“Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned”: Top 10 Damaged Divas in the Movies

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Sure, we have all seen our share of an “Unstable Mabel” in cinema throughout the years. Some, more than others, do stand out in craziness, chaos and curiosity. These furious females in film–at least the ones that we will spotlight in this particular movie column–have something to their off-kilter filter that dares to dig deep on so many psychological levels of frivolity and fury.

In Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned: Top 10 Damaged Divas in the Movies we will examine some of the warped women on the big screen that have a sense of demented diva-like dimensions to their cockeyed characterizations. These mistresses of misbehaving all demonstrate various kinds of detachment and dysfunction that capture our puzzling imaginations. Are there perhaps even stronger and more memorable bombastic she-beasts that have a certain score to settle against their detractors or society as a whole? Of course. However, the selections here in Damaged Divas are nothing to sneeze at either. Whether just plain disturbing or detached these gruesome gals are not to be messed with at any cost…and that makes them quite yummy (and yucky) in our book.

The cinematic selections for Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned: Top 10 Damaged Divas in the Movies are (in alphabetical order):

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1.) Hedra Carlson from Single White Female (1992)

It certainly is true that clingy Hedra “Heddy” Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was the ultimate roommate from hell. She was unshakable and unpredictable…something that greatly concerned Allison “Allie” Jones (Bridget Fonda)…and rightfully so. Single White Female gloriously showcased the ominous obsession, disillusionment and resentment of a young woman battling an inescapable psychosis that delightfully chilled audiences. From eerily taking on the identify and persona of her “idol” and roomie Allie to seducing her boyfriend Sam (Steven Weber) through deception to gain a psychological edge of personalized destruction Leigh’s Heddy was a complicated, curvaceous creature that reminds us of this simple food for thought…the ad that you answer to help pay the rent could very well be your LAST!

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2.) Amy Dunne from Gone Girl (2014)

There is a distinct reason as to why actress Rosamund Pike deservedly earned her Oscar nomination for Best Actress as the devious dame of materialism in Gone Girl’s scheming and scathing opportunistic wife Amy Dunne.  The very intense and dissatisfied Amy staged her own disappearance in a sordid attempt to arouse suspicion that her cheating spouse Nick (Ben Affleck) may have been the cause for her possible demise. Amy’s planned “punishment” for Nick in becoming a “gone girl” resulted in her husband’s castration and criticism through the media as their once so-called marital bliss turned into a calculating miss. Pike’s Amy Dunne could garner sympathy to a certain degree (after all, Nick was indeed a dirty dog in having designs on a younger woman) yet be that hostile hussy that needed the twisted permission to manipulate and misguide. Whatever the deal may be in Amy’s tattered psyche she has established the naughty essence of one disturb woman’s efforts to force a false fantasy of married life and turn it into a nightmarish reality of tortured togetherness.  Yikes! Actually…make that double YIKES!

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3.) Evelyn from Play Misty for Me (1971)

Director and star Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me can easily be a precursor to later popular sexual thrillers that became fashionable on the big screen such as 1987’s Fatal Attraction for instance. Let’s face it, folks…one night stands are both enticing and exhausting but the common denominator in this case is danger. This is what revered radio host Dave Garver (Eastwood) found out when he foolishly decided to step outside of his safe relationship with pretty girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills) to aimlessly play footsies with the sultry siren Evelyn (Jessica Walter) that he meets at a nightclub and ends up bedding down to cure his hormonal appetite. But the clingy Evelyn–an ardent admirer of Dave both artistically and sexually–cannot seem to take a hint and disappear. Instead, she has staked her claim to the now evasive Dave. The erratic Evelyn stalks Dave to the point of no return and her obsession with the hunky radio personality turns from worship to bitterness–something that will not fare optimistically for both the beleaguered Dave and the alarmed Tobie. Walter’s Evelyn does not get the adequate credit for carrying off a penetrating portrayal of a disconnected diva on the down-low concerning emotional acts of delusions, dysfunction and disappointment. The damaged Evelyn made Play Misty for Me a treacherous tune that we should never erase from our playlists.

