Vamp, Vixen, Sassy, Sinful, Smart Ass, Wilful, Wiley, Badass, Bitch… The many, many names that bad girls get called. Personally, when I think about my favourite bad girls, I use words like tough, fierce, independent, resourceful, stubborn, motivated, clever, street-smart, and a word shared with the other list, sassy. It has always bugged me that women who won’t put up with anyone’s guff end up with the first list of names and labels. Even to this day, society is still both intrigued and frightened of the bad girl.
They’ve been around since the beginning of time and will be here when it all ends. They are your grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and friends. Some are there to help you learn life’s hard lessons while others are there to save your sorry asses. What ever end of the spectrum they fall in, they all deserve our respect.
Ok.. speech over. Now onto my favourite bad girls.
I was first introduced to Theda Bara by my Great Grandpa Bill. He loved Silent Film and her really loved Theda Bara. Sadly, not a lot of Theda’s work still exists on film, but if you are lucky you can still catch short clips of her on YouTube. Some of the only things that still exist are a short clip of her as Cleopatra, and a couple short films. (The Unchastened Woman (1925)/Madame Mystery (1926)/45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926))
Clara Bow will always be my sassy favourite! Not only could she act, she could hold her own to any man. Both in life and on screen she was a force! Clara was a tour de force in Silent Film and once she found her footing, a joy to watch in The Talkies! A few of my all time favourite Clara Bow movies are It (1927), Hoop-la (1933), Children of Divorce (1927), Call Her Savage (1932) and Wings (1927).
The first time I fell in love with Barbara Stanwyck was when I saw Night Nurse (1931). Her character Lora Hart, was tough, dedicated and took no guff, not even from the handsome bundle of trouble Nick, played by Clark Gable. She had a job and she was going to do it if it killed her. Many of Barbara’s roles in the late 1920s and the pre-code years of the 1930s had her playing gritty, down to earth women who had to fight to stay alive. It’s that spunk and determination that has always drawn me to her. As with many of her characters, Barbara Stanwyck had a hard childhood and had to learn early to fend for herself. This bad ass lady deserves everyone’s respect!
My favourite Barbara Stanwyck movies are Ten Cents A Dance (1931), Night Nurse (1931), Babyface (1933), Stella Dallas (1937), Meet John Doe (1941) and Lady of Burlesque (1943).
Bette Davis is the queen of the bad girls. Her most famous bad girl role and one of my absolute favourite of all of her films is Of Human Bondage. She oozes everything in that movie, from sex appeal to horribleness! She showed the world how incredibly talented she was and to this day, I have yet to see a performance to equal that. Like any actress at that time, she would do what was necessary to succeed and never look back! She was tough, driven and successful, setting a standard for others that would be hard to follow. She knew what she wanted and got it.
My list of bad girls wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include the illustrious Joan Crawford. She oozed a glamour that was blinding. Many actresses of that era started out as chorus girls. It was a way on stage and a foot into the door known as Hollywood. Joan worked her way up from the chorus lines of Detroit and onto movie screens. Joan Crawford started out in Silent Film and her long career lasted until the 1970s.
I tend to favour more of Joan’s Silent Films, but am also a huge fan of her work in the 1940s.
Last, but certainly not least is Tura Satana! The badass of all badass women! Tura lead a very amazing and colourful life, with parts of that life being incredibly tough. Tura was a survivor of sexual assault, domestic abuse and had to take care of herself from the age of 15. She was a burlesque dancer, a photographic model for Harold Lloyd (yes, that Harold Lloyd) and turned down Elvis when he asked her to marry him. I can’t wait for the documentary about her life to come out!
Two of my all time favourite Tura Satana movies is The Doll Squad (1973) and Faster Pussy! Cat Kill! Kill! (1965) By the way and for those of you wondering, she knew martial arts. She wasn’t just faking it for the cameras.
Who are some of your favourite badass actresses?
Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! There will also be trivia with prizes & much more! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!