I came across this picture that was meant as a compliment to the femme fatales of film noir. The caption read: 'Who says film noir ladies are phonies.' It is not an accurate portrayal of course. The weapon of choice for the ladies of noir is femine wiles which is as old as time itself, just ask Adam, or the Lady from Bath in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. What differentiates itself in noir is not the means to an end, but instead the end itself.
The femme fatale will make the man, usually out of his league with the woman, hopelessly smitten or lustily in love, and and have him do something that otherwise be against his nature. He will do this, thinking it's what he wants, but in actuality it's for the woman's benefit. Whereas her wiles were often used to achieve marriage and at times a better career, although that too often resulted in a domestic home sweet home, with noir the benefits are monetary. It is this trait that we find in films we see as classic film-noir as in. Out of The Past, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Criss-Cross. and The Killers. Although this aspect of film-noir is found in the above movies and others it is not necessarily a 'must have' element. Some critic/fan drew up a list of seventeen potential elements that go into film noir. It is however along with the shadows and lighting of these films, the trait that most people associate with a film classified as film-noir. What are wiles?
This is from California Physics: "The power of feminine wiles might be the best ace up a woman’s sleeve, just as a man’s may be his strength and ability and how he flaunts it before women. A confident woman is aware of her feminine powers and uses them in a charming manner to get what she wants, all the while making the man feel appreciated and desirable. Knowing how important the male ego plays in the typical male’s sense of self-worth...",
This element does not have to be specific to the main antagonists. It is the interaction between Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook, Jr, in The Killing, Googie Williams and Francis Sullivan in Night And The City that makes those movies true film-noir.
The graphic that spurred this post is not noir. The ladies of noir would never use an axe as its blade might lose its edge. The same can not be said of those ladies who get what they want by using their feminine wiles.