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4.) Peyton Flanders (a.k.a. Mrs. Mott) from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)

Yes…the belief system is that nannies as a whole are supposed to be nice and nurturing. However, try telling that to naughty nanny Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay) as she invades the household of the unsuspecting Bartel family to exact revenge on employer Claire (Annabella Sciorra) she believes was the sole person responsible for the suicide of her scandalous physician husband’s suicide. Claire accused Dr. Victor Mott (John de Lancie) of inappropriate sexual conduct so his disgruntled wife–in the guise of pretty Peyton–arranges to gradually destroy Claire’s world by gaining intimate closeness with her handsome hubby Michael (Matt McCoy) and being cozy with her young daughter Emma (Madeline Zima) and infant son. In short, the perturbed Peyton wants to ruin Claire’s world the way she feels that she was deprived when her existence was turned upside down by Claire’s accusations against her precious Victor.  De Mornay is deliciously devilish as the spiteful and cold-heart cutie Peyton out to target her asthmatic enemy Claire in a game of seek and eliminate.

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5.) Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction (1987)

Guys, if you are going to have an affair with an exciting woman that should be forbidden could you at least try and conduct one with a mistress that is sane? Well, this was no such luck for hotshot lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) whose passionate push for the sexually-charged curly-haired Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) proved to be a deadly dalliance in Adrian Lyne’s suspenseful Fatal Attraction that made infidelity a tactical gamble for hedonistic high stakes. Despite a loving and attractive wife Beth (Anne Archer) and button-nosed adoring daughter at home the straying Dan was captivated by the alluring Alex whose intentions on wanting a family with him seemed totally out of line and out of the question…at least according to the dismayed Dan anyway. But the damage had already been done as the pushy Alex demanded more out of Dan than just the occasional “roll in the hay”. As Alex so ominously quipped, “Dan, I am not just going to be ignored!” And she was right…who can ignore the sexy yet misplaced sauciness of a deranged diva looking to lasso a successful married man as she makes him pay for his ultimate straying? Dan definitely tangled with the wrong bed-hopping babe…that is for darn sure!


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6.) Baby Jane Hudson from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

The late Bette Davis was one tough cookie–both behind and in front of the cameras. This Oscar-winning actress certainly took no guff from the Hollywood head honchos that ran the studios with their sense of total autonomy. Davis defined the very definition of “diva” and could back up her claim with decorated artistry that made her one of her generation’s greatest actresses. In Robert Aldrich’s campy yet compelling Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Davis gives a highly outlandish yet skillful performance of a mentally twisted former child star named Baby Jane Hudson whose wicked wackiness is aimed at her crippled sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) as the siblings share a deteriorating mansion in Tinseltown. Baby Jane’s insanity is both hauntingly startling and humorously odd as her reality is tarnished in adulthood while never releasing her past glories of fame and recognition as the pampered kiddie star from another time and era.  Only Davis’s powdered-face Baby Jane can demonstrate such “sisterly love” in serving up a dead robust rat on a silver platter to Crawford’s distraught wheelchair-bound Blanche. One would be more wise to find Baby Jane Hudson more unsettling and distasteful than the rigor mortis rodent she tried to serve as an entree for dinnertime.

