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The Chanteuse

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A Chanteuse in Chartreuse. C'est hilarant!

A stock character in anything even very loosely inspired by Film Noir, and often the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the word "Femme Fatale".

Every lounge will have a sultry female singing a sultry song (or Torch Song). Her favorite outfit is a long evening gown with a slit up the side, pearl necklace, and more than likely high heels and opera gloves. At some point, she will probably be seen Sitting Sexy on a Piano. If she becomes a named character, she will often be the Veronica in a Betty and Veronica romantic subplot. She could also just be 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.


The rarely seen male version is known as a chanteur. It's also possible for a male Crossdresser to play the role in drag; in such cases, he's likely to be Camp Gay, and (unless it's played for laughs) attractive when made up as a woman. A full-blown Drag Queen probably isn't a straight example, but may often want to invoke the trope's imagery in his own performances.

A saloon singer may fill a similar role in Westerns, and a comely barmaid singing Irish ballads and sentimental songs may take the role in an Irish pub (be it in Ireland or, at least as often, abroad) Compare Glamorous Wartime Singer, Lounge Lizard.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • During Star Wars (Marvel 1977), an alien once mistakes Leia for a renowned chanteuse and ropes her into dressing up and performing.
  • Years before meeting Diabolik, Eva Kant did it for a living-and as a cover for her actual job as an industrial spy.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Brick, Laura sings/recites a song while accompanying herself on the piano, much to the melancholic curiosity of Brendan.
  • 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.
  • Tallulah in Bugsy Malone.
  • 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".
  • Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe's characters in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
  • Emma in Dark City, 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 movie's Sitting Sexy on a Piano scene is parodied in Hot Shots!.
  • The singer at the Blue Note in Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear played by singer Colleen Fitzpatrick a.k.a. Vitamin C.
  • 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.
  • The Rocketeer: The South Seas Club singer has the Pimped-Out Dress and melancholic singing voice required for the role.
  • Ellen Aim in Streets of Fire.
  • The title character of Gilda.
  • Joan in The Purchase Price.
  • Ida Lupino in Road House.
  • 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.
  • Destry Rides Again: Frenchy is the singer in the saloon; Marlene Dietrich sings a couple of songs. Beyond her sultriness, Frenchy helps Kent the bar owner cheat people at cards.
  • Sherman's March: "Joyous"—that's her name—bass guitarist and singer, first introduced singing with a band in a parking lot, and later shown singing in a nightclub. She hangs out with Ross for a little while before heading to New York to advance her music career.
  • There's one in the magical speakeasy scene in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, although considering the singer is a goblin and/or house-elf (it's hard to tell), it plays out more as Fan Disservice than anything else.
  • Carole Lombard is a sexy nightclub singer in Brief Moment.
  • In Rancho Notorious, Altar was a saloon singer before coming into the money that allowed to found Chuck-a-Luck. This provides justification for Marlene Dietrich to sing several sings during the film.
  • Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) in Reminiscence. One of the characters even explicitly refers to her using the word chanteuse, in a somewhat mocking way.

  • Autobiography of Red has a tuxedo-clad Bifauxnen version singing tango music in a bar in Argentina.
  • 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. Naturally, Cain puts the moves on her, thinking to impress her by revealing the identity of the Inquisitor on the planet... the rogue trader at the reception (who is an Inquisitorial ally... but an actual rogue trader). He thinks she's quivering with fear, she's trying not to bust her gut laughing.
  • 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 
  • 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).
  • Julia is one in Cowboy Bebop (2021).
  • Paula in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend imagines herself as one of these as she sings "His Status is Preferred."
  • Doctor Who:
  • Marty in Grease Live! imagines singing "Freddy My Love" in a USO show.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): Antoinette Brown is an alluring lounge singer who specializes in Torch Songs and performs in a long, glamorous evening gown, a gold necklace and high heels when she's on stage. She's the "Veronica" in the Betty and Veronica rivalry that she has with Louis de Pointe du Lac (the "Betty") over Lestat de Lioncourt (the "Archie").
  • 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!)
  • 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).
  • Peaky Blinders: When Grace first comes from Northern Ireland to Birmingham, she gets hired at the Shelbys' pub because she's pretty and can sing Irish ballads and sentimental songs. Of course, it turns out she's actually a spy working for Inspector Campbell and (indirectly) MI-5.
  • In season two of Preacher, Jesse meets a woman named Lara who fits this trope to a T - a sexy, aloof night club singer with hints of having had a sad life. She's inadvertantly ended up in the crosshairs of some dangerous people, and Jesse have to save her. Except at the end of the episode it turns out that it was all a lie - she's actually a Grail operative named Featherstone, and she was sizing Jesse up for being one of the potential Messiahs that the Grail is sworn to eliminate.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek:
  • In several episodes of Twin Peaks, Julee Cruise can be seen singing in The Roadhouse, a bar in the town.
  • Moira Rose on Schitt's Creek refers to herself as a trained chanteuse, but whether she actually is one is open to debate.


