Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Fast-Talking Dames

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Fast-Talking Dames

Article excerpt

Fast-Talking Dames, by Maria DiBattista.

This book celebrates the witty banter of the heroines whose saucy rejoinders make films such as Bringing Up Baby, Ninotchka, His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, and The Lady Eve perennial favorites with movie lovers. DiBattista examines the emergence of "fast-talking dames" with the talkies as a welcome antidote to more traditional notions of femininity. After characterizing the traits of wise cracking dames in the opening chapter, the author pays tribute to the actresses who best embodied this quintessential American type, the "Blonde Bombshells" (Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, and Ginger Rogers) and those the author terms "favorite brunettes" (Myrna Loy, Jean Arthur, and Claudette Colbert). The section on Claudette Colbert typifies DiBattista's approach throughout the book: summaries of the films are enlivened with citations of playful bits of dialog from a variety of romantic films and screwball comedies from the thirties. One boon offered by this book is the pleasure of reviewing classics such as Bringing Up Baby. While there is copious plot summary, DiBattista also explores the way in which Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), the quintessence of the smart, assured, fast-talking Hawksian heroine, maneuvers David Huxley (Cary Grant) through a series of madcap adventures into renouncing Miss Swallow, her no-nonsense rival for Huxley's affections. …

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