<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> REPRESENTING THE FEMME <p> <i>All about Eve</i> <p> <p> In the final scene of the Academy Award-winning film <i>All about Eve</i> (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950), Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), the film's manipulative and duplicitous villain, is startled to find a female intruder (Barbara Bates) asleep in an armchair in her living room when she returns home from the Sarah Siddons Award ceremony where she has won an award for her "distinguished achievement in the theater," despite the fact that she has appeared in only one play. Eve picks up the phone to call the police, but puts it down when the intruder introduces herself as Phoebe, the president of the Eve Harrington Fan Club at Erasmus Hall, an all-girls high school in Brooklyn. Phoebe reassures Eve that she sneaked in, while the maid was turning Eve's bed down, "just to look around" and that she is preparing a report on the actress—"how you live, what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of perfume and books, things like that." No longer frightened, Eve sits down on a sofa and languidly lights a cigarette. Because it is the only time in the film that she is shown smoking, her action seems intended to signal a shift in her character. At first she responds impatiently to Phoebe's eager questions about her plans for a career in Hollywood, but when the girl begins to pick up after her, Eve's attitude changes markedly. In a soft, caressing voice, she asks how Phoebe got to Manhattan from Brooklyn. As Phoebe replies that it took her only a little more than an hour on the subway, the film dissolves to a close-up of Eve, who, posed on the sofa seductively, says with a hint of invitation in her voice, "It's after one now. You won't get home till all hours." Returning Eve's gaze, Phoebe replies excitedly, "I don't care if I never get home!" <p> Starting with Vito Russo in his classic study <i>The Celluloid Closet</i>, scholars of images of gays and lesbians in classical Hollywood cinema have used this scene to argue that Eve is coded as a lesbian. Because the Production Code, which regulated the content of Hollywood movies from 1930 to 1968 with the consensus of the major studios, stated that "sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden," Eve's desire for other women can never be expressed overtly, but can only be hinted at in scenes like this one. For many scholars, Eve is one in a long line of predatory celluloid lesbians in Code-era movies, beginning with Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), the creepy housekeeper who terrorizes the nameless heroine in the woman's picture <i>Rebecca</i> (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), and ending with Jo (Barbara Stanwyck), the jealous and possessive madam of a New Orleans brothel who sexually preys on her girls in Edward Dmytryk's steamy melodrama <i>Walk on the Wild Side</i> (1962). Eve does bear some resemblance to these other lesbian villains. A ruthlessly ambitious actress, she manipulates her way into the rarified world of the flamboyant Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) by passing herself off as one of the star's most devoted fans. She then proceeds to undermine Margo both personally and professionally, going so far as to try to steal her lover and even her identity. Mankiewicz reinforced the movie's lesbian subtext by basing Margo loosely on the Broadway actress Tallulah Bankhead, who was widely rumored to be lesbian and who was involved in a notorious professional rivalry with Davis. <p> Yet this is only part of the story. Eve's villainy has a political resonance that distinguishes her from the other Code-era lesbian characters to whom she is most often compared. Unlike Mrs. Danvers and Jo, who embody the stereotype of the mannish lesbian, Eve has a feminine gender presentation, which suggests that her character was at least partly inspired by the Cold War construction of the lesbian. Her performance of femininity renders her "unnatural" sexuality invisible, and this is what makes her so threatening as a lesbian. Cold War lesbian panic centered on the feminine woman who made a lesbian object choice. Because her desire for other women could not be attributed to an inverted gender identity, the femme troubled the binary construction of gender and sexual identities. The Cold War discourse of female homosexuality promoted lesbian panic by highlighting the femme's resemblance to the "normal" woman, which supposedly allowed her to spread lesbianism throughout American society while escaping detection. With her ability to pass, the femme could convert impressionable and emotionally vulnerable women to lesbianism more easily than the butch could. She could even marry and continue to participate in what Jess Stearn called the "secret world" of the lesbian without arousing suspicion. The femme was further constructed as un-American; like the communist, she operated in secret, slowly undermining American society from within. <p> The differences between Eve and other lesbian villains in Hollywood cinema of the 1940s and 1950s suggest that, despite its status as a camp classic, <i>All about Eve</i> needs to be understood as a Cold War movie. Since Michael Paul Rogin identified this category of Hollywood film, in 1987, cultural studies scholars have expanded it to include movies that do not deal directly with the Cold War but nevertheless underwrite or legitimate Cold War ideologies, especially those regulating the construction of gender and sexual identities. Eve's queerness, which consists of a combination of femininity and lesbianism that unsettles homophobic stereotypes, indirectly ratified the model of womanhood that became dominant in the Cold War era. Mankiewicz, who wrote as well as directed <i>All about Eve</i>, claimed that he conceived of Eve as a lesbian and coached Baxter to play her as such. <p> Situating the movie's treatment of Eve in relation to the Cold War construction of the lesbian complicates scholarly understanding of Cold War