One evening last week, I went to a meeting of the ladies' group that I go to locally, and the subject was "Wicked Women in Literature, Stage and Screen."
I thought about it for a little while and then one person leapt into my mind!
Mrs Danvers in the 1940 black & white film (and no, I wasn't actually born at the time!) of Rebecca, based on the book of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.
Judith Anderson played the part and she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.
As the Housekeeper of Manderley, Mrs Danvers was required to mentally torment the young bride, the "second Mrs de Winter (Joan Fontaine), even encouraging her to commit suicide at one stage. She constantly taunted the husband (played by Laurence Olivier) with the memory of his first wife, the never seen "Rebecca" of the title. Mrs Danvers, as conceived by Judith Anderson is widely considered to be one of the screen's most memorable and sexually ambiguous female villains.
She was profoundly devoted to the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca and she continually undermined the second Mrs de Winter. The climax of the film occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball, where Mrs Danvers manipulates the young bride into wearing a replica of the dress shown in a portrait of one of the previous inhabitants of the Estate - the same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim the previous year, shortly before her death.
I can still remember how frightening she was in that film, and can still see one of the scenes now with Manderley being ablaze, with Mrs Danvers stood in one of the upstairs windows in the long black dress that she always wore. It makes me shudder even now!
Another scene that always stayed in my mind was when Mrs Danvers took the second Mrs de Winter (I don't think we ever actually knew her name) on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, showing her the wardrobe and her luxurious possessions, which she (Mrs Danvers) had kept intact as a shrine to Rebecca. There were certainly sexual undertones during that scene.
I don't know whether any of you ever saw the film, but I would thoroughly recommend it, although I suspect it might seem a little dated now. Myself, I just love old black and white movies.