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On 11/6 the following appeared in a memo responding to the query on morally
ambiguous women in film:
>
> An excellent (and unusual) example is WITHNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
> (1957).  In that work, Christine (Marlene Dietrich) is willing to do what
> is needed to get what she wants, moral or immoral
 
 
much as i like agatha c. in general, and laughton and "witness" in particular,
it seems to me almost a classic example of the kind of total lack of moral
nuance that has made movies beneath contempt to so many . . . christine is
willing to do whatever is necessary to serve the one good in her life to
which she is totally, unambiguously, even heroically, but--the movie leaves no
doubt--quite stupidly committed, and that good is, of course, a man . . .
that the man in this case is as unidimensional as the woman might be relevant
to a discussion of sexism in the film, but hardly to a discussion of moral
ambiguity and nuance . .  . even the glorious laughton--who could thrill
by simply reading from the bronx telelphone directory, as he occasionally did
on the old ed sullivan show--is about as morally ambiguous as superman
 
the woman who seems bad but turns out to be good [christine, gilda] like the
noir vamp who seems good but turns out to be fatally bad [the sirens, pandora,
and a slew of stanwyck characters]  are simply staples of our common generic
heritage, formulaic expressions of the same old but far from worn out sexual
ideology . .  .
 
. . . but before this thread turns into a rope which threatends to strangle
thought, i'd value it if someone--the original enquiring mind or anyone
else--could provide a provisional or working definition of moral ambiguity .
. . the term clearly means too much to too many
 
mike frank
 
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