FILM NOIRPresented byDr Ian Ellis-JonesFilm Historian, Archivist and ResearcherLegal Practitioner, Educator and TrainerMinister of Religion, Consultant and AuthorWellness Instructor and Practitioner
Film Noir‘Firstwe dream,then we die.’- Cornell Woolrich(1903-1968)[the ‘Father of Noir Fiction’].
Film Noir‘I killed him formoney and for awoman. I didn’t getthe money and Ididn’t get thewoman.’- Fred MacMurray [as WalterNeff], in Double Indemnity(Paramount, 1944).
Film Noir‘The world’s full of skeptics.I know. I’m one myself.’‘We’ve been struck out.’‘Whichever way you turn,fate sticks out a foot to trip you.’‘Fate or some mysterious forcecan put the finger on youor me for no reason at all.’- from Detour (PRC, 1945).
Film Noir‘You know, theres somethingabout this which is like, well, itslike youre expectin a letter thatyoure just crazy to get, and youhang around the front door forfear you might not hear himring. You never realize that healways rings twice ... The truthis, you always hear him ring thesecond time, even if youre wayout in the back yard."– John Garfield [as Frank Chambers], inThe Postman Always Rings Twice(MGM, 1946).
Film Noir‘I feel all deadinside. I’m backedup in a dark cornerand I don’t knowwho’s hitting me.’– Mark Stevens [as Bradford Galt],in The Dark Corner (2oth, 1946).
Film NoirEcclesiastes 7:26 …‘I find more bitter thandeath, the woman whoseheart is snares and nets,and he who falls beneathher spell … has need ofGods mercy.’– as quoted in Born to Kill(RKO, 1947).
Film Noir--‘She cant be all bad. Noone is.’--‘Well, she comesthe closest.’--‘I think we deserve abreak.’--‘We deserve each other.’- Out of the Past(RKO, 1947).
Film Noir‘Doing the rightthing never worksout. I know. In thisworld you turn theother cheek andyou get hit witha lug wrench.’- from Impact (UA, 1949).
Film NoirObadiah 1:3-4 [KJV] …3 The pride of thine heart hathdeceived thee, thou that dwellestin the clefts of the rock, whosehabitation is high; that saith in hisheart, Who shall bring me downto the ground?4 Though thou exalt thyself as theeagle, and though thou set thynest among the stars, thence will Ibring thee down, saith the LORD.- quoted in Ruthless (EL, 1948).
Film Noir‘A shrine of death and beautyis the sky drowned in blood.The sun gives up its breath.Don’t be afraid, my sweet, todie, for beauty is still morebeautiful in death.’– Charles Baudelaire,Flowers of Evil, quoted inLured (UA, 1947).
Film Noir‘Love, when you get fear intoit, it’s not love anymore. It’shate.’‘Stealing a man’s wife, that’snothing. But stealing his car,that’s larceny.’– James M. Cain,The PostmanAlways Rings Twice.
Film Noir‘… film noir must be and shallalways remain something of anenigma. The classificationof films has always been a tenuousbusiness and with film noir, whichis perhaps the most slippery of allcategories, complications of thistype reach a level of almost bafflingcomplexity. Still there is somethingvery important about the idea offilm noir, whether or not we areable to pin it down.’- Spencer Selby, quoted in S Neale,Genre and Hollywood (London: Routledge,2000), p 176.
Film NoirThe noir vision of life …A person’s life consists ofa tightly knit pattern oflargely incomprehensibleevents so dependent onmultiple coincidence thatsome seemingly sadisticpower---beyond blindchance---must be in ‘control.’
Film NoirThe ‘dark film’ ... the word noir is French for ‘black’ … also … ‘of the night’ 1945: Gallimard---under theeditorship of Marcel Duhamel---started publishing its translations ofBritish and American crime novels inthe Série Noire. 1946: echoing the Gallimard label,the French critics Nino Frank andJean-Pierre Chartier wrote thetwo earliest essays identifying adeparture in film-making ...the American ‘film noir’ ...
Film NoirThe ‘dark film’ ...French film criticNino Frank firstcoined the term in1946* ...• However, the term was not widely used inAmerica, Britain or Australia until the 1970s.• It was not until 1984 that the term wasapplied to mystery fiction.
