Feminists and Femmes Fatales

  • Ayako Kano


The preceding chapters showed Matsui Sumako as a New Woman, a sexual subject par excellence. When performed on stage, however, the New Woman takes on various hues: The primary colors that make up the full palette are that of the outspoken and rational feminist on one end and the seductive and irrational femme fatale on the other end, with many gradations in between. During her short but brilliant career, Matsui Sumako performed a number of roles that might be called feminist, but also a number of roles that could be labeled femme fatale. How are we to understand an actress who acted both as a feminist and as a femme fatale? And what is the relationship of both figures to the definition of womanhood as grounded in the body? And are the feminist and femme fatale figures as distant from each other as they might seem at first glance?


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    For the Japanese production, Nakayama Shimpei composed a song based on the Japanese lines of this song, to be sung by Matsui Sumako. On the songs performed by Sumako during her career, see Harris I. Martin, “Popular Music and Social Change in Prewar Japan,” The Japan Interpreter 7, no. 3–4 (1972): 332–352; Komota Nobuo, et al., eds., Nihon ryūkōka shi: senzen hen (History of Japanese popular song: Prewar) (Tokyo: Shakai Shisōsha, 1981).Google Scholar
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    Watanabe Jun’ichi begins the prologue to his novelization of Matsui Sumako’s biography with a description of the three recordings she made. She recorded two songs from The Sunken Bell and one song each from Tolstoy’s Resurrection and his Living Corpse. “Katūsha’s Song” from Resurrection became a tremendous hit, and 40,000 records were sold. See Watanabe Jun’ichi, Joyū (Actress) (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1983).Google Scholar

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© Ayako Kano 2001

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  • Ayako Kano

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