The Chanteuse

A stock character in anything even very loosely inspired by Film Noir. Every lounge will have a sultry female singing a sultry song. Her favorite outfit is a long evening gown, pearl necklace, slit up the side, and more than likely high heels and opera gloves. If she becomes a named character, she will often be the Veronica in a Betty and Veronica romantic subplot. She could just there in the background because every lounge that has anything approaching a Film Noir feel must have this trope.

She is always surrounded by an air of melancholy. This could be because she herself is melancholic, or because the lonely male hero experiences a connection with her while she is singing but cannot have her. She tends to be out of the main hero's reach perhaps because she is a dangerous Femme Fatale, because she is already involved with someone else (usually a villain), or simply because she is so aloof. This character can be very useful for highlighting a feeling of loneliness, because her sultry songs will often create a feeling of a connection between the singer (which it means in French) and the listener, but circumstances will prevent that feeling from becoming a true connection. For that reason, this trope is a favorite of Film Noir, a genre that thrives on a feeling of melancholy and stoic loneliness.

This character may frequently be seen Sitting Sexy on a Piano.

Compare Glamorous Wartime Singer, Lounge Lizard.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Gina in Porco Rosso is a very clean and straight-laced example, but she does have the glamour (with lingering shots of her large earrings slowly turning as she sings), the loneliness, and the romantic melancholy.
  • Oruha from Outo Country in Tsubasa Chronicle.

Comicbook
  • During Marvel Star Wars an alien once mistakes Leia for a renowned chanteuse and ropes her into dressing up and performing.

Film
  • In This Gun For Hire, Veronica Lake mixes it up by being a sexy chanteuse who sings sultry songs in tight dresses—and does magic tricks.
  • Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is introduced this way, working as a singer in the Ink & Paint Club. The entire (male) crowd is gobsmacked by her beauty and sensuality, and Eddie Valiant openly asks Betty Boop how that woman wound up married to a comedian like Roger.
    Betty Boop: Yeah... what a lucky "goyul".
  • Tallulah in Bugsy Malone.
  • Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe's characters in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
  • Emma in Dark City (see page image), which is later revealed to be an implanted identity.
  • Tina in The Mask. Although she's not a Femme Fatale, but a Distressed Damsel.
  • Lil Sheridan (Marilu Henner) in Johnny Dangerously.
  • Uschi, the heroine of Der Schuh des Manitu, is introduced that way. The film doesn't have anything to do with the Film Noir, though; it's just Troperiffic.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell. When we first see Connie Stone (Julianne Moore), she's singing a song in Harry Bordon's nightclub. You can watch her performance here.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer from The Fabulous Baker Boys.
  • The singer at the Blue Note in Naked Gun 2: The Smell of Fear played by singer Colleen Fitzpatrick a.k.a. Vitamin C.
  • Envy Adams from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World fits the criteria, despite not being Film Noir.
  • Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot, played by Marilyn Monroe. Again, this is a comedy, not film noir per se.
  • The 1990 Dick Tracy movie had Breathless Mahoney, classic nightclub Femme Fatale played by no less than Madonna. Her performance of "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" actually won an Academy Award.
  • Eraserhead's Lady in the Radiator could be seen as a mutated example of this.
  • Rebekah del Rio, as herself, in Mulholland Dr., with the twist that it's actually Looping Lines - "It is all a recording" - and del Rio collapses toward the end of the song, which keeps playing. It's safe to say that David Lynch loves this trope. And see below under Live Action TV for another example from his body of work.
  • Ellen Aim in Streets of Fire.
  • The title character of Gilda.
  • Dorothy Vallens from Blue Velvet
  • Tornado Lou from Lemonade Joe, a gorgeous Soiled Dove who dreams of becoming a better woman. She has two melancholy songs, one of which moves all gunmen in the Whisky Saloon to tears, and one extremely cheerful number which is accompanied by a dance routine from a posse of Ms. Fanservice girls in skimpy outfits.
  • A dark example: Lucia in The Night Porter.
  • Francesca in Ghost Ship is the typical sultry lounge singer, but on a luxury Italian cruiseship. She participates in the massacre on the ship and uses her wiles to seduce men to their deaths, and as a ghost is serving the primary villain to lure more men to their deaths.
  • In Last Vegas, Diana moonlights as this at a Vegas casino, her primary job being working as a tax attorney for the owner.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: When Picard creates the Dixon Hill night club, which is a direct reference to Film Noir, on the holodeck it naturally includes on of these on stage.

Literature
  • Ciaphas Cain: Inquisitor Amberley Vail's first in-person appearance (she's also the books' editor In-Universe) is when she is undercover as one at a reception at the planetary governor's mansion on Gravalax.
  • The first appearance of the Discworld character Ruby (later known as Sergeant Detritus's wife) is in Moving Pictures as a chanteuse at a troll nightclub. Her trollish growling is translated in footnotes as "Falling in Love Again", complete with Marlene Dietrich's accent.

Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek:
  • Jan Levinson makes a cameo appearance as one of these in The Office (US) episode "Threat Level Midnight" movie-within-a-movie possibly a nod to Melora Hardin's cameo as one in The Rocketeer (or maybe simply because she can sing).
  • The Smallville Noir episode has Lois in this role and Lana as the Femme Fatale. While Chloe ironically is mimicking the 40s and 50s Lois Lane.
  • The season six opener of NCIS had Ziva David playing this part very well, with the actress Cote de Pablo actually doing her own singing. Then someone rudely left a bomb behind. (What, this is NCIS, you know!)
  • In several episodes of Twin Peaks, Julee Cruise can be seen singing in The Roadhouse, a bar in the town.
  • Daughter Maitland in Boardwalk Empire.
  • Paige pulls this off in season 5 of Charmed , singing "Fever" to her boyfriends Nate in vintage garb and hair (Of course she does. She's Rose McGowan).
  • The unnamed singer played by Foxes in the Doctor Who episode "Mummy on the Orient Express", who sings a 20s jazz version of "Don't Stop Me Now".

Music
  • Mamamoo's Solar in their "Piano Man" video is a more clean and optimistic example, donning a glamorous evening gown while seductively singing on stage at a jazz bar.

Newspaper Comics

Theatre
  • City of Angels has Bobbi as this stock Film Noir character. Her number, "With Every Breath I Take," is a slow minor-key torch song.
  • In Follies, Sally takes on this look for her Loveland number, "Losing My Mind".

Video Games

Western Animation


Alternative Title(s):

Lounge Singer