Film Noir 1945: Lloyd Shearer, NewYork Times article (‘CrimeCertainly Does Pay’, 5 Aug1945) … identified Double Identity (1944) asthe beginning of … ‘a trend in Hollywood toward thewholesale production of lusty, hard-boiled, gut-and-gore crime stories, allfashioned on a theme with acombination of plausibly motivatedmurder and studded with high-powered Freudian implication.’ 1946: Jean-Pierre Chartier,French critic … ‘Americans also make noir films.’
Film Noir Early 1940s ... France occupied by the Nazis ...making it enemy territoryforbidden to receive Hollywoodproduct. By end of WWII ... a half-decade backlog of Americanmovieshit French viewers in one rush ...
Film NoirThe Frenchnoticed thatAmerica’s movieshad grown‘darker’ in the1940s ... not justvisually, butalso in terms oftheme andcontent.
Film Noir Hollywood cinematic releases of1945 included ... Edgar G Ulmers Detour Michael Curtizs Mildred Pierce three films noirs directed by FritzLang ... Ministry of Fear Scarlet Street The Woman in the Window. In 1946 ... David Goodis published the first ofhis crime novels, Dark Passage Delmar Daves began filming it.
Film Noir In the spring and summer months of 1946alone, Hollywood released ... The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall) The Dark Corner (Henry Hathaway) The Postman Always Rings Twice (TayGarnett) Gilda (Charles Vidor) The Killers (Robert Siodmak) The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks). In the same year Gallimard brought outFrench translations of two of HoraceMcCoys novels ... the first American novels to be included in the SérieNoire.
Film Noir1956: Director Robert Aldrichholds a copy of Panorama du filmnoir, the first book about film noir.
Film NoirThe question of whetherfilm noir qualifies as adistinct genre is …a matter of ongoingdebate among scholars …
Film NoirOne view …Film noir is notso much a genrebut rather themood, style,point-of-view ortone of a film …
Film Noir… … A noir film may be a … melodrama (‘potboiler’) murder mystery crime drama thriller suspense picture horror movie musical western comedy spoof SF movie … or a combination of one ormore of the above … or something else altogether!
Film Noir Writer Jon Tuska refersto a sub-category filmgris (or ‘grey film’) …that is, a film noir with ahappy denouement … noir is a question ofdegree rather than kind…films may be describedin terms of how noirthey are …
Film Noir Other terms exist … e.g. neo-noir, noirish,noir-inspired, noir-lite … Some films are said to havea ‘noir veneer’ … and have also been termed‘pseudo-noirs’ … However, all labels are a bit‘sus’.
Film NoirThe ‘duck test’Attributed toJames Whitcomb Riley... … … … …‘When I see a bird thatwalks like a duck andswims like a duck andquacks like a duck, I callthat bird a duck.’
Film Noir‘Film noir is best understood as abundle of generic characteristics,rather than as a single paradigm, ascan arguably define the Western,the detective film, the coming of agefilm, or the biblical epic.Characteristics central to some filmsdo not appear in others at all. …’– William Luhr, Film Noir(Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), p 67.
Film NoirOne thing is[fairly] clear … theterm ‘film noir’ isused to refer to adistincthistorical periodof film history …
Film Noir… in particular, thedecade of film-makingafter World War II …… even though theactual noir period waslonger than that …… and may never haveended.
The historical, cultural, sociological,literary and cinematic originsof film noir …
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of filmnoir … fear, despair and lonelinessat the core of modernAmerican life … increasing industrialisation increasing urbanisation the Great Depression of the1930s … helplessness powerlessness …
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of filmnoir … World War II and the‘postwar malaise’ … America’s bleakunderside … social frustration anddisappointment widespread industrialstrife and racketeering political corruption andcorporate power/greed race riots and racialprejudice (Jews, AfricanAmericans) …
Film Noir The historical, cultural, sociological,literary and cinematic origins of filmnoir … World War II and the ‘postwarmalaise’ (cont’d) … America’s bleak underside … rehabilitation of ex-servicemen …• war neurosis … mental illness … alcoholism … insanity… suicide … euthanasia juvenile delinquency sickening photographic evidence of theHolocaust the A-bomb, the ‘Red Scare’ and the‘chilly’ Cold War …• fear and anxiety• threat of nuclear annihilation …
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of filmnoir … gender development … women with … new-found independence better job-earning power athome… during WWII ‘modernity’ …
Film Noir precursors in …the ‘gangster flicks’ of the 1930s
Film Noir precursors in … French poetic realist films of the1930s … a gritty fatalistic French cycle of films• poetic conventionalisation … combined withrealistic topics and milieus
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of filmnoir … German Expressionism … an artistic movement of the 1910sand 1920s … expressionistic andconventionalized style … where theaesthetics are marked bydistortions and exaggerations … photography painting sculpture architecture theatre and cinema …
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of filmnoir … German Expressionism(cont’d) … expressionist visualtechniques … pioneered in Germany during the1920s redeployed in 1940s Hollywoodby refugee filmmakers fleeingHitler …• e.g. Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder,Robert Siodmak, EdwardDmytryk and Fred Zinnemann… all of whom are stronglyassociated with the noir style.
