Rosemary Williams, the Showgirl, as Counterpart to Walter Cartier, the Boxer, and Their Relationship to Kubrick's Killer's Kiss

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).


Everyone's already aware of Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955) having some roots in his boxing documentary Day of the Fight (1951) that followed up the article he did for LOOK Magazine in 1948 on the Cartier brothers.

And by now many are aware of the photos Kubrick took, in 1949 of, showgirl Rosemary Williams, and wonder at her fall into obscurity. What I hope to add, with this post, is how the unpublished LOOK photos on Rosemary can be seen as a feminine counterpart to Kubrick's photos of the boxer Walter Cartier, and their relationship to Killer's Kiss.

Going through Kubrick's LOOK photos, he had his stroke of genius here and there but many, one has to admit, are bread-and-butter this-journalistic-banality-is-killing-me fare. Which is not the case with the photos of Rosemary Williams. The camera loved her and she worked it. Kubrick photographed her with an intimate cinematic story style we don't see in the majority of his LOOK photos.

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

If one examines Kubrick's shots of Rosemary, one will see a certain resemblance to his photos of the boxing Cartier brothers in the sculpting of the lifestyle of a person struggling for fame and fortune, and that resemblance is enough to suggest that Kubrick was thinking in terms of links between Rosemary's occupation and the world of boxing. She was to be Walter Cartier's counterpart.

We know that Kubrick fictionalized elements of the Cartier story when he took it to film in Day of the Fight. For instance, he gave Walter Cartier a dog, knowing a pet would emotionally connect with viewers. We don't know what parts were fictionalized, if any, with Rosemary, but building empathy/sympathy he crafted a photo story of her life from waking to sleep, she engaged not only in career activities but relaxing at home and visiting with friends, just as he had done with Cartier.

He photographed both Rosemary and Walter Cartier at church. Walter was preparing for his fight and this was the spiritual part of his preparation. In the film he was also shown taking communion.

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos, Boxer Walter Cartier, 1948

As with the Cartiers, it appears Rosemary was Roman Catholic, as she is kneeling during prayer, is wearing the head covering that was still obligatory for a woman, and we see a vessel by the door that would hold the holy water with which one crosses one's self when entering. Who were the two men to either side of her? We don't know. But it seems Kubrick was going to depict faith as an important component to Rosemary's life, as he had with Walter. Perhaps, as with Walter's fake dog in Day of the Fight, this would forge an emotional, sympathetic connection with the viewer. Does Rosemary look properly beatific, a balance for the showgirl dancer? She's a stand-out in white, but the shot doesn't work for me. Especially with the two men flanking her, it feels forced.

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Kubrick was born in 1928, and Rosemary was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1927, but she was a woman with history, having been already married at 16 and divorced. No matter how much he had already seen, for 20 year old Kubrick, Rosemary was probably (at least psychologically, emotionally) the older woman with a past. A mysterious entity. She had a son who appears to have been living with her parents in Texas (Corpus Christi), while Rosemary was in New York struggling for a career that would elevate her above being a showgirl and model, for Kubrick depicts her reading scripts, acting, even apparently taking either singing or elocution lessons. No doubt she longed to be a star. No judgment there. Had Rosemary made it then her choices and travails would have been viewed as worth it. When one doesn't make it then one's choices are viewed through a critical lens as vain and contemptuous of certain future failure.

For many a girl, or woman, Rosemary would have been viewed as already having made it.

Kubrick photographed Rosemary doting over two little girls, seemingly sisters who are identically dressed and look very much alike. They aren't twins, like Walter and Vincent Cartier. They are almost-twins, near-doubles, as with Frank Poole and Dave Bowman and the girls in The Shining who were sisters a couple of years apart in age. Had Kubrick planned on bringing into the story Rosemary's son in Texas? Would he depict her maternal affection as finding expression with other children as her son was not with her?

