the subsequent conjunction of these two elements as seen in the 1947 film Lured.

These materials cannot tell us what audiences actually thought about particular films, their stars, or what was considered to be their relevance to wider cultural discourse within particular contexts, (“I saw this particular film, it convinced me that my rightful place was now in the home”), but they provide the best evidence we have for the ways in which audiences and exhibitors were engaged by producers, just who producers believed these imagined audiences actually were, and what sorts of messages were considered tolerable and appropriate for those audiences and wider society.

During the post-war period film consumption was a fleeting experience, and further access to a particular narrative beyond its cinema ‘run’, was not normally an option. The representations found in film advertising may therefore have offered a more significant and lasting impression of a film, its characters, it stars and its ideological message; whilst as the enthusiastic efforts of the promotional team responsible for the Lured pressbook amply testify, it is often a films marketing and promotion which frames (or at least attempts to frame) the discourse around particular films rather than the film itself.

This analysis demonstrates the usefulness of advertising materials alongside and even over the use of the film text itself. In understanding the contextual function of film/media products, far from being of peripheral or ephemeral interest, the promotion of films was and still is central to the consumption, meaning and cultural identity of a text. Through the use of primary resources then, it is my aim here to call into question elements of the post-war backlash narrative and broaden our understanding of Hollywood’s response to its female audiences and to women who were unwilling or unable to enter or return to the domestic sphere post war. Finally, this demonstrates a more broadly applicable technique through which it is possible to explore the wider contexts that surround films.

 

The problem of the post-war backlash

The notion of a conservative cultural backlash against American women at large and the public and potentially problematic figure of the female war worker in particular, is a provocative and compelling one. Within this narrative it is supposed that two dichotomous female representations were on offer within the American media during the mid to late 40s; the capitulating housewife – a virtuous martyr figure firmly located within the domestic sphere – and the morally suspicious public woman.  These two female representations current in late 40s discourse could frequently and strikingly be found in what has subsequently become termed as Noir.

The capitulating housewife figure, having done her duty during the war, returned to the home to create a safe, loving domestic haven for her returning veteran husband is not surprisingly frequently linked with the noir archetype of the “nurturing woman” – a figure who offered safe and secure domestic refuge for the jaded noir hero. (See, for example Lilly in The Killers (1946, Universal), Ann in Out of the Past (1947, RKO) and Katie in The Big Heat (1953, Columbia)). By way of a direct counterpoint, the figure of the public woman who continued, postwar, to very visibly to occupy the public sphere is commonly understood to have been portrayed as deviant, selfish and even threatening; these were bad mothers, bad wives, bad housekeepers, or just plain bad; taking men’s jobs and generally undermining attempts at re-establishing cultural harmony. Such a troubling representation maps conveniently onto noirs “femme fatale” – a figure who represented a “nightmarish manifestation of masculine anxieties within the period.” 10

It is worth briefly emphasising here that the term ‘public woman’ has been deliberately chosen here, in part, for its similarity to the idiom ‘fille publique’ – a French turn-of-the-century expression for prostitute – as both terms evoke the inevitable negotiation of propriety which must be undertaken by any woman who makes her self visible within a contested public sphere. Equally the term “working girl” used within the context of the ‘working girl investigator’ also functions euphemistically for prostitute.

In the academic imagination the figure of the femme fatale – an intensely sexualised figure, often discussed as an independent female and frequently conflated with the independent working woman – has come to be considered particularly indicative of the latent misogyny of noir, Hollywood and post-war society at large because it is presumed that it was her visible presence within the public sphere and her refusal to become a homely reassuring figure that marked her as aberrant. However this is a deeply problematic interpretation of the femme fatale and of the politics of female labour during this period. As Mark Jancovich notes:

“Although there certainly was a concerted effort to force women back into the home, it has to be remembered that many women had already been working outside the home before the war, and that this process of conversion was often about getting women out of specific types of work. For many women, it was a matter of giving up highly paid jobs as skilled labourers and returning to lowly paid jobs as unskilled labour, domestic servants or worse.” 11