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literaryand cinematic originsof film noir … the hardboiled school ofcrime fiction [crime novels and‘pulp fiction’] of the 1930s … Dashiell Hammett, James MCain, Cornell Woolrich(‘Father of Noir Fiction’),Raymond Chandler, W RBurnett, Black Mask and otherpulp magazines existentialism and nihilism …
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of film noir … left-wing politics … many early noir directors fromEurope … fleeing fascism … leftist views Freudian psychiatry … wider awareness ofpsychoanalysis interest in dreams,hypnosis, hypnotictrances and black-outstates.
Film Noir The historical, cultural,sociological, literary andcinematic origins of film noir … Italian neorealism(Neorealismo) … a national film movement … came about at the end of WorldWar II …• with the fall of Benito Mussolinisgovernment characterised by stories set amongst• the poor and the working class filmed on location … frequentlyusing nonprofessional actors.
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ of film noir … The first style … emerged in the early 1940s---although therewere precursors in the 1930s … and even earlier fueled by writers like … James M Cain, Dashiell Hammett andRaymond Chandler---all members of thehardboiled school of crime fiction characterised by: a cynical, often witty tone anti-heroes dangerous women---the femme fatale assorted criminal elements …
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ of filmnoir … The first style (cont’d) … In creating this range of filmnoirs, Hollywood drew on thework both of: earlier writers … especially, ofcourse, Dashiell Hammett andRaymond Chandler, and the late 1940s-early 1950snovelists … who were writing crimefiction that very often had no role forthe private eye, including...
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ of film noirThe first style (cont’d) …• W R Burnett, David Goodis,Dorothy B Hughes, WilliamLindsay Gresham, HoraceMcCoy & William P McGivern ...• all of whom produced novels thathad as their protagonists ...• violent, self-deceived men,criminals, crooked cops, killers,and psychotics.
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ of film noir … The first style (cont’d) … complex plots … emphasising betrayal and moralambiguity photographed in a remarkable visualstyle combining: glossy production values atmospheric emphasis on light and shadow films such as The Maltese Falcon,The Big Sleep, Mildred Pierce, TheBlue Dahlia and Double Indemnity.
Film Noir• Too Smart People (MGM, 1946)was director Jules Dassins lastfilm before embarking on a seriesof influential classic noir andcrime films ...• its the first of his crime films, and• shows his interest in developing thegenre ...• in particular, the ‘second style’ of filmnoir [Post-WWII: see infra].
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ of film noir … The second style … emerged after World War II the glossy sophistication of 1940s noirfell out of fashion audiences clamoured for a more grittyrealism a ‘new’ style of noir … as influenced by Italian neorealism asAmerican crime fiction photographed in a grainier way more direct more brutal even less sympathetic to its characters.
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ of film noir … The second style (cont’d) … The Naked City (1948), directed byJules Dassin, was among thefirst to turn the tide. …• The sophisticated gumshoe, slinkygun moll, and glossy productionvalues were gone …• This film …• felt more like something you might readin a particularly lurid ‘true detective’magazine• was a benchmark for naturalism innoir.
Film NoirTwo main ‘styles’ offilm noir … The second style(cont’d) … The Big Heat (1953),directed by Fritz Lang,and starring Glenn Fordand Gloria Grahame,was considered at the timeto reach a new low inviolence (e.g. boilingcoffee thrown in the face). The film struck a newnote of realism in crimefilms.
Film Noir The ‘prototypical’ film noirplot … includes … an alienatedman … ‘one man against theworld’ … usually involved indetective work or fightingcrime, and a femme fataleor ‘scary woman’ …However, not all film noirsfeature a detective plot …
Film Noir The ‘prototypical’ filmnoir plot …The ‘prototypical’ noir‘hero’ (or anti-hero) isworking their waythrough a mystery ofsome sort …where the mysteryusually involves a crimeof some kind …
Film Noir The ‘prototypical’film noir plot …The crime allow theplot structure tounfold in front of theviewer …the audience quiteliterally takes thesame journey asthe ‘hero’.
