Melodrama films are a sub-type of drama films, characterised by a plot to appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience. They generally depend on stereotyped character development, interaction, and highly emotional themes. Melodramatic films tend to use plots that often deal with crises of human emotion, failed romance or friendship, strained familial situations, tragedy, illness, neuroses, or emotional and physical hardship.
Victims, couples, virtuous and heroic characters or suffering protagonists (usually heroines) in melodramas are presented with tremendous social pressures, threats, repression, fears, improbable events or difficulties with friends, community, work, lovers, or family. The melodramatic format allows the character to work through their difficulties or surmount the problems with resolute endurance, sacrificial acts, and steadfast bravery.
In this season we present a selection of melodramas around the theme of the bad girl.
Each screening will be introduced by David Melville Wingrove, a Film Studies tutor with Lifelong Learning at the University of Edinburgh and an expert on the genre. David will also lead a post-film discussion.
William Wellman | USA | 1933 | 74 minutes
A young woman is on trial for murder. In flashback, we learn of her struggles to overcome poverty as a teenager — a mistaken arrest and prison term for shoplifting and lack of employment lead to involvement with gangsters. In a brothel, she meets a young lawyer, scion of a wealthy and prestigious family, who falls for her and helps her turn around her life. But her past catches up with her, and she must face the music rather than cause him scandal.
A Woman’s Face
George Cukor | USA| 1941 | 106 minutes
A female blackmailer with a disfiguring facial scar meets a plastic surgeon who offers her the possibility of looking like a normal woman.
The Strange Woman
Edgar G. Ulmer | USA | 1946 | 100 minutes
Beautiful Jenny Hager finds she can always get what she wants from the men in the 1820’s port of Bangor, Maine. Freed by his death from her drunkard father she soon manoeuvres herself into a position to marry a middle-aged monied local businessman. Though she often uses his money to do good, she continues to consider all other men fair game.
Alberto Gout | Mexico | 1950 | 101 minutes
Left alone after her mother runs off with another man and her father kills himself, Elena attempts to make a new life for herself in a new city. Believing he’s a friend, Elena goes to dinner with “Pretty Boy” Lucio, but he drugs her champagne and sells her to Rosaura, who runs a brothel out of her nightclub. Elena becomes a sensation as a dancer, but all the while she nurtures plans of revenge against those who have conspired against her
The Revolt of Mamie Stover
Raoul Walsh | USA | 1956 | 92 minutes
Set in the early ’40s, a San Francisco prostitute is run out of town just as the second World War has begun to intensify. Mamie settles down in Hawaii, hoping to start a new life. Though her prospects look good when she falls in love with a science-fiction writer who treats her with the respect she deserves, the dawning war and the fallacies of her previous lifestyle complicate their budding romance. Mamie cannot fully remove herself from her former profession, and provides some of her old services to the sailors stationed in town. Searching for another means of financial security, Mamie invests in several pieces of real estate and becomes quite wealthy, though her bad reputation has not been forgotten by the locals.
Joseph Losey | France | 1962 | 116 minutes
A raw Welsh novelist in Venice (Stanley Baker) is humiliated by a money-loving Frenchwoman (Jeanne Moreau) who erotically ensnares him.