In addition there are further issues with these existing assumptions surrounding noir and post-war femininity. As both Hansen 12 and Jancovich 13 have argued; whilst the femme fatale came to be considered, certainly in film academia, and particularly amongst feminist scholars as “even more iconographic than the private eye or the weak neurotic hero” 14 as Jancovich highlights she was “actually a rather infrequent feature of the films commonly identified with noir” 15 and a much more diverse range of filmic female representations actually existed during this period than is often credited. As Jancovich demonstrates using contemporaneous critical reviews of noir films, these female representations were subject to much more nuanced understandings. For example the femme fatale wasn’t received negatively for her associations with the public sphere but for her slovenly and egotistical nature and because she “preferred to remain insulated within the domestic sphere.” 16 She was considered a ‘slacker’ – unwilling to participate or contribute productively within either public or domestic spaces. As such, ironically, she was actually “often [contemporaneously understood to be] overtly opposed to the figure of the independent woman of wartime.” 17

The appeal of the femme fatale; her sexual agency and propensity for resistance which often made her a highly potent image for promotion, marketing and for identification with female audiences 18 has also been regularly discussed by academics. However, the exploitation of female sexuality was not limited to the figure of the femme fatale or to noir. The character Gilda in the film of the same name (Columbia, 1946) whose marketing and subsequent circulation in cultural discourse both rhetorically and pictorially so closely resembled the conventional conceptions of the femme fatale that despite the evidence of the film narrative itself (she does not kill, she is not treacherous and she is apparently emotionally and sexually loyal to Johnny) has largely come to be (mis)understood as a femme fatale.  Hayworth’s previous acting roles, their cultural currency and her accumulated star persona at the time of Gilda’s release, as Richard Dyer notes, ‘were as the ‘other woman’ (Only Angels Have Wings, Strawberry Blonde) and most vividly as an archetypal evil seductress in Blood and Sand, roles that made it easy to read Gilda in femme fatale terms.’. 19 Essentially Gilda’s social and sexual coding throughout the film and its marketing: her costuming and grooming, her placing throughout the narrative, either in public locations such as nightclubs, casinos and restaurants or in boudoirs, because of her ultimate ‘unknowability’ 20 as a character within the narrative, as well as a combination of extra textual elements, all contribute to a reading, beyond the evidence of behaviour or personality, as a femme fatale.

As Hanson asserts, the academic preoccupation with femme fatales and nurturing women has subsequently led to the neglect of the working-girl investigator.  In exploring this figure within the context of several key promotional resources and proposed promotional techniques found in Lured’s pressbook it is possible then to explore the ways in which such a figure, who occupies a deeply contentious representational space, who in the context of fraught postwar inter-gender work relations would surely have been ripe for denigration and thus problematic to market – was promoted to everyday American audiences. 

 

Lured and the allure of the working-girl investigator

As a thriller narrative set in an urban environment, with a complex crime-centred plot, an ominous tone, shot in black and white and which uses expressionistic lighting Lured bears many of the stylistic and thematic characteristics which have come to be attributed to film noir, whilst it’s gutsy, quick-witted female protagonist – mobile, modern and independent – also marks Lured as a text which can be classified as belonging to the noir sub-cycle of the female investigator narrative.

Lured is the story of Sandra (Lucille Ball) – an American taxi dancer in a London night club who is recruited by Scotland Yard to bait a homicidal psychopath known as ‘the Poet Killer’ who preys upon young, attractive women through lonely hearts adverts, having already detailed his murderous plans in verse and sent them anonymously to the police. Sandra’s brief is to answer suspect personal ads, arrange rendezvous and hopefully ‘lure’ the killer into a police trap.

In many ways Lured is an unexceptional narrative and contemporaneous critical responses from both sides of the Atlantic indicate that whilst not considered a poor film, Lured was not seen as particularly exceptional or progressive in its female representations. 21 Still Lured is a narrative in which the agent activities of a central female protagonist are key and as a film that appears to be very average in its appeals Lured, or more specifically the marketing proposed in the Lured pressbook, offers the film historian a fascinating insight into what constituted accepted and plausible female representations in the immediate post-war era. The semiotic analysis of several promotional materials for Lured therefore enables us to extrapolate upon wider representational and promotional trends in operation in the post-war American media, particularly where this marketing intersects with advertising campaigns for other products and other industries. This will ultimately allow us to determine to what extent, if at all Hollywood partook of backlash rhetoric when engaging with a female representation so firmly located within the public sphere.

 

Genre, iconography and audiences

The variety of materials available to promote Lured range from three-sheet, six-sheet and twenty-four-sheet posters to lobby cards and window cards. 22 These materials feature a number of recurring elements or motifs, which tell us much about Lured’s audience and appeal.

