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Bitch Virtuosity

So I've been on an old movie kick lately, and I watched "All About Eve" for the first time a few days ago. Or rather, I should say, I finished watching it a few days ago because my life does not lend itself well to seeing an entire movie all in one go without interruption. But anyway. The movie was awesome and I looked it up on Wikipedia to see what sort of fun trivia was to be had there, and something struck my fancy and stuck in my head: it said that Anne Baxter was cast in the title role because the director felt she had the "bitch virtuosity" to carry it off.

I loved that: bitch virtuosity. It struck me that this was exactly the term for why I adore Gone With the Wind. Scarlett O'Hara is, I think, quite a bit more sympathetic than Eve Harrington. Scarlett does unforgivable things less out of sheer self-interested ambition and more out of fear and a wonderfully messed-up sense of duty. The result is the same with both of them, though: they remorselessly ruin the lives of just about everyone around them and end up heartily miserable because of it. I don't know why I love watching this happen so much, but I do.

So I come to you, LiveJournal, with a question I can't plug into the search function on Netflix or Amazon: Are there other excellent examples of bitch virtuosity out there that I haven't watched or read yet? I wish to consume more! MOAR!


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 4th, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
Forever Amber. My mom told me when I was thirteen that it was forbidden at her high school, so I had to read it.
Jul. 5th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
i read that. i agree with the recommendation.
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Heh. Excellent. *adds to list*
Jul. 4th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl (S1 is by far the best).
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Hee, another friend of mine loves that show. The books are pretty popular with the teen crowd, still, or at least the ones that shop at our store.
Jul. 4th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
Becky Sharp in 'Vanity Fair' comes to mind (Thackeray). And I'll likely come up with more if I think on it a while.
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
Oo, I had not realized that Ms. Sharp was that type of character for some reason. And I've been meaning to see the Reese Witherspoon movie for a long time, too...
Jul. 5th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
The film is kind of a super-condensed version, but it'll get the point across, and is at least pretty. :)

As for other films, this may not be strictly bitch virtuosity, more "strong audacious sexy woman," but I can't help recommending Dangerous Beauty because it's so romantic and gorgeous and intelligent. (Courtesans in 16th-century Venice were the only women allowed much education and a modicum of personal freedom, so that's the profession the heroine chooses.) And apparently it's based closely on a true story, making matters kind of awesome.
Jul. 4th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
Forever Amber is an excellent book. Amber definitely has bitch virtuosity, though Scarlett has a redeeming sense of duty and Amber, cough, doesn't.

It's thought that Becky Sharp was one inspiration for Scarlett; Margaret Mitchell admired Vanity Fair very much.

For my own recommendation, I'm going to say Maia. Not Maia, but lots of other women in that book have bitch virtuosity.
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:19 am (UTC)
Would this be the Maia by the same author that wrote Watership Down?
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:30 am (UTC)

There are some Issues with the book - some unconscious sexism - but it's so good that I forgive them all.
Jul. 5th, 2011 06:01 am (UTC)
Heh, I've been running into a lot of sexism (unconscious and possibly not-so-unconscious) during this black-and-white movie kick of mine.
Jul. 5th, 2011 12:12 am (UTC)
I saw All About Eve for the first time recently, too. My enduring impression of Eve, and the thing I leaned over to George and whispered (I saw it in an actual theater) is, "She's a stalker."

We also recently saw Queen Bee, starring Joan Crawford. This might be something that appeals to you. I recommend it. (Based on a book, if you want the reading experience of it.)

George also recommends The Strange Woman, starring Heddy Lamar.

He also suggests Detour, which of course if film noir, and the "bitch" is not the main character.

Now, if you find the stalker aspect of Eve intriguing, the first two movies that come to mind are Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Both, iirc (it's been a long time since I've watched either, as I wasn't particularly taken with either) are about women who try insert themselves into and take over the lives of someone else. These are, of course, thriller flicks rather than dramas like Eve and GWtW, so they might not be quite what you're looking for.

Jul. 5th, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
I took a detour while on my black and white film kick and have started on a noir kick, so "Detour" sounds particularly enticing, and I'll check out "Queen Bee" too! Joan Crawford was one of the possibles to play Eve, if I remember correctly. Thank you, my dear!
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:30 am (UTC)
So, your post made me mentally truncate that to "Bitchuosity." THEN, it made me mentally rewrite THIS song bouncing around my neurons to feature this concept.

THEN, I realized this new song needs to be fully written, sung and danced on film.

THEN, I realized that I am definitely insane.

Thank you for helping me reach this epiphany.

Jul. 5th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
I shall now die of giggling. Thank you.
Jul. 6th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
OMG! I love that song and I still think you've probably improved it! Awesome! Brain now off and running.
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:55 am (UTC)
It has been a loooong time since I watched it, but Bette Davis in Jezebel comes to mind. This being the '40's, I'm pretty sure there was some kind of smackdown for her behavior at the end, but like I said, it's been a loooong time, and I don't really remember.

Bette Davis had bitch virtuosity in most of her roles, and I gather that it may have been equally true in life.
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:57 am (UTC)
She had it in Eve for sure, though not in the scary self-serving way that the Eve character did. Davis's character is catty and abrasive but ultimately played for sympathy. I'll have to track down more of her roles, she was fun to watch.
Jul. 5th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

LOVE that movie.

As far as other examples, there were certainly a couple of good ones in Shakespeare's plays....specifically The Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado About Nothing. Also, I'd say Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting. :)
Jul. 6th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
I was so pleased to finally know where that line came from. Plus, I just loved every single one of Bette Davis's lines.
Jul. 5th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)

Double Indemnity - movie or novella (maybe more of a femme fatale than virtuosic bitch, I suppose, but still worth your time).

Mildred Pierce - movie or novel. Two virtuosos for the price of one!

And I offer more as a question to the peanut gallery - Anna Karenina?
Jul. 6th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
Sam-I-Am rec'd Mildred Pierce, too! *makes note*

I'm not sure I'm up for Anna Karinina. I find Russian epics very daunting. So many characters, with five different names apiece! Though I'm informed that I will have to read Crime and Punishment at some point because according to more than one friend, I will love it.
Jul. 5th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
Does Cruella de Vil in 101 dalmatians count?

There is of course Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada
Jul. 6th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC)
Miranda Priestly defines bitch virtuosity.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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