Directed By: John Waters
Starring: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
Tag line: "Nice girls don't wear cha-cha heels"
Trivia: Although released in 1974 the copyright date at the end of the credits is MCMXCIX or 1999
“Never have I encountered such a morally bankrupt group of people”
This line of dialogue, spoken by a minor character in John Waters’ 1974 film Female Trouble, sums the picture up perfectly. The epic story of a teen delinquent who rises to the top of the underground fashion world, Female Trouble is bursting at the seams with lowlifes and criminals, all working in unison to make the world a trashier place.
When she doesn’t get the cha-cha heels she wanted for Christmas, teenager Dawn Davenport (Divine) runs away from home. While hitchhiking, She's picked up by Earl Peterson (also played by Divine, sans make-up), a scumbag who, after luring the unsuspecting teen to a trash dump, has his way with her. Nine months later, Dawn gives birth to a baby girl, who she names Taffy. Forced to do whatever it takes to make ends meet (including prostitution and petty theft), Dawn’s life is in a constant state of turmoil. To help her relax, Dawn’s good friends Chicklette (Susan Walsh) and Concetta (Cookie Mueller) arrange for her to visit the Lipstick Beauty Parlor, the finest salon in all of Baltimore, where she’s introduced to a hairdresser named Gater (Michael Potter). Following a whirlwind romance, Dawn and Gater are married, much to the chagrin of Gater’s portly Aunt Ida (Edith Massey), who fears she may lose her beloved nephew forever. Sure enough, the marriage doesn’t last, and Gater leaves town for good.
Once her divorce is finalized, Dawn returns to the Lipstick Beauty Parlor and is immediately approached by the salon’s owners, Donald and Donna Dasher (David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pierce), who want her to be the subject of their latest fashion experiment (in short, they’re going to photograph Dawn while she’s committing crimes). Her fledgling modeling career is nearly cut short, however, when Ida, still bitter over losing Gator, throws acid into Dawn’s face, scarring her forever. To Dawn’s surprise, the Dashers think the scars make her even more beautiful, and as a result Dawn becomes the hottest criminal / fashion model in town. Not even the constant whining of her teenage daughter Taffy (Mink Stole) can spoil Dawn’s fun, but how long will it be before the law finally catches up with her?
Like Pink Flamingos before it, Female Trouble wallows in the filth, creating a hilariously over-the-top world populated by revolting characters who deliver some truly unforgettable lines (“Nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels!”). Divine does a fine job playing dual roles, appearing as both the lead, Dawn Davenport, and her “lover of the moment” Earl Peterson (this creative casting results in one of the strangest sex scenes ever committed to film). As for the supporting cast, Edith Massey wows the crowd by squeezing into a leather teddy while Mink Stole, wearing a baby-doll dress, does her best to portray a petulant teenage girl. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a John Waters flick without a few disgusting moments scattered throughout (while Earl is having sex with Dawn, we can’t help but notice the brown skidmarks in his underwear).
An entertaining follow-up to Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble is every bit as funny, and just as gross, as anything John Waters has ever turned out,