Firstly, as an indicator of Sandra’s narrative prominence and Ball’s import as a star draw for Lured, in the 14×36”  insert card, the announcement slide, on the front cover and the inside spread of the herald and one of the two 22×28” lobby displays Sandra/Ball commands the largest portion of the image. In addition she appears in all eight of the 11×14” lobby displays. In the majority of the representations of Sandra/Ball, she is primarily photographed or illustrated in either a full-body or a ¾ shot 23 and whilst in three instances 24 only a head-and-shoulder shot of Sandra/Ball appears, only one other character/performer represented within Lured’s accessories and posters (George Zucco/Officer Barrett who in just one instance – the inside spread of the herald – is permitted a ¾ shot alongside Sandra/Ball) appears in anything other than a head-and-shoulder shot. It is clearly she, who is the protagonist within Lured’s plot.

In terms of costuming, Ball/Sandra’s hair is smartly upswept and partially concealed under a head scarf. She wears a pencil skirt, heels and a long rain coat cinched flatteringly at the waist. She is smart and glamorous, simultaneously indicating competence and desirability. In full-body-shots she clutches a newspaper (presumably the source of the personal advert which ‘lured’ the murdered girls – a ‘clue’ for our glamorous detective) and she brandishes a revolver. The mackintosh/revolver combination evoking what has come to be seen as classic detective or noir thriller iconography, thus suggesting Lured may be such a narrative but reversing the traditional gender role of the detective character. It is notable that her gaze is averted, but alert, her pose active, cautious and capable rather than passive or fearful, as she faces an unseen assailant, possibly the murderer.

A vertical arrangement of head-and-shoulder portraits of Ball’s co-stars appears in the 14×36”  insert card, both 22×28” lobby displays, on the announcement slide, on the inside spread of the herald and on the twenty-four-sheet, six-sheet, three-sheet and one-sheet posters. In several instances where a full-body or ¾ shot of Sandra/Ball does not appear, a head-and-shoulder portrait of Ball appears as the top-most image within this arrangement. Each portrait bears a caption which hints at character motive and narrative function in order to further intrigue audiences as like an identity parade, equal suspicion is cast over each character. Who amongst these characters, is the poet killer?

The sense of mystery is further heightened by other iconographic elements such as a red carnation atop a torn personal advertisement which appears on one of the 11×14” and the 22×28” lobby displays, the one sheet and the herald inside spread; suggesting an intriguing liaison whilst the tagline for the 22×28” lobby display, the herald inside spread and the one-sheet –“don’t answer this ad” – presents a desperate plea scrawled in red ink or possibly a blood-stained warning which drifts in to the whirlpool below further suggesting a thriller, mystery or horror narrative.

Whirlpool imagery features in all of Lured’s posters, in one of its lobby cards, one of the 22×28” lobby displays and the inside spread of the herald. Such imagery was not uncommon within the marketing for many ‘noir films’, having been frequently used in the marketing of narratives with a preoccupation with psychology and the unconscious such as the paranoid woman’s picture; a group of films, which not unlike Lured also expressed a thriller or even horror ambience and featured prominent, agent, publically visible and sympathetic female characters 25

Another psychological angle also evident in Lured is its covert claim to offer an exploration of monstrous sexual perversion that could play well with audiences hungry for sensation (see proposed tabloid display tagline “glamorous bait for an amorous killer!” 26) whilst paradoxically offering a simultaneous appeal for more conservative audiences through its positing as a cautionary tale for errant young women 27 The subtle emphasis upon sexual suggestion is reinforced in the insert card tagline which asks of Sandra “How far will she go to trap a killer, or get her man?” hinting at the jeopardy to which Sandra has subjected herself (both physically and morally) in leaving the safety of the domestic sphere and entering the perilous world of the public. Equally proposed feature “How many local girls were Lured?” 28 also emphasises Lured’s potential for sensation by somewhat tastelessly encouraging exhibitors to create lobby displays that link the film to the then recent high profile ‘Black Dahlia’ murder in LA with the suggested heading: “Lured to a Rendezvous with Death!”

Despite the variety in poster layout, iconography and address the elements, even where they offer variants and alternatives have a common theme in their presentation of the protagonist. Sandra/Ball is agent yet sympathetic, stylish yet capable, conflating the supposed dualism of noir women. Though this reflects the actuality of the narrative, the studios did not have to choose to promote these elements – and choose with them to promote a positive image of the working woman, public and glamorous; an image in no small part supported by the choice to cast Ball and work with her star persona.