Film Noir Film noir encompasses arange of plots … the central figure may be … a private eye (The Big Sleep) a plainclothes policeman (The BigHeat) an aging boxer (The Set-Up) a hapless grifter (Night and theCity) a law-abiding citizen lured into a lifeof crime (Gun Crazy) a victim of circumstance (Detour,Impact and DOA).
Film NoirCommon noir plot types … The ‘clock race’ story---theprotagonist runs an unbearableand usually unwinnablemarathon against the forces oftime and death. The ‘waking nightmare’story---the protagonist comes toafter a blackout or wakes from adream … then finds objectivefragments from his bad dream …and slowly becomes convincedthat he did something horriblewhile ‘out’ of himself.
Film NoirCommon noir plot types (cont’d) … The ‘annihilation’ story---theprotagonist (a man) finds the one‘right’ woman … the woman suddenlyvanishes as if the universe hasswallowed her up … and the man notonly can find no trace of her, he can’testablish that she ever existed. The ‘imminent death’ story---theprotagonist knows that s/he will soondie in a particularly awful way and ata particular moment.
Film Noir The ‘Big’ ___ The Big Bluff (1955) The Big Boodle (1957) The Big Caper (1957) The Big Chase (1954) The Big Clock (1948) The Big Combo (1955) The Big Fix (1947) The Big Frame (1952) The Big Heat (1953) …
Film Noir The ‘Big’ ___ (cont’d) … The Big Knife (1955) The Big Night (1951) The Big Operator (1959) The Big Punch (1948) The Big Shot (1942) The Big Sleep (1946) The Big Steal (1949) The Big Tip Off (1955) etc
Film NoirDefining characteristics andfeatures … ‘dark’ themes … often presented withan ‘investigative narrativestructure’ and use of flashbacks andvoiceover … generally ‘downbeat’ tone …pessimistic … unsparing vision … ‘overwhelmingly black’ (RobertOttoson) ‘film noir is defined by tone … [onewhich is] hopeless’(Paul Schrader) psychological concerns … protagonists often have pronouncedpsychoses …
Film NoirDefining characteristics and features …‘dark’ themes … death crime, murder and cruelty revenge and vendetta drugs and prostitution jealousy, lust, passion, adultery betrayal greed, money, robbery, scams dirty cops and political chicanery rich but broken families obsession and other mental issues amnesia---film noir’s favourite ‘disease’ power …
Film NoirDefining characteristicsand features … existential angst … even despair male archetype/protagonist … an outsider or ‘loser’ …• sense of alienation andloneliness• shifting roles trapped in unwanted situations• ill-fated relationship withsociety• often the victim ofentrapment sense of … powerlessness purposelessness injustice impending doom andforeboding …
Film NoirDefining characteristics andfeatures … fatalism and determinism … the protagonist (generally an anti-hero)---a hapless pawn of fate---fights aninner battle between doing what is‘right’ and doing what is ‘wrong’ … his decisions are made in reaction to thehaphazard state of affairs in whichhe finds himself ultimately succumbs to what is ‘wrong’…• there may or may not be aredemptive focus (‘noir sensibility’)and a ‘happy’ ending …
Film NoirDefining characteristicsand features … life is cheap … money is hard to come by, exceptby crime fate is uncaring, random andarbitrary we cannot escape the past … the past always catches up with us evil is everywhere … the world is inherently corrupt you can’t trust anybody! betrayal and double-cross,even triple-cross …
Film Noir a type of ‘justice’ or karma is almostalways present … we generally reap what we sow … cf. Detour (1945) … one of the blackest filmnoirs ever produced during the classic film noirperiod …
Film NoirThe HollywoodProduction Code didnot allow murderers to getaway with their crimes … So, director Edgar GUlmer got through thecensors by having AlRoberts (played byTom Neal) picked upby a police car at thevery end of the movie …• after foreseeing hisarrest in the earliernarration.
Film NoirDefiningcharacteristics andfeatures … moral relativism andmoral ambiguity …no absolute moralstandards … no characters are truly‘innocent’ ... no one, not even thedetective, can beconsidered ‘moral’ …
Film NoirDefining characteristicsand features … moral relativism and moralambiguity … strong undercurrent of moralconflict … ‘transgressions’ … infidelity… sexual innuendo … passion! unstable characterisation ofthe ‘heroine’ …• female sexuality/duplicity[white faces/sheath dresses]plays off male anxieties violence is a way of life … evende rigueur.