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Kubrick photographed Rosemary in March of 1949. In 1951-52 Rosemary gained some notoriety for having received tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts from a young man named Sid Levy whose money was ill-gotten through swindles that he represented himself as pursuing for love of Rosemary. He said she used him. She said he was a creep who pressed his gifts on her. it seems that Rosemary first met Sid in spring of 1949. Was she already with Sid when Kubrick began photographing her? I see no photos of him, I don't believe, but I wonder if Rosemary and Sid made it into Kubrick's Day of the Fight.

There is no way of knowing from the photographs for LOOK how Kubrick may have actually viewed Rosemary, apart from his having visualized her as Walter Cartier's female counterpart. We can't speculate based on the character of Gloria in Killer's Kiss because Gloria's fairly complex character is certainly different from Rosemary. How she does compare to Rosemary is that Gloria, the down-on-her-luck, hard-working, abused taxi-dancer, is the feminine counterpart of hard-working, down-on-his-luck Davey, just as Rosemary was the feminine counterpart of Walter Cartier for his photojournalism piece. But Rosemary and Walter weren't "losers", they hadn't been beaten down. They had hopes and dreams and were being captured in the act of realizing their ambitions.

In the below photo, Rosemary dances with an anonymous man at a club. This image communicates Rosemary as being on stage before the “audience” of individuals at tables, predominately male in this photo. Kubrick, in this photo of Rosemary dancing, as well as in some of his photos of dancers at the Copacabana, emphasizes the gaze of usually older males ringside, showing the men indirectly, from behind. Kubrick appears to intentionally capture a societal and cultual disconnect of these men from the women, the imbalance of power between them, a presentiment of Gloria's troubles with her boss in Pleasure Land, but in Killer's Kiss many of the men are depicted more intimately. We don't have the power gazes viewed from behind. Instead, we see the faces of the men waiting for their turns. It is Gloria's boss, butting in on the dance floor, taking her away from the dance floor to his office, even fighting with the soldier with whom she was dancing, who is the problem.

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Killer's Kiss

Screengrab from Killer's Kiss

In fact, the story we believe we see depicted in the photo of Rosemary on the dance floor is disassembled if we view other photos from the same shoot. The men are clearly depicted as being at tables with their wives, conversing, laughing, dancing with them. They don't look enviously upon Rosemary. The story in those photos is of couples out having a good time with one another, in contrast to this photo in which we have men alienated from their wives and gazing on the dance floor. A picture is not always worth a thousand words. One needs context. We don't know the story Kubrick would have intended to communicate from this shoot, had he used a photo from it. We don't know if he would have used a photo of the men clearly depicted with their wives, engaging with them, or if he would have used this photo that presents a different story.

The below photo shows Rosemary in Times Square, the Astor and Criterion theaters in the background. Kubrick's view of Times Square in Killer's Kiss, as he leads us toward Pleasure Land where Gloria works, opens with a shot of the Bond clothing store window beside the Criterion theater. With that shot in Killer's Kiss we are viewing the Bond window before which Rosemary was standing in the window shopping shots.

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Killer's Kiss

Screengrab from Killer's Kiss

Kubrick has Rosemary positioned so we see Robert Wise's 1949 film Set-up was playing at the Criterion. What was Set-up about? Robert Ryan plays a boxer who was such a loser that his manager takes money for him to take a “dive”, not even bothering to tell him, because he's confident the boxer will lose anyway. When the boxer learns of the fix during the fight, he becomes determined to win despite the fact it will put him in trouble with the mob. And he does win. And he is beaten down after, his hand crushed so he will be unable to box again. What I think we can most interpret from Kubrick having Rosemary stand before this theater is, again, he was portraying her as a counterpart of the boxer, Walter Cartier.

Below is a photo from the prospective LOOK article of Rosemary getting ready to go on stage. Below that is the dance of Gloria's sister, Iris, from Killer's Kiss, she excelling in the footlights before cutting her career short to marry and tend her ailing father.