 

‘Great stars join forces in dynamic…drama’: Star power as marketing strategy

Much work exists upon the import of star power; 29 the distinct and unique combination of appeals or “resonances” 30 a particular star offers, as probably the most effective means of luring an audience to a particular film. As audience studies such as those by Rachel Moseley, Jackie Stacey 31 or Annette Kuhn 32 demonstrate; throughout Hollywood’s classical period the star was key to audiences stated film preferences and thus to film promotion, meaning they were often the most costly part of the production budget. Naturally then, ‘the money’ appeared prominently on almost all posters, though not always in similar depictions to their characters in the screenplay. Not surprisingly then, the positioning of Lured’s female lead – Lucille Ball – is crucial both to the film’s marketing and to the presentation of her character Sandra as a convincingly assertive female protagonist.

Although the notion of glamour and of the glamorous woman has often been associated with passivity, with academics such as Marjorie Rosen claiming that American wartime women were apparently “anesthetised by the idea of glamour” 33, marking them as cultural dupes complicit in their own oppression, glamour has also been linked to self-actualisation. 34 Utilising Bordieu’s theory of cultural capital, Beverley Skeggs, observes that:

“Glamour is a way of transcending the banalities of femininity which render women as passive objects, as signs of appearance without agency, as something which has to be done…Glamour involves attitude as well as appearance… It is the attitude that makes the difference. It gives agency, strength and worth back to women and is not restricted to youth. They do glamour with style. Glamour is about a performance of femininity with strength.” 35

Whilst Carol Dyhouse has observed that:

“Adult women aren’t simply prisoners, dupes or victims, and there can be a playfulness around glamour…. It is important to remember that women practice glamour, they are not simply the object of the male gaze.” 36

Rather than being a means through which to present Sandra/Ball as passive, and temper any potentially troubling questions raised by her agent activities, glamour is used within Lured’s promotional strategies as an index of Sandra/Ball’s agency, self-assurance, and competence.

Less agent representations of Sandra/Ball which invoke the notion of potential victimhood are occasionally offered within the Lured campaign 37 as peril is a prerequisite of the effective marketing of thriller narratives. Alongside this, the repeated incongruous image of the glamorous woman holding a gun lends Sandra an agency that hints that she alone is the solution to the perils to which she is subject. The concept of Sandra and Ball as agent, ‘modern’ and glamorous women operating competently and with purpose, within the public sphere is the central premise throughout the film’s promotional campaign.

Ball’s prominent position within Lured’s marketing also raises the inevitable question of what capital her star persona brought for audiences in 1947. Long before her I Love Lucy success, Ball was already established as a comedic actress, but with a very different comedic style to that of her later ‘Lucy’ star persona. Having appeared as sassy, vivacious and occasionally brassy ‘broads’ in films such as DuBarry Was a Lady (MGM, 1943), The Big Street (MGM, 1942) and Dance Girl, Dance (RKO, 1940) by 1947 Ball was already known for her portrayal of articulate, sassy, self-assured characters adept at verbal sparring and quick on the draw with the deft one-liners – a comedic technique popular in genres such as screwball comedy – which served to compliment the assertive and glamorous, pin-up persona for which at this time she was also simultaneously known.

Molly Haskell, alluding to cinemas tendency to use verbal dexterity as an index of female agency, sardonically observes of silent film representations that ‘women are more loveable without the disputatious, ego-defining dimension of speech.’ 38 Knowledge of Ball’s quick-witted, fast-talking star persona allows an understanding that Sandra is sharp, intelligent and agent and this reading is reinforced by a series of publicity articles in the film’s pressbook. Headlines such as “Lucille Ball helps Scotland Yard unravel a baffling case”  which deliberately blur the line between Sandra and Ball and present both as gutsy role models.  In one feature Ball is claimed to be the first star in Hollywood to own her own helicopter 39, and in another is (fictitiously) said to have overcome paralysis, 40 prompting an episode of personal development:

“The biggest blow to her career came after an automobile accident, when she was paralysed from the hips down. She was out of the running for five years, three of which she spent in a wheelchair. During this time Lucille, as she puts it “learned to live with myself.” 41

It is not surprising then that this linkage of glamour and agency to Sandra lead to her image being adopted by another company’s marketing department; that of cosmetics manufacturer Max Factor.

