Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goodbye, Ann Savage, noir's most fatale femme...

In a shadowy sea of seductively lethal ladies, Detour star Ann Savage, who died on December 27th, two months shy of her 88th birthday, was the most poisonous of them all. An exterminating angel hitchhiking on a desert highway, her hard-bitten, predatory Vera thumbs a ride with a failed New York jazz pianist who just wants to join his girlfriend in California; by the time she's done with him, he's passed rock bottom and gone straight to a sunwashed living hell.

Born Bernice Lyon in South Carolina, Savage changed her name when she became an actress and worked her way through a series of small parts in undistinguished movies. Poverty-row thriller Detour was shot in a breathless four days on sets so cheap they're barely there, but Savage's seething performance helped make it a film noir classic.

She made a dozen some odd films after Detour and did some television, but her career peaked with the b-movies she made in the 1940s and by the late '50s she was all but done. Married since the early '40s to agent-turned-financier Bert D'Armand, Savage devoted herself to her marriage, which ended with his death in 1969.

In 2006, Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, a lifelong fan, persuaded Savage to appear in his phantasmagoric, semi-autobiographical My Winnipeg (2007) as the fictional "Guy Maddin"'s shrewish mother. Thank you, Guy Maddin, for giving Ann Savage the gift of one last memorable part.

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