Film NoirHowever, theboundaries of filmnoir are quite‘porous’ at themargins … and a filmnoir may take any oneof a number ofdifferent ‘plot types.’
Film Noir The ‘look’, ‘feel’ and‘sound’ of noir …‘The films were made byhard-bitten men whoknew city life inside out:they have the flavour ofa neat Scotch-on-the-rocks.’– Charles Higham and JoeGreenberg, Hollywood in theForties (New York: A S Barnes & Co;London: Tantivy Press, 1968), p 36.
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ ofnoir … visual, stylistic ‘sparseness’ …dense, rarified visual ‘vocabulary’ ‘DARK’ … ‘BLACK’ …dark settings … very strong single-sourcelighting …• devoid of light … or with filteredlight … or with slashes of light• often high contrastdocumentary-style of realismexpressionist visual style …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ ofnoir … ‘DARK’ … ‘BLACK’ (cont’d) …an overall aesthetic of nocturnal,subterranean unreality … ‘mood’---one of melodramaticdoom and foreboding ‘atmosphere’---one of moralambiguityextremely strong graphic elementsgenerally black-and-white film(cf Niagara) …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘sound’of noir … ‘visual earmarks’: low-key lighting … low lighting … sometimes used in low-budget filmsto hide defects in the set quality chiaroscuro (light-dark’) effects• shade and light play againsteach other … night exteriors ANDdim interiors• stark and high contrasts• long, sharply-defined shadows… often finely filigreed• hard, unfiltered side-light andrim light … often reveals only a portion ofa face >>> dramatic tension• frames bathed in inkyblackness … or luminescence…
Two silhouetted figures inThe Big Combo (1955)• low-key lighting schemes …producing stark light/dark contrasts(chiaroscuro) …and dramatic and ominous shadow patterning
• unbalanced or moody compositions …The Fifth Horseman is FearDouble Indemnity
… but it is the light that is primarily responsiblefor the characteristic mood …
Film NoirThe Dark Corner (2oth, 1946) …• Henry Hathaway, director• Joseph MacDonald,cinematographer ...• he ably lighted a number of estimable noirs(eg Street With No Name, CallNorthside 777, Pickup on SouthStreet)• his work in The Dark Corner surpassesitself ...• When Lucille Ball and MarkStevens embrace, MacDonaldturns a two-shot into a four-shot ...• by placing them in front of a fireplacemirror ...• we see Ball’s face in the foreground,Stevens’ in reflection ...
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and‘sound’ of noir … heavy use of flashbacks,voiceovers and narration … often a mix of narrativeflashback and linearnarrative some noirs (eg DoubleIndemnity and Detour)are told entirely inflashback … an ‘investigativenarrative structure’ …and the nature ofnarration itself …• are often used as aframe device …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and‘sound’ of noir … use of flashbacks, voiceoversand narration (cont’d) … rejection of ‘classicalnarrative’ … many points of view strugglewithin the text to gainhegemony …• frequently the male vs.femaleactions provoke reactionsuntil a ‘resolution’ of sorts isarrived at …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ of noir… use of flashbacks,voiceovers and narration(cont’d) … flashbacks andvoiceovers …• put the audience andthe narrator on a moreequal footing … the process ofstory telling isforegrounded …• ‘subjectivecamera’ …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ ofnoir … the representation of theprotagonists subjectivity... perceptions (both accurate anddeluded) state of mind desires obsessions anxieties dreams ...
Film NoirFritz Langs explanationof his subjective camera work ...‘You show the protagonist sothat the audience can putthemselves under the skin ofthe man’ ...... by showing thingswherever possible, from theviewpoint of the protagonist ...the film gives the audience visualand psychological access to hisnightmarish experiences.
Film NoirThe ‘look’,‘feel’ and‘sound’ ofnoir …use of clever‘gimmicks’and specialeffects toenhancerealism …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and‘sound’ of noir … music … often progressive jazz, romanticjazz, blues or swing sultry songs … sung in small, smokynightclubs …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ of noir• black humour (or dry, sarcastic wit andrepartee) and hard-bitten poetry …• to underscore the darkness of the on-screen action• noir iconography---lots (!) of cigarettesmoke, big ‘black’ automobiles, guns,trench coats and trilby hats
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and‘sound’ of noir …• landscape and environment …• integral aspects of many classicfilm noirs … especially the grimurban landscape• important in conveying crucialnoir elements (eg suspense,dread)…• the cobblestone streets ofVienna (The Third Man)• the seedy underworld ofLondon (Night and the City,Wanted for Murder andLured)• the sprawling metropolis of LosAngeles (Double Indemnity,Sunset Boulevard) …
Film NoirThe ‘look’, ‘feel’ and‘sound’ of noir …• landscape and environment…• the concrete jungle of Manhattan(Scarlet Street, The Naked Cityand Pickup on South Street)• the sinuous slopes of SanFrancisco (Out of the Past, TheLady from Shanghai, DOA,Dark Passage and The MalteseFalcon)• these environments …• literally set the stage for theplayers• breathe aesthetic life into thefilms.
