Why Women Love Bad Boys: Born to Kill (1947)

Born-to-KillIn Robert Wise’s Born To Kill (1947), Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) and her sister Georgia (Audrey Long) fall in love with Sam Wild (Lawrence Tierney). Sam is a bad boy, and bad boys have certain qualities that make women feel attracted to them: They know how to look at women, and they know how to talk to them. Bad boys excite women because they are unpredictable and daring. Some of them have the power to turn good girls into bad girls.

A bad boy uses the power of his gaze to make women want him. When Sam first sees Helen at the casino, he looks at her five times, never dropping his eyes unless she looks away first. Helen is under Sam’s spell, and Sam knows it. On the day of his wedding to Georgia, one maid remarks, “His eyes get me. They run up and down you like a search light.” Sam looks at women with raw masculine desire, making them want him even more.

Sam also makes women feel attracted to him by speaking with strength and confidence. Helen calls him “an assured man.” When they arrive in San Francisco, he asks her: “When am I going to see you again?” Later, when Georgia asks him to dance, he charms her with the power of his words and his gaze. Seeing her shyness, he says, “You’re young, warm, pretty. You could really love a man.” Sam’s strength and confidence awakens an attraction in Georgia that she cannot resist.

When Sam wants something, he takes action to get it. At the train station, he says to Helen, “Let’s go,” and takes her on board. The club car is closed, but he tells the attendant, “Right now it’s opening again,” and walks right past him. Sam is in control, taking what he wants, and no one can stop him. After Helen and Sam are seated, he looks at her and says, “I know what I want when I see it.” His innuendo is clear, and she stares back with a smile. Helen knows that Sam wants her.

Because Sam is driven by desire, he often takes risks and does the unexpected. After marrying Georgia, he has an argument with Helen, and when she warns him, “I make a very bad enemy,” he kisses her. Helen cannot resist the kiss, and then he surprises her by saying, “Goodbye, sister.” Helen is left frustrated and disappointed, and Sam leaves with the knowledge that she still wants him.

Helen’s love for Sam changes her. Revealing her true feelings for him, she gasps aloud, “You’re strength, excitement, and depravity.” Drawn to the darkness inside Sam, she becomes a criminal like him. In order to prevent Sam from being arrested, she delivers a death threat to Mrs. Kraft (Esther Howard). Helen’s fiancé, Fred Grover (Phillip Terry) tells her that she began to change as soon as Sam came into the house. In love with a bad boy, Helen is now a bad girl.

Although Sam is a “bad” man, he does have positive qualities. Women are attracted to him because he is bold, confident, unpredictable, and daring. In fact, if a “nice guy” wants to become more attractive to women, he should try and develop these qualities. Sam is “bad” for women because is he is selfish, greedy, angry, and violent.

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