Bad Blonde

Barbara Payton in Bad Blonde (dir. Reginald Le Borg, 1953).

This is one of a dozen or so low-budget noirs made by Hammer Films before they took up horror as their primary genre. The British title was The Flanagan Boy, making the emphasis Tony Wright's character--a beefcaky young boxer, and the other bad blonde of the film. This emphasis is in keeping with the camera's continual focus on Wright's physique, which is highlighted at every turn, in both boxing and swimming trunks. But for US audiences, they changed the title to refer to the femme fatale of the picture--or, perhaps not entirely unconsciously, to Barbara Payton, the American actress who plays her. Payton was a tabloid sensation for a while: you can read all about it in her 1963 autobiography, I Am Not Ashamed (published four years before her death at the age of 39). The movie itself is a mostly negligible rehash of Body and Soul and The Postman Always Rings Twice, but it has some visual style, and even though Payton is not an especially expressive or subtle actor, she has an icy yet somehow vulnerable presence that is fairly affecting.

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