Film Noir The ‘locale’ of noirEITHERthe crime-ridden cityORthe small-town ‘gasstation’/diner/motel
Film NoirOther noir settings include …• city streets and bridges• police stations … especially precinctstation backrooms• prisons and lockups• rundown movie and burlesque theatres• cheap dance halls• drug dens• seedy private hotels, apartmenthouses and boarding houses• mansions• cafes and restaurants• bars and nightclubs• trains and railway stations• dams, reservoirs, canals, towers• wharves, docks, ships• warehouses and factories• racetracks …
Film Noir ‘Dark’ themes---murder,obsession, revenge, betrayal, lust,passion, greed, mental issues, etc usually set in a criminal milieu … exploring the consequences of a criminalact the individual in an otherwise hostileuniverse … meeting his inescapable, tragic end(cf Greek or Shakespearean tragedy) an action genre often low-budget ‘B’ films often very complicated, multi-layered ‘dark’ plots ... many twists-and-turns and ‘shadowy corners’ many misleading developments sometimes quite convoluted and confusing …
Film Noir The Maltese Falcon (WB,1941) … ‘Names, murders, andintrigues turn up so quicklythat it is extremely difficultto understand exactly what ishappening …’ ‘… that is where the film’smain flaw occurs.’- Alan G Barbour, Humphrey Bogart(New York: Galahad Books, 1973), p 80.
Film NoirThe Big Sleep (WB, 1946) …• During filming, the storyline became socomplicated and convoluted that …• ‘the film’s stars complained that they didn’tknow what the whole thing was about,either’- Alan G Barbour, Humphrey Bogart (New York:Galahad Books, 1973), p 102.• Even the screenwriters---WilliamFaulkner, Leigh Brackett, and JulesFurthmann---were forced to consultRaymond Chandler for advice …• Chandler was as confused by the plot as thescreenwriters. …
Film NoirThe Big Sleep (WB, 1946) (cont’d) …• When originally prepared for releasein 1945, the film featured a longexposition scene featuring policedetective Bernie Ohls (RegisToomey) explaining the moreobscure plot details.• This expository scene was ultimatelysacrificed … along with several others… in favor of building up LaurenBacalls part …• as a result of the re-shooting, re-casting and re-editing of the 1945version of the film …
Film Noir The Big Sleep (WB,1946) (cont’d) … The end result was one of themost famously baffling filmnoirs of all time … ‘… an incredibly complexdetective thriller thatabsolutely defiescomprehension in a singlescreening’- Alan G Barbour, HumphreyBogart (New York: Galahad Books,1973), p 102.
Film NoirNoir Characters include … Detectives Police officers---licensedto torture and kill Murderers Gangs Serial killers Interrogators Drug dealers Businessmen Scammers Racketeers Drifters Jealous Husbands Bored Wives Twin Sisters---one good,one evil Nymphomaniacs Prostitutes Mentally Disturbed War Veterans Victims of all different kinds…
Film Noir‘Prototypical’ noircharacters [clichés] ... the cynical, laconic,snappy, brash (but notfoolhardy) and courageousprivate detective … who hides a softer, weakerheart behind his gruffexterior, and who maintains his own codeof ethics which he adheres tofaithfully … the sociopathic cop … the clever, shrewd, slickand dangerous (evenlethal) villain …
Film Noir‘Prototypical’ noir characters... the sexy, seductive, erotic, self-indulgent, clever, powerful,manipulative, chameleon-like,dangerous (even deadly), butirresistible femme fatale ... sometimes a sexual predator whotempts and weakens a male protagonist---her victim sometimes she actually imitates maleaggression and appropriates malepower …
Film Noir ‘Prototypical’ noircharacters ... the femmefatale ... ‘On the poster or pulpcover she perhaps holdsonly a cocktail glass anda smouldering cigarette,or she might hold a gunand might by the end ofthe narrative havepulled the trigger.’– Lee Horsley.