culture. Scholars have tended to approach the 1950s as a particularly homophobic period in American history, when male and female homosexuals faced persecution by the state and functioned, along with communists and fellow travelers, as the "enemy within" in the Cold War discourse of American national identity. As a result, the decade has emerged as the Dark Ages of the lesbian and gay past, a period in which lesbian and gay life is thought to have been pathologically secretive and repressed. The scholarship often stresses that during the antihomosexual witch hunts of the 1950s, more lesbians and gays were expelled from the federal government than suspected communists. Although this view of the 1950s is not unfounded, it glosses over the inconsistencies and contradictions in Cold War gender and sexual ideologies, which when taken more fully into account help elucidate a neglected aspect of Cold War culture, what we might call its queerness. The Cold War construction of the lesbian, in privileging the femme over the butch, inadvertently highlighted the mobility of sex, gender, and sexuality in relation to each other. For if the femme could pass as a "normal" woman, then there was no necessary or causal relationship between femininity and heterosexuality. Moreover, femininity emerged as a role that even the lesbian could master through imitation and repetition. In other words, the Cold War discourse of female homosexuality unintentionally foregrounded the performative aspects of femininity, and in the process demonstrated the lack of congruity between gender identity, sexual practice, and object choice. Underlying <i>All about Eve</i>'s representation of the title character is an attempt to resolve this contradiction in the Cold War construction of the lesbian, an attempt that ultimately fails because the movie cannot restabilize the normative alignment of sex, gender, and sexuality that its homophobic treatment of the lesbian throws into crisis. <p> The film's treatment of Eve's sexuality also provides clues as to how the older system of sexual classification shaped the Cold War construction of the lesbian. To mark Eve as a lesbian, Mankiewicz's movie draws on the visual codes developed by Hollywood to circumvent the prohibition of content involving "sex perversion." These codes reinstalled the association of lesbian desire with an inverted gender identity, thereby suggesting that Eve's performance of femininity disguised an identification with masculinity that surfaces in her ambition and focus on her career. Thus <i>All about Eve</i>'s strategy of representing Eve's deviant sexuality indirectly ratified the new system of sexual classification, which privileged object choice over gender identity. One of the effects of its treatment of Eve's performance of femininity was to stabilize the femme's relation to lesbian identity. Although it did not register in her gender presentation, Eve's identification with masculinity aligned her aberrant desire with the Cold War discourse of female homosexuality, which attributed lesbian identity to a pathological rejection of femininity. Eve's identification with masculinity deprives her of the capacity to overcome her lesbianism by reorienting her desire toward men. The movie thus indirectly asserted the femme's difference from the straight woman, showing that the feminine woman who made a lesbian object choice was just as deviant as the masculine woman who did so. At the same time, however, this construction of Eve's identity repressed the femme's difference from the butch. Eve's identification with masculinity suggested that, like the butch, the femme wanted to be a man, even if that desire did not express itself in her gender presentation. <p> <p> DECOUPLING THE BUTCH AND THE FEMME <p> In 1950, at about the same time that Mankiewicz began to draft the script for <i>All about Eve</i>, the Senate Appropriations Committee held widely publicized hearings on the government employment of homosexuals and "other sex perverts." Roy Blick, the chief officer of the District of Columbia vice squad, created panic when he testified that thousands of federal employees had been arrested on morals charges, many of them across from the White House in Lafayette Square, a notorious gay male cruising venue. Following the hearings, the committee issued a virulently homophobic report asserting that male and female homosexual employees of government agencies were vulnerable to blackmail by foreign espionage agents and thus constituted a threat to national security. The report also claimed that unless such employees already had a police record, and female homosexuals almost never did have one, it would be virtually impossible to ferret them out. Citing medical findings that challenged the association of homosexuality with gender inversion, the report declared, "All male homosexuals do not have feminine mannerisms, nor do all female homosexuals display masculine characteristics in their dress or actions." It elaborated: "Many male homosexuals are very masculine in their physical appearance and general demeanor, and many female homosexuals have every appearance of femininity in their outward behavior." In making these claims, the report indirectly linked homosexuals to the communists and fellow travelers also under investigation by Congress. If Americans could no longer identify male and female homosexuals by their gender identities, then like communists and fellow travelers they could infiltrate government agencies and subvert them from within by converting their coworkers. The report claimed ominously, "One homosexual can pollute a government office." <p> The fear that male and female homosexuals could participate in American society without arousing suspicion can be traced in part to the Kinsey reports on male and female sexuality, which despite their dry scientific style became instant bestsellers when they were published in 1948 and 1953, respectively. Alfred C. Kinsey, who himself had experimented with homosexuality, hoped that in showing how common homosexual activity was in American society, the reports