    Pro Wrestling 

  • 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".
  • Mary Kate Wiles plays this character in Spies Are Forever, and again in The Case Of The Gilded Lily.

    Video Games 
  • The unnamed background version of this trope appears in the game Alice Is Dead. She sings a song that is a mixture of Wonderland surrealism and an attempt to seduce the listener.
  • Carol MacLaine in Deadly Premonition. She owns one of the bars in town, the bizarrely-named Galaxy of Terror, and frequently performs on its stage. She only has one song, which goes from being in coherent English to... not so much. It's the only thing in the game that's not subtitled, even in cutscene form.
  • Venus in EarthBound. It's a Super Nintendo game, so her voice is just a generic "human voice" synth, and unlike Final Fantasy VI's opera scene, it's not captioned. During the performance, one of the men in the audience tries to get on stage with her and is dragged off by security.
  • Julia Heartilly from the flashback sequences of Final Fantasy VIII with the twist that she doesn't sing but play the piano.
  • In Contrast, Kat is a professional singer and a rising star. She gives a performance early in the game.
  • Red, the protagonist of Transistor. She doesn't get much of a chance to show off her voice, though, as it's stolen right at the start of the game, but at least you can hear her sing in a few pieces of the soundtrack.
  • Sapphire in Discworld Noir is basically an Expy of Ruby in Moving Pictures, with a song that includes the lines "The minute you walked through the wall, I could see you were a troll of destruction".
  • Trixie Trotter from Back to the Future: The Game.
  • Elsa Lichtmann in L.A. Noire.
  • Magnolia in Fallout 4.
  • Shante from Arc the Lad II.
  • In Paper Mario 64 there's an NPC called Chanterelle who is a clear reference to this trope. A lengthy sidequest involves helping her recover her voice so she can sing again.

    Web Original 
  • The Royal Scandal Vocaloid/Utaite song series and their stage play adaptation centers around a girl named Chelsea, who is this kind of singer. She is in a love triangle, pursued by both the bartender in the club where she sings, and a prince who frequents the club. This sets the two as rivals, while the more action-oriented plot closes in on them.
  • Critical Role features Jester's mother Marion Lavorre, who is a mix of this and High-Class Call Girl.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: When Matches Malone, an amnesiac Batman, goes on an unstoppable crime spree and sends villains fleeing, he briefly occupies a supervillain lounge. Black Canary, Huntress, and Catwoman enter through the back door and find themselves onstage and pretend to be a singing group, improvising a rather racy musical number. They're a big hit with the crowd but are unable to get through to the amnesiac Batman.
  • Justice League Unlimited: features a Chanteur example. After fending off an onslaught of animals created by Circe, Batman suggests making an exchange for returning Dianna, who was transformed into a pig, to normal. Circe agrees only in exchange for something incredibly precious from Batman — something he's concealed and can never be regained when gone. Something soul-shattering. He pays the price by revealing a suave singing voice in a performance of "Am I Blue?" so touching it moves both Zatanna and Circe to tears.
  • Red from Red Hot Riding Hood and other Tex Avery shorts.
  • Sasha from All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, though she was just doing it for a prize in order to feed a young boy named David.
  • The "Queen Hornet" episode of Dynomutt, Dog Wonder features one, who sings the theme song from Jabberjaw.
  • Miss Kitty from An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is this by profession, but is never actually shown singing. She makes Tanya her protege and Tanya is shown singing at a cat bar.
  • In the episode "Love, American Dad Style" Hayley Smith on American Dad! becomes this when Roger hears her singing in the shower and asks her to sing at his bar. Hayley is voiced by Seth MacFarlane's sister Rachel, and like her brother has a great voice that's well suited to old jazz standards. In the episode she sings "Someone to Watch Over Me", "Makin' Whoopie!" and "Potato Bread".
  • In Samurai Jack, one is singing during a fight scene between Jack and some gangsters.
  • The Martian Queen becomes this in the Talent Contest episode of Duck Dodgers.
  • One animated version of Charles Dickens' Cricket On The Hearth has a very... strange example of this trope, shown here. She appears, sings a catchy song, then leaves. The movie continues on as if she never showed up in the first place.
  • Bridgette on Total Drama World Tour, in particular during one of the Aftermath episodes, where she sings "I'm Sorry" in this style to Geoff, and is even Sitting Sexy on a Piano for part of it.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: N.U.G.G.E.T" (which plays out like a Western goldmining story, only with chicken nuggets in place of gold ones), Numbuh 3, her sister Mushi and Numbuh 1's girlfriend Lizzie fill the role of the Saloon Singer variant.

Alternative Title(s): Lounge Singer