As various works such as those of Jane Gaines 42 and Charles Eckert 43 demonstrate, the advertising tie-up was a common, and by 1947, well-established cross-promotional technique used to help raise the profile of films. Not unlike most other Hollywood studio products of the era, the Lured pressbook suggests a bewildering array of potential tie-upsfrom women’s suits and jackets, jewellery, a Lured ‘hairdo’, even to proposed pet shops tie-ups, 44 but at large the cross promotional techniques are strongly weighted towards products that hold an appeal primarily or entirely for female consumers.

Female film star endorsement and film tie-ups were a key advertising strategy for Max Factor with “all advertisements prominently featur[ing] screen stars, [whilst] their testimonials [were] secured in an arrangement with the major studios that required them to endorse Max Factor,” 45 so it is not unusual then that a Max Factor ‘color harmony’ lipstick/Lured tie-up was in circulation in the American media at the time of Lured’s release. In addition to the glamorous associations with Hollywood and his glamorous clientele of desirable, self-assured starlets, another of Max Factor’s marketing coups was the company’s capitalising upon the trend for “marketing women’s fashion separates and accessories as complementary ensembles.” 46 Working on the premise that women could divided into ‘types’ according to facets such as skin tone, hair or eye colour Max Factor encouraged its consumers to select cosmetic goods in particular shades to suit their own individual skin tone, eye or hair colour, enhance their natural features and create particular and coherent ‘looks’. The Lured/Max Factor tie-up features three small illustrations representing three distinct ‘looks’ each with its own corresponding lipstick shade – a formal day look possibly for a wedding or day at the races (suit, hat, clutch bag), a smart everyday look, possibly for work (suit and overcoat, no hat or bag), and a romantic evening look (ball gown, opera gloves and corsage).

This sales approach offered the consumer the illusion of choice and individualism encouraging women to adopt, and shift between recognised female personas – the working-girl, the glamorous vamp, the wholesome sweetheart – through the purchase and use of such goods whilst having the added benefit of encouraging consumers to purchase a full complement of ‘harmonised’ cosmetic goods rather than individual purchases of single cosmetic items. 47

By the time of Lured’s release cosmetics had for a considerable period, come to be not only acceptable, but associated with “freedom and individuality.” 48 Due in no small part to the efforts of cosmetics advertisers, the wearing of makeup had become “an expression of self and personality” 49 which allowed its wearers to project an image of modern, agent and desirable femininity. Therefore an item as affordable and easily available as a lipstick is presented in the Lured/Max Factor tie-up becomes a visual signifier of female autonomy, and female fans are encouraged indulge in what Stacey terms as “extra cinematic identificatory practices” 50 by purchasing the “new lipstick from Hollywood” in order to represent these particular traits for themselves.

Whilst Max Factor advertising tie-ups’ frequently cited the star endorser’s latest film in their advertisement as a means of indicating how culturally ‘current’ the star was, (working reciprocally as promotion for the star’s film) these endorsements also occasionally made a closer textual reference to the film narrative itself and/or the actual character played by that star within the film. For example a 1946 Max Factor tie-up for ‘Tru Color lipstick’ and Gilda features an illustrated tableaux from the film featuring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford as the characters Gilda Mundsen and Johnny Farrell. A particularly notable example of the convergence of film star and character can also be found in the Max Factor/Lured tie-up. Whilst the advertisement features no immediate reference to Lured other than the caption, top right; ‘Lucille Ball co-starring in Lured. A Hunt Stromberg production’ Ball’s star power and her performance as Sandra is still key to the ideological coherence of the advert in which Ball is dressed for the outdoors with upswept hair, raincoat and prominently displaying a smart pair of tailored gloves, suggesting rather than a glamorous starlet, here she is photographed as Sandra ready to take to the streets and track down the poet killer.

Presumably then when both the star and the character they played were in line with the kind of brand image that Max Factor wished to promote Max Factor’s ‘Hollywood’ branding (apparent in the tie-ups slogan “the new lipstick from Hollywood”) was further reinforced not only by Max Factor’s “makeup artist to the stars” tagline but also by its association with that particular star and their particular glamour. In choosing to occasionally co-opt specific characterisations found within specific films these advertisements associate, in the case of the Gilda tie-up example, further glamour and sexual potency to the character Gilda or, in the instance of the Lured tie-up, intellectual agency, financial independence and sexual self-possession with the character of Sandra.  These characteristics were only derived associations for those who saw both the Max Factor advertisement and the film Lured, however they are clearly not associations from which the Max Factor brand wished to disassociate itself as they might have been if the company whole heartedly supported the campaign for women to return to the home; if only because financially independent women were often the customers who were purchasing Max Factor’s products.  Equally, the ubiquity of this campaign and the locations in which the advertising tie-up was placed 51 provides further evidence for such representations being considered common place and appropriate for a mainstream audience at the time.

