Detective agency? Scoring the amateur female investigator in 1940S hollywood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Music is a crucial component of the multivalent discourses of gender operating within the 1940s Hollywood crime film, and it engages with interrelated storylines of crime and romance both to create and to contain agency in the problematic figure of the amateur 'working girl' investigator. The soundtrack is used to position characters within archetypes that reflect anxieties about gendered roles and identities in American society, not only drawing attention to the professional activity and associated sleuthing opportunities of the female lead, but also evoking notions of musical ownership that act primarily to reassert more traditional hierarchies of control. Both conventional 'classical' scoring and pre-existing library cues are shown to be significant within the crime film's exploration of issues of justice, criminality, romance and identity; music engages explicitly with character subjectivity and textual mobility in ways that support and subvert other aspects of cinematic narrative. The following films are discussed in detail: Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster, 1940), Two O'Clock Courage (Anthony Mann, 1945), Deadline at Dawn (Harold Clurman, 1946), and The Big Steal (Don Siegel, 1949).

LanguageEnglish
Pages543-573
Number of pages31
JournalMusic and Letters
Volume93
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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Romance
Hollywood
Amateur
Scoring
Detectives
Crime Films
1940s
Music
Criminality
Ownership
Soundtrack
Anxiety
Discourse
Archetypes
Courage
Conventional
Clock
Subjectivity
Storylines
Stranger

Cite this

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Detective agency? Scoring the amateur female investigator in 1940S hollywood. / Haworth, Catherine.

In: Music and Letters, Vol. 93, No. 4, 11.2012, p. 543-573.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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