Femme Fatale Dies at Age 87

Ann Savage, who earned a cult following as a femme fatale in such 1940s pulp-fiction movies as "'Detour," died at the age of 87 last week at a Hollywood nursing home.
Savage died in her sleep on Christmas Day, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Savage's career was over by the mid-1950s, but she had a resurgence over the last year with a role in Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg."

Starting with her 1943 debut in the crime story "One Dangerous Night," Savage made more than 30 films through the 1950s, including westerns. They included "Saddles and Sagebrush" and "Satan's Cradle," the musicals "Dancing in Manhattan" and "Ever Since Venus" and the wartime tales "Passport to Suez" and "Two-Man Submarine."

She was, however, best-known for director Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 B-movie "Detour," in which she played a woman ruthlessly blackmailing a stranger, played by Tom Neal.

"It's actually a showcase role," her manager, Kent Adamson, told the newspaper. "Neal and Savage really reversed the traditional male-female roles of the time. She's vicious and predatory ... and he's very, very passive. It's very unusual for a '40s film to have a woman come on that strong."

Savage was born Bernice Maxine Lyon in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 19, 1921. She lived in Dallas until age 9, when her mother and stepfather moved to Los Angeles.

She enrolled in German producer Max Reinhardt's acting school, where she met Bert D'Armand, who became her agent and years later her husband. She was later under contract to Columbia Pictures and started a career in a series of B movies, but she had little respect for much of the work.

"They were mindless," she told The Times in 1985. "The actresses were just scenery. The stories all revolved around the male actors; they really had the choice roles. All the actresses had to do was to look lovely, since the dialogue was ridiculous."

After winning critical acclaim for "Detour," Savage had dreams of a real career as an actress. But it never happened.

She went on to make other bad-girl movies: "The Spider," in which she was strangled in the end; "Lady Chaser," in which she played a blackmailer; and "Pier 23," in which she attempted to divert duty-minded shopkeeper/private eye Hugh Beaumont.
Savage did some television in the 1950s, including "Death Valley Days" and "The Ford Television Theatre," then left Hollywood for New York City, where she appeared in commercials and industrial films.

After D'Armand died in 1968, Savage returned to Los Angeles and found work as a legal secretary.

In 1986, Savage returned to acting in "Fire With Fire," a drama with Virginia Madsen and D.B. Sweeney.

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