Born to Be Bad

Screening on Film
Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott.
US, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 94 min.

From its opening scenes, which clearly display Ray’s masterful use of interior space to reveal the emotional state of the characters who inhabit them, Born to Be Bad upends our expectations by depicting one of cinema’s perennial “good girls” as the ultimate villain and, more importantly, pitting her against a morally vacuous society that just might deserve whatever she can dish out. As the scheming seductress who manipulates her way to the top of San Francisco’s social scene, Ray brilliantly subverts Joan Fontaine’s screen persona as a “nice” girl, revealing the cold-hearted calculation and deviousness behind her simpering smiles. Nicholas Musuraca’s glossy black and white cinematography artfully depicts their glittering world as shallow and empty.

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Nicholas Ray. Hollywood's Last Romantic

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