In conclusion the study of marketing techniques used to promote Lured offers a means through which we can extrapolate upon wider marketing trends in female representation circulating in the immediate post-war period.  Representations clearly did exist of capitulating women returning to, or already situated within the domestic sphere, and an attempt to claim otherwise would be erroneous, but the existence of the working-girl investigator archetype; agent and glamorous like the femme fatale but simultaneously respectable and virtuous like the nurturing woman, was a key site of negotiation regarding appropriate feminine behaviours and domains at this time. The prominence of the working girl investigator in Lured’s marketing and her use in the Max Factor cosmetics tie-up suggests that Hollywood and wider industries were, as a matter of course, willing to, and indeed did, engage with a range of post-war female representations including agent, financially independent women who were active and visible within the public sphere; and that a paying audience for such representations and products must have existed for such products to be marketed to.

Glamour is a choice afforded by female agency, and a tool to further that agency, within the films and campaign strategies examined here.  Rather than being used as a means of diluting the threatening potential of agent women, glamour becomes an acceptable marker to suggest Ball/Sandra’s female agency.

Whilst women largely did leave the often more lucrative ‘men’s jobs’ this does not mean that a place for women both in the workforce and the public sphere no longer existed or that such a space was not represented in the media in post-war America.  That is not to say that the politics of the workplace weren’t deeply problematic for post-war women.  Just as Sandra’s entry into the public sphere was fraught with perils which required constant careful negotiations, working women also had to navigate hazardous terrains of a different kind. But as the marketing for Lured amply demonstrates Hollywood at least believed there was a market for, and an acceptance of, such female representations.

 

Ellen Wright lectures in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia, where she recently completed her PhD thesis on discourse surrounding Hollywood pin-ups in Second World War Britain. She has co-written ‘Betty Grable: An American Icon in Wartime Britain’ with Dr Melanie Williams, for The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 31, Issue 4 and ‘A Glimpse Behind the Screen: Tijuana bibles and the pornographic reimagining of Hollywood’ for Taboo, Trend, Transgression, Vol. 2. Her article ‘Spectacular Bodies: The swimsuit, censorship and Hollywood’ is due for publication in Sport in History later this year.

 

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Molly Haskell, From Reverence to Rape: The treatment of women in the movies. (New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Wilson,1974)

Maureen Honey, ‘Remembering Rosie: Advertising images of women in World War II’ in The Home Front War: World War II and American society, eds. Kenneth Paul O’Brien, and Lynn Hudson Parsons (London: Greenwood. 1995

Mark Jancovich,  ‘Phantom Ladies: The war worker, the slacker and the ‘femme fatale’’ New Review of Film and Television Studies. Vol. 8, No. 2 (2010): 164–178

Stefan Kanfer, Ball of Fire: The tumultuous life and comic art of Lucille Ball. (London: Faber and Faber 2003).

E. Ann Kaplan, (ed). Women in Film Noir. (London: BFI, 1980).

Cathy Klaprat, ‘The Star as Marketing Strategy: Bette Davis in another light’ in The American Film Industry, Ed.  Tino Balio, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

Barbara Klinger, ‘Digressions at The Cinema: Reception and mass culture’ Cinema Journal, Vol 28, No 4 (Summer 1989).

Annette Kuhn, An Everyday Magic: cinema and cultural memory. (London: IB Tauris, 2002).

Joanne Meyerowitz, Not June Cleaver: Women and gender in postwar America. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994).

Rachel Moseley, Growing Up with Audrey Hepburn: Text, Audience, Resonance, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002).

Kathy Peiss,  Hope in a Jar: The making of America’s beauty culture. (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007)

Janey Place, ‘Women in Film Noir’, in Women in Film Noir, Ed. E. Ann Kaplan. (London: BFI,1980)

Marjorie Rosen, Popcorn Venus: Women, movies and the American dream. (London: Peter Owen, 1975)

Thomas Schatz, Boom and Bust: American cinema in the 1940s. (Berkeley: University of California, 1999).

Beverley Skeggs, Formations of Class & Gender: Becoming Respectable. (London: Sage, 1997).

Jackie Stacey, Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship. (London: Routledge, 1994).

 

Filmography

The Big Heat (1953, Fritz Lang, Columbia).

