The Naked Spur

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This short piece about Janet Leigh was originally written and published in 2010.

Let’s talk about Janet Leigh’s character Lina in Anthony Mann’s film The Naked Spur (1953). Though her social roles are clearly the same as the ones women occupy in say George Steven’s Shane (1953) her character is not.  Through out the film she takes control of Robert Ryan’s escape since he cannot do so himself.  She may do this out of subordination, or just indebtedness, but nevertheless, she is is instrument of action. Lina lures James Stewart’s character away, entices other men, and aids Ryan’s character at ever chance. Though she is “dominated” by the men around her, the power she is entrusted with and exerts becomes the foundation for her liberation in the film’s climax.  She does not stay feminist for long once Stewart proposes, but for that instant there is that glimpse of things to come. Lina may be a far cry from Ellie of Heaven’s Gate (1980) or Mrs. Miller of McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), but that single instance is a sign of change to come. Mann’s films are strewn with sexually aggressive women and selfish, revenge minded men; all often motivated by material possessions.