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Spinsters, Widows and CharsThe Ageing Woman in British Film$
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Claire Mortimer

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781474452823

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2022

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474452823.001.0001

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‘Infertile, domestically unnecessary, and jealous’: Hags, Witches and the Magic Spinster

‘Infertile, domestically unnecessary, and jealous’: Hags, Witches and the Magic Spinster

(p.155) Chapter 7 ‘Infertile, domestically unnecessary, and jealous’: Hags, Witches and the Magic Spinster
Spinsters, Widows and Chars

Claire Mortimer

Edinburgh University Press

One of the most enduring types of female ageing in fictional texts is the witch. Representations of the witch in British film are informed by a cultural imaginary which extends back through the centuries. A sequence of post-war films reiterated the threat of the ageing woman by evoking the supernatural, drawing on myths of the ageing unattached woman as a monstrous hag. In contrast the chapter examines a more benign figuration of the female grotesque and the supernatural with Margaret Rutherford’s performance as an eccentric medium in Blithe Spirit (1945), which was to define her persona as a ‘magic spinster’. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a return to the ageing woman as monster, as British horror films increasingly targeted a youth audience. These monstrous women were a boon for the ageing actress, finding a new younger audience.

Keywords:   Female ageing, Witch, British film, Post-war, Supernatural, Hag, Female grotesque, Margaret Rutherford, British horror films, Spinster

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