The Big Street (1942, Irving Reis, MGM).

Cat People (1942, Jacques Tourneur, RKO).

Dance Girl Dance (1940, Dorothy Arzner, RKO).

Du Barry Was a Lady (1943, Roy Del Ruth, MGM).

Gilda (1946, Charles Vidor, Columbia).

Lured (1947, Douglas Sirk, United Artists).

Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur, RKO).

Possessed (1947, Curtis Bernhardt, Warner Bros).

Secret Beyond the Door (1947, Fritz Lang, Universal).

Sleep My Love (1948, Douglas Sirk, United Artists).

Whirlpool (1949, Otto Preminger, RKO).

 Frames # 3 Promotional Materials 05-07-2013. This article © Ellen Wright. This article has been blind peer-reviewed.

Notes:

  1. For discussions of this phenomenon and its relationship to film, see Janey Place, ‘Women in Film Noir’ in Women in Film Noir, ed. Kaplan, E. Ann.  (London: BFI, 1980) pp. 35-54, Marjorie Rosen Popcorn Venus: Women, movies and the American dream. (London: Peter Owen, 1975), or Molly Haskell, From Reverence to Rape: The treatment of women in the movies. (New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Wilson,1974). For broader examples see works such as Maureen Honey, ‘Remembering Rosie: Advertising images of women in World War II’ in The Home Front War: World War II and American society, eds. Kenneth Paul O’Brien, and Lynn Hudson Parsons (London: Greenwood. 1995), D’Ann Campbell, Women at War With America: Private lives in a patriotic era. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1984), Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American families in the cold war era. (New York: Basic Books. 1980), Joanne Meyerowitz, Not June Cleaver: Women and gender in postwar America. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1996), Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique. (New York: Dell. 1963) or Susan Faludi, Backlash: The undeclared war against American women. (London: Vintage. 1992).
  2. Barbara Klinger ‘Digressions at The Cinema: Reception and mass culture’ Cinema Journal, Vol 28, No 4 (Summer 1989) 14.
  3. The production of a film… includes the making of its “consumable” identity. Promotion acts on this aspect of a film’s design by providing designated elements with an inter-textual destiny: certain filmic elements are developed into a premeditated network of advertising and promotion that will enter the social sphere of reception.’ Klinger ‘Digressions at The Cinema’ 9.
  4. Helen Hanson, Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film Noir and the Female Gothic Film. (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007) 18.
  5. Place ‘Women in Film Noir’ 47.
  6. As Klinger notes, ‘epiphenomena’ includes ‘such exhibition materials as posters, ads, and trailers, as well as an extensive array of intermedia coverage which features pieces on stars, directors, and the making of films. Also included are the marketing of products such as toys and tee shirts. ‘Digressions at The Cinema’ 5.
  7. Mary Beth Haralovich, ‘Selling Mildred Pierce: A case study in movie promotion.’ in Boom and Bust: American cinema in the 1940s, ed. Thomas Schatz, (Berkeley: University of California, 1999).196.
  8. Klinger ’Digressions at the Cinema’ 7.
  9. Klinger ‘Digressions at The Cinema’ 6.
  10. Mark Jancovich, ‘Phantom Ladies: The war worker, the slacker and the ‘femme fatale’ New Review of Film and Television Studies, Vol 8, No 2 (June 2010) 166.
  11. Jancovich ‘Phantom Ladies’ 167.
  12. Hanson ‘Hollywood Heroines’.
  13. Jancovich ‘Phantom Ladies’ 164-178.
  14. Jancovich ‘Phantom Ladies’ 165.
  15. Jancovich ‘Phantom Ladies’ 165.
  16. Jancovich ‘Phantom Ladies’ 166.
  17. Jancovich ‘Phantom Ladies’ 164.
  18. Richard Dyer, ‘Resistance through Charisma: Rita Hayworth and Gilda’ in Women in Film Noir. ed. E Ann Kaplan. (London, BFI,1980).
  19. Dyer ‘Resistance through Charisma’ 93.
  20. ‘She is the object of desire in a film in which the object of desire is unknowable and treacherous.’ Dyer ‘Resistance through Charisma’93.
  21. As one British review notes ‘One should not, I daresay, expect of the thriller much beyond a shiny surface, and “Personal Column” [the title under which Lured was released in Britain] with Lucille Ball as a chic female detective has plenty of that.” The Times (1February 1948). Whilst the ‘Fortnights Films’ feature in Picture Show magazine admits that whilst ‘the delightful charm of Lucille Ball, suavely likeable George Sanders and the cheery personality of Charles Coburn make [Lured] thoroughly entertaining’, ‘you may not believe in this melodrama’ p.11. Whilst more scathingly the Daily Express claims that Lucille Ball is ‘the only intelligent thing’ in the film. (20 January, 1948).