Film Noir‘Prototypical’ noir characters ... the cynical, hard-hearted, disillusioned malecharacter (eg Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray,Humphrey Bogart, Victor Mature) … who encounters a beautiful but promiscuous, amoral,double-dealing and seductive femme fatale … e.g. Veronica Lake, Mary Astor, Jane Greer, BarbaraStanwyck, Lana Turner commonly the ‘viewpoint’ character telling the story inflashback … who may turn out himself to be the murderer!
Film Noir‘We are brought close to the mind of a protagonistwhose position vis a vis other characters is not fixed.Treacherous confusions of his role and the movement ofthe protagonist from one role to another constitute keystructural elements in noir narrative. The victim might,for example, become the aggressor; the hunter mightturn into the hunted or vice versa; the investigatormight double as either the victim or the perpetrator.Whereas the traditional mystery story, with its stabletriangle of detective, victim and murderer, is reasonablycertain to have the detective as the protagonist, noir is adeliberate violation of this convention.’– Lee Horsley.
Film Noir‘Prototypical’ noir characters … The ‘child’ character … the secret holder of crucialinformation often plays an important function in theplot.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968)(the ‘Father of Noir Fiction’):The Phantom Lady (1942, as WilliamIrish), The Night Has a Thousand Eyes(1945, as George Hopley), The BlackAngel (1946)---all made into successfulfilms.Other films based on his writingsinclude: The Leopard Man (1943), Fearin the Night (1947), The Window (1949),No Man of Her Own (1950), RearWindow (1954; TV movie 1998),Nightmare (1956), The Bride Wore Black(1968), Mississippi Mermaid (1969),She’s No Angel (TV movie 2001),Original Sin (2001). …
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers…Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968)cont’d … prolific mystery writer … also Hollywood screenwriter reinvented suspense fiction forthe 20th century … his novels embodied in an extremeform the noir sense ofhelplessness and paranoia … for 4 decades, 100s of his storiesappeared in popular American pulpmagazines …
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968)cont’d … film directors---as varied asAlfred Hitchcock,François Truffaut andMichael Cristofer---memorably translated hiswork into classic films …e.g. Rear Window (1954),The Bride Wore Black(1968), MississippiMermaid (1969), OriginalSin (2001).
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers… Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968)cont’d … the single most adapted writer for films of the classicnoir period … 1942-49: Eleven Woolrich novels or stories were made intofilms … the protagonists of which include …• a man hypnotised into thinking he is a murderer (Fearin the Night)• a mind-reader who predicts his own death (Night Has aThousand Eyes)• alcoholics• amnesiacs• hunted men• fall guys• innumerable effeminate men.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968) cont’d … The word ‘black’ appears in hisbook titles a number of times You will also see ‘dead’, ‘lady’ and ‘night’ in his titles.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968) …‘Woolrich’s life was as twisted andcompelling as his work, and that’ssaying something.’ – Time.‘He was the Poe of the twentiethcentury and the poet of its shadows. Hewas the Hitchcock of the written word.’– Francis M Nevins.‘Cornell Woolrich’s novels and shortstories define the essence of noirnihilism.’ – Marilyn Stasio, NewYork Times Book Review.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968) …‘Along with Raymond Chandler, CornellWoolrich practically invented the genre ofnoir.’ – Newsday.‘Woolrich was a master of the form.’ – TomNolan, Wall Street Journal.‘Possibly the finest mystery writer of thetwentieth century.’ – The Encyclopediaof Mystery and Detection.‘At his best, Woolrich projects a powerfulatmosphere of fear, shock, and violence, andusually his stories end with a whiplash ofsurprise, with fate often intervening andplaying the role of deus ex machina. …’ –Ellery Queen.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Cornel Woolrich (1903-1968)cont’d …‘Woolrichian suspense stories typicallyend not with the dissolution of terrorbut with its omnipresence. ForWoolrich’s world is controlled bypowers that delight in destroying us.They are not reachable by humangoodness, their ways are not our ways,and against them we are helpless.’- Francis M Nevins, Jr.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’writers …Dashiell Hammett(1894-1961): The MalteseFalcon (1930), The GlassKey (1931), The ThinMan (1934)---all madeinto successful films.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers …Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) … worked as a Pinkerton detective The Maltese Falcon … and its maincharacter Sam Spade … had a great impact on the mystery and suspensegenre have come to define noir in the minds of many Sam Spade … a manipulator of the action takes on the roles of … detective … victim andmorally ambiguous character all the conventions found in the mysterygenre come into play … but Hammettchanged all the rules … sexual obsession and the femme fatale … also become part of noir fiction in The MalteseFalcon.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’writers …Dashiell Hammett(1894-1961) …‘He is so hard-boiledyou could roll him onthe White House Lawn.’– Dorothy Parker.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers(cont’d) …Raymond Chandler (1888-1959): The Big Sleep (1939),Farewell, My Lovely (1940), TheLady in the Lake (1943)---allmade into successful films.His screenplays include: DoubleIndemnity (1944), The BlueDahlia (1946), Strangers on aTrain (1951).