would persuade medical professionals and criminologists that gays and lesbians deserved sympathy and tolerance, instead of persecution and punishment. Fifty percent of the men Kinsey and his assistants interviewed admitted to being aroused by other men, 37 percent said that they had had at least one homosexual experience since adolescence, and 4 percent claimed that they were attracted exclusively to other men. Few of these men fit the stereotype of the fairy, and Kinsey categorically stated that "inversion and homosexuality are two distinct and not always correlated types of behavior." Moreover, undoubtedly alarming many readers, he also asserted that "persons with homosexual histories are to be found in every age group in every social level, in every conceivable occupation in cities and on farms, and in the most remote areas of the country"—in short, from sea to shining sea. Although Kinsey's report on female sexuality, which was published three years after the release of <i>All about Eve</i>, could not have influenced the film's reception, it revealed extensive homosexual activity among women, though not as extensive as among men. Twenty-eight percent of the women interviewed admitted that they responded erotically to other women, 13 percent that they had experienced orgasm with another woman, and fewer than 2 percent that they were attracted exclusively to other women. Medical experts contested the report on male sexuality because it threatened to normalize homosexual activity among men. But for the most part they accepted the report on female sexuality because it seemed to confirm their belief that women's growing social and economic equality had led to a rise in lesbianism in American society. <p> In underwriting the new system of sexual classification elaborated in the Kinsey reports, the Cold War construction of the lesbian reversed the positions that the butch and the femme had traditionally occupied in homophobic discourse. For this reason, it marked a significant shift in the homophobic deployment of the category of the lesbian in American society. Historically the feminine woman who made a lesbian object choice had gone virtually unnoticed by medical experts. Her aberrant desire became visible only in the presence of the masculine woman who made a lesbian object choice. When sexologists began to name and classify sexual perversions in the late nineteenth century, they subjected the masculine lesbian to more intense scrutiny than the feminine woman who aroused her desire. Although it is important to avoid subsuming the history of the female invert into that of the butch, there are historical continuities between the two that justify seeing the female invert as the butch's historical antecedent. Because Victorian gender ideologies associated femaleness with a biologically determined sexual passivity and receptiveness, a woman had to assume a masculine gender identity to exercise sexual agency. This logic lay behind the sexological claim that a man's "soul" resided in the body of the masculine woman who desired other women. By heterosexualizing her desire, this model naturalized the normative alignment of sex, gender, and sexuality. But at the same time, the female invert threatened patriarchal privilege by showing that men could not claim a monopoly on masculinity. Because it did not line up with her anatomical sex in the socially prescribed way, her gender identity indicated that the relation between maleness and masculinity was not necessarily causal. This threat underlay sexology's tendency to focus on the female invert at the expense of the feminine woman who responded to her sexual advances. In explaining the female invert's perverse desire in terms of her gender identity, sexologists sought to neutralize this threat. <p> But even as it helped to consolidate patriarchal social arrangements, this model of perverse female desire produced the feminine woman who made a lesbian object choice as a conundrum that sexologists could not solve. Since her gender identity was in alignment with her anatomical sex, they could not account for her desire for other women. In accordance with their biological determinism, they conceived of the feminine lesbian as the passive recipient of the masculine lesbian's sexual advances and in so doing deprived her of sexual agency. Havelock Ellis claimed that the feminine woman's desire for other women was "artificial" and could be prevented from developing into a degenerative condition by segregating her from female homosocial environments, where she might encounter female inverts. He also argued that the "normal" woman who entered into a relationship with a female invert belonged to "the pick of the women whom the average man would pass by." In other words, the feminine woman who made a lesbian object choice could not even get an average man, which supposedly reduced her to submitting to the female invert's advances. Thus sexologists did not consider these women, commonly known as femmes, truly lesbian. They believed that such women would willingly forsake their deviant relationships to be with a heterosexual man. The feminine lesbian did not begin to attract the same homophobic scrutiny as the masculine lesbian until the early twentieth century when object choice began to displace gender identity as the organizing principle of sexuality. This process occurred unevenly and over several decades. Indeed, the Cold War construction of the lesbian played a crucial role in this process by identifying the femme as a threat to American society. The Cold War discourse of female homosexuality minimized the significance that the older system of sexual classification attached to the gender differences among women who made a lesbian object choice. It thereby helped to consolidate the hetero-homosexual binary, which depended on a decline in the importance of gender identities and roles for classifying sexual acts and actors. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Cold War Femme</b> by <b>ROBERT J. CORBER</b> Copyright © 2011 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.