  22. Lured pressbook, 1-4.
  23. See the announcement slide, 14×36 insert card, one of the 22×28 lobby displays, the twenty-four-sheet, the six-sheet and the three-sheet.
  24. See the window card, one of the 22×28 lobby displays and the one-sheet.
  25. See for example, the advertising imagery surrounding films such as Cat People (1942, RKO), Possessed (1947, Warner Bros), Secret Beyond the Door (1947, Universal), Sleep My Love (1948, United Artists), Whirlpool (1949, Twentieth Century Fox).
  26. Lured pressbook, 10.
  27. A newspaper contest for teenage girls is proposed whereby entrants compose suggestions or slogans why answering personal advertisements could be dangerous. Lured pressbook, 7.
  28. See Lured pressbook, 7.
  29. Crucial work in this field includes Richard Dyer. Stars. (London: BFI Publishing, 1986), Richard DeCordova. Picture Personalities: The emergence of the star system in America. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990) and Cathy Klaprat, ‘The Star as Marketing Strategy: Bette Davis in another light’ in The American Film Industry, ed. Tino Balio (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)
  30. For a fuller discussion of the notion of a film stars resonance see Rachel Moseley, Growing Up with Audrey Hepburn: Text, Audience, Resonance, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002).
  31. Jackie Stacey, Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship. (London: Routledge, 1994).
  32. Annette Kuhn, An Everyday Magic:Cinema and cultural memory. (London: IB Tauris, 2002).
  33. Rosen ‘Popcorn Venus’ 207.
  34. See Stacey ‘Star Gazing’ and Moseley ‘Growing Up With Audrey Hepburn’.
  35. Beverley Skeggs, Formations of Class & Gender: Becoming Respectable. (London, Sage, 1997) 111.
  36. Carol Dyhouse ‘Glamour Versus feminism? Just Look at the Images in the Media We All Adore.’ The Observer. 21 March, 2010.
  37. An example can be seen on the title lobby card, whereby George Zucco is the most visually prominent character, his raincoat, gun, and hat suggesting he is the archetypal the noir hero despite being a supporting character within Lured’s narrative, whilst Sandra is relegated to an upper body shot in corner of the lobby card and is simultaneously being physically restrained by Joseph Calleia.
  38. Haskell ‘From Reverence to Rape’ 9.
  39. ‘The first in town’ Lured pressbook, 17.
  40. ‘Lucille Ball helps Scotland Yard unravel a baffling case’Lured pressbook, 15.
  41. I cannot find mention of an automobile accident or of temporary paralysis in Ball’s biography. See Kanfer, Stefan. Ball of Fire: The tumultuous life and comic art of Lucille Ball. (London: Faber and Faber 2003).
  42. Jane Gaines. ‘The Queen Christina Tie-Ups: convergence of show window and screen’ Quarterly Review of Film and Video. Vol. 11 No 1. (1989).
  43. Charles Eckert. ‘The Carole Lombard in Macy’s Window.’ Fabrications: Costume and the female Body. eds. Jane Gaines and Charlotte Herzog, (London: Routledge, 1990).
  44. Lured pressbook,  4-5.
  45. Kathy Peiss, Hope in a Jar: The making of America’s beauty culture. (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007) 126.
  46. Sarah Berry, Screen Style: Fashion and femininity in 1930s Hollywood. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000) 107.
  47. Berry notes that research by Max Factor’s marketing agency Sales Builders, Inc showed that ‘women usually bought cosmetics items in different brands; if the need to buy harmonised products was stressed, however, women would buy every article in the same brand.’  Berry ‘Star Style’ 107.
  48. Peiss ‘Hope in a Jar’ 135.
  49. Peiss ‘Hope in a Jar’ 59.
  50. Stacey ‘Star Gazing’ 159.
  51. The pressbook informs us that ‘[The] Max Factor promotion features Lucille Ball in national magazines…the ad appears in Vogue, McCalls, American Magazine, True Story, Motion Picture Movie Story, True Confessions, Photoplay, Radio Mirror, True Experiences, True Romances [and] True Love and Romance.’ Lured pressbook, 4.