Fast-Talking Dames

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If you’ve ever stumbled across a fast-talking dame on late night television, you know what it’s like to fall under her spell. And we’re not talking about one of those navel-baring, trash-talking babes slouched on a couch next to David Letterman.

We’re talking Katherine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne and Barbara Stanwyck. That ilk, the women who gave the vigorous verbal twist to the screwball silver screen comedies of the 1930’s and ’40s.

These women are beautiful, but it’s what their lips have to say that makes them linger in the mind. To wit, unlike the perpetually virginal Doris Day types who would succeed them in the 1950s, they are sexually savvy, professionally secure and never, well, almost never, at a loss for words.


Maria DiBattista, professor of English and comparative literature at Princeton University and author of “Fast-Speaking Dames.”