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Dames, darlings and detectives : women, agency and the soundtrack in RKO Radio Pictures crime films 1939-1950

Haworth, Catherine Margaret (2010) Dames, darlings and detectives : women, agency and the soundtrack in RKO Radio Pictures crime films 1939-1950. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

1940s crime and noir films are noted for their frequently subversive portrayal of gendered and sexual identities, and therefore offer a challenge to the most common theorisation of female characters in classical Hollywood cinema as lacking in the agency that is typically granted to male protagonists. This thesis investigates the role of the soundtrack in the construction and containment of female agency in the crime films produced by RKO Radio Pictures between 1939 and 1950. Case studies are grouped thematically around three of the significant and recurring characterisations of women that occur in the crime film: the victim; the investigator, and the femme fatale. The consideration of women in the role of love interest runs throughout the thesis. Music and sound are shown to be crucial elements of the way in which classical Hollywood cinema positions women, the strategies used within these films to create and contain female agency, and the potential for female characters to resist these positionings. The soundtrack facilitates and reinforces shifts between various roles occupied by female characters in relation to issues of crime, criminality, and romance, as well as aiding the creation of tension and Suspense. The contribution of music and sound to the heightened subjectivity and ambiguity that frequently characterises the 1940s crime film is discussed, and examination of this relationship demonstrates a need to extend the dominant critical theorisation of the classical Hollywood score as an authoritative and reliable guide through the narrative. The following films are examined in detail: Stranger on the Third Floor (d. Ingster; c. Webb, 1940) Suspicion (d. Hitchcock; c. Waxman, 1941) The Leopard Man (d. Tourneur; t. Webb, 1943) Experiment Perilous (d. Tourneur; c. Webb, 1944) Two O'Clock Courage (d. Mann; c. Webb, 1945) Deadline at Dawn (d. Clurman; c. Eisler, 1946) Notorious (d. Hitchcock; c. Webb, 1946) The Locket (d. Brahm; c. Webb, 1946) The Spiral Staircase(d. Siodmak; c. Webb, 1946) Out of the Past (d. Tourneur; c. Webb, 1947) A Woman's Secret (d. Ray; c. Hollaender, 1949)

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Music (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.536103
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2018 15:36
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2018 15:36
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21113

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