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7.) Beatrix Kiddo (a.k.a. “The Bride” and “The Black Mamba”) from Kill Bill (2003)

Master manipulator Bill (the late David Carradine) had one major flaw in his plan to eradicate his trained assassin bride Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) on their wedding day–he did not get the job done in killing her completely. Instead, the comatose Kiddo was allowed to survive and eventually wreak bloody havoc on all those that played a nefarious part to ominously silence her on that fateful day she was to exchange her marital vows. Now Kiddo’s mission is clear and concise as she must mow through the deadly obstacles standing in her way until she can realize her own mandatory mission–to get even and “kill bill”. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino ignites his imaginative, over-the-top furious feminine fantasy Kill Bill with kinetic craziness and color as he uses his reliable movie muse Thurman (“Pulp Fiction”) as the yellow-suited wrecking ball diva out on a limb to…er, bust some bodily limbs in the name of alienation, retaliation, frustration and undoubtedly redemption. Physically challenging and philosophically true to nature Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo is a woman liberator of the crafty kind–a slice-and-dice siren that allows her combative prowess to speak volumes for her inner rage and insecurities to unfold.

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8.) Marsha from The King of Comedy (1983)

Comedienne/actress Sandra Bernhard’s fanatical Marsha from Martin Scorsese’s dark comedy The King of Comedy is a fascinating case study of a wounded woman dealing with a variety of vulnerabilities shaded in darkness, despair and disassociation. Marsha is the female counterpart to the madness of her male buddy Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) as they both share in the idolization of their showbiz hero in late night talk show sensation Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Their cockeyed agenda is to kidnap the put-upon Langford in order for Rupert to secure a spot on his live television program to jump start an unrealistic comedy career. The problem is that the gruff and bothered Jerry Langford is not receptive to the tandem’s worshiping methods. In particular, Marsha is willing to do anything to gain Langford’s acknowledgement of her even if it is seducing him as he is tied up just to force some notable attention out of him. Sadly, Marsha is the desperate kind of woman lost and looking for validation in a man to justify her emptiness at large. Unfortunately, the men that signify importance to the needy Marsha is the stand-offish TV talk titan that wants no part of her and the clueless comic wannabe that is using her as a partner-in-crime for his gain of notoriety.

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9.) Ursa from Superman II (1981)

Well guys…who would not want to develop a crush on such a conniving, curvy creature in the form of vastly pretty, powerful and provocative bad girl Ursa (Sarah Douglas) from Superman II? And yes…Ursa was indeed from the wrong side of the tracks–or in this case the wrong side of the galaxy. She was deadly, defiant and demonstrative as she stood tall and tough with her comrades General Zod (Terrance Stamp) and Non (Jack O’Halloran) in tow as they ganged up on poor Superman (the late Christopher Reeve) and threatened to take over the planet Earth with villainous weasel Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) as their crooked adviser in mayhem. In many ways Ursa was more volatile than her male cohorts and showed her obvious disdain for the human peons that she enjoyed inflicting pain and suffering on with blood-thirsty glee. Certainly a villainous Catwoman was a worthy feminine thorn-in-the side for the Caped Crusader (Batman) but the icy vixen Ursa is as equally toxic in her bid to make the Man of Steel buckle in crime-stopping uncertainty. The black leather-clad Ursa never looked so desirable yet despicable as the bad beauty set on spear-heading world dominance.

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10.) Annie Wilkes from Misery (1990)

Jeopardized novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) could not heal thy self in large part to nursing nightmare Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) whose “Number One Fan” status is taken to the extreme when she rescues her favorite writer from a heavy snowstorm only to end up demanding that he accommodate her literary liking to his work otherwise sacrifice his life in her horrific hands. Bed-ridden and busted up badly, Sheldon is called upon to alter his “Misery” novel to suit Nurse Annie’s twisted expectations as previously mentioned. Bates thankfully won the Academy Award for Best Actress as the creepy caretaker in Misery whose off-and-on switch from child-like enthusiasm and giddiness to menacing medicine-administered monster highlighted a scary and imposing wound-up woman nursing some serious psychotic issues.  Bates brought to life (along with director Rob Reiner’s probing vision) the intrinsic insanity of author Stephen King’s chilly novel detailing the entrapment of two struggling souls in a physical (Caan’s Paul Sheldon) and psychological (Bates’s Annie Wilkes) state of lunacy where isolation cruelly plays on the weary nerves.

–Frank Ochieng

 

 

 

 





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