Killer's Kiss

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Killer's Kiss

Screengrab from Killer's Kiss

One may also think back to these images of footlights with Kubrick's depiction of cynical, used and abused Lolita as she prepares to go on stage in a theater production at Beardsley, Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom watching from the wings. Quilty even has his camera. This scene wasn't in the book or the screenplay. In Nabokov's screenplay, Lolita was in rehearsals for the play but never even made it on stage. She and jealous Humbert took off from Bearsley before the play's performance.

Screengrab from Lolita

Screengrab from Lolita

Kubrick took photos of Rosemary in a number of situations, including bowling, at dinner with men, at a party, reading a script, seemingly receiving vocal lessons, at a photo shoot, at a TV studio, lounging about at home talking on the phone, doing her make-up, chatting with her roommates, but I'm only showing here those photos with which a parallel can be drawn to Killer's Kiss and a couple other films of Kubrick's. Below is another one that connects with Killer's Kiss, Rosemary in her kitchen that is decorated with poster advertisements of circa 1880s play, Fogg's Ferry. The title of the poster on the far wall is "One Too Many". The one nearest the viewer is "Don't Beat me, Mammy!"

From the Online Museum of the City of New York collection of Kubrick photos
Showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1949

Killer's Kiss

Screengrab from Killer's Kiss

The play, Fogg's Ferry, concerns Chip, daughter of a drunken ferryman and his abusive wife. Brave and spunky Chip intuits already these individuals couldn't be her parents, that she instead comes from regal stock. At the age of sixteen she flees home with the intention of elevating her situation, hoping to become a lady, knowing she is a fine one in spirit despite her rough edges. Over the course of the play it will be revealed she is a child of veritable American nobility in the form of a wealthy Judge. She and the daughter of the ferryman and his wife had been mixed up at birth. The haughty false daughter of the judge, who is really the daughter of the drunken ferryman and his abusive wife, is ejected from his home and humble Chip takes her rightful place.

More doubles as far as a confusion of identity--one good, the other bad.

I have to wonder if the playbills on Rosemary's wall were her own idea or instead Kubrick's. One also wonders if they were intended to comment on Rosemary leaving Ohio and making her way to New York with the hope of elevating her own situation.

Vincent, Gloria's boss in Killer's Kiss, also has similar posters of old theatrical productions on his walls, of the 1890 Blue Jeans, and The Cherry Pickers from 1896, and the poster from Blue Jeans does comment on the film, which I cover in its analysis.

I notice that The Stanley Kubrick Meet-up Tumblr has done a post mentioning how an artist by the name of Rosemary Williams is doing a short film on the showgirl Rosemary Williams. It will be interesting to see what her take on Rosemary will be, but it already seems that she has found in Rosemary someone whose private life greatly contradicted her glamorous public profile.

What happened to Rosemary? This is all I've been able to find. Howard Otto Williamson and Marie were Rosemary's parents. Howard's 1959 obituary gives his daughter as Rose Mary De Nointel of New York. A New York State passenger list gives her as arriving, from Paris, France, in New York, on Sept 14, 1958 under the name Maria De Nointel, born July 23, 1927. Her address was 2501 Palisade avenue in New York, which is a really nice chateau-like complex of condos. It would seem Rosemary had married, spent some time in France, and divorced. In 1963 a Maria Denointel married a Marvin Frank in New York. De Nointel is, curiously, a name that pretty much doesn't exist in the States, so I would imagine this was Rosemary. She died, as Rosemary Williamson, in Dayton, Ohio on March 20, 2002.


Go to Table of Contents of the Killer's Kiss analysis

Go to Table of Contents of the Lolita analysis

Go to Day of the Fight analysis

"The Creep" And The Doll - - 1951 Life Article on Showgirl, Rosemary Williams, Who Had Been Photographed by Kubrick for an Unpublished Look Story in 1949. Wherein Rosemary Williams becomes involved in a scandal.

Conclusion of the Sid Levy Trial, Benefactor of Showgirl Rosemary Williams Who Kubrick Had Photographed in 1949

Are Rosemary Williams and Sidney Levy in Kubrick's Day of the Fight?

Link to the main Kubrick page for all the analyses

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