Film Noir The great ‘noir’writers (cont’d) …Raymond Chandler(1888-1959) …‘It was a triumph of stylethat he was able to transforma limited type of fiction intosomething having universalappeal … .”– Frank MacShane.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’writers (cont’d) …James M Cain (1892-1977): The PostmanAlways Rings Twice(1934), Mildred Pierce(1941), Double Indemnity(1943) (first published inLiberty Magazine, 1936)---both made into successfulfilms.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers(cont’d) …James M Cain (1892-1977) …‘It is no accident that movies basedon three [Cain novels] helped todefine the genre known as filmnoir.’ – New York Review ofBooks.‘Nobody has quite pulled if off theway Cain does, not Hemingway,not even Raymond Chandler.’– Tom Wolfe.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers(cont’d) …James M Cain (1892-1977)…his ‘prototypical’ motif---the protagonist gets awaywith the crime hecommitted … but getsnailed for the one hedidn’t.
Film Noir The great ‘noir’ writers(cont’d) …James M Cain (1892-1977) … Cain’s roman noir ThePostman Always RingsTwice (1934) … was acknowledged by AlbertCamus (1913-1960) as the modelfor his novel LÉtranger (TheStranger or The Outsider)(1942).
Film NoirSome famous‘noir’directors---and some oftheir films …
Film Noir Some famous ‘noir’ directors---and some of their films …John Huston: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Across the Pacific (1942), TheTreasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle(1950), The African Queen (1951), Beat the Devil (1953)Fred Zinnemann: Act of Violence (1948)Howard Hawks: Scarface (1932), The Big Sleep (1946)Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Spellbound(1945), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), The Wrong Man (1956)Otto Preminger: Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), Whirlpool (1949), Wherethe Sidewalk Ends (1950), Angel Face (1952)Billy Wilder: Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), SunsetBoulevard (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951)Orson Welles: Citizen Kane (1941), Journey into Fear (1943), The Stranger(1946), Tomorrow is Forever (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), TheThird Man (1949), Mr Arkadin (1955), Touch of Evil (1958) …
Film Noir Some famous ‘noir’ directors---and some of their films (cont’d) …Anatole Litvak: City for Conquest (1940), Out of the Fog (1941), Sorry, WrongNumber (1948)Fritz Lang: M (1931), Moontide (1942) [uncredited], Hangmen Also Die (1943),Ministry of Fear (1944), The Woman in the Window (1945), Scarlet Street(1945), Clash by Night (1952), The Big Heat (1953), The Blue Gardenia (1953),Human Desire (1954)Henry Hathaway: The Dark Corner (1946), Kiss of Death (1947), CallNorthside 777 (1948), Fourteen Hours (1951), Niagara (1953)Richard Fleischer: Trapped (1949), The Clay Pigeon (1949), Armored CarRobbery (1950), The Narrow Margin (1952), Compulsion (1959)Robert Siodmak: Phantom Lady (1943), Christmas Holiday (1944), TheSuspect (1945), The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945), The Spiral Staircase(1945), The Dark Mirror (1946), The Killers (1946), Cry of the City (1948), CrissCross (1948), The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) …
Film Noir Some famous ‘noir’ directors---and some of their films (cont’d) …Andre de Toth: Dark Waters (1944), The Pitfall (1948)Nicholas Ray: They Live by Night (1948), Knock on Any Door (1949), AWoman’s Secret (1949), In a Lonely Place (1950), Born to be Bad (1950), OnDangerous Ground (1952), Party Girl (1958)Edward Dmytryk: Cornered (1945), Murder, My Sweet (1945), Crossfire(1947)Raoul Walsh: They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), Pursued (1947),The Man I Love (1947), White Heat (1949)Jules Dassin: Two Smart People (1946), Brute Force (1947), The Naked City(1948), Thieves’ Highway (1949), Night and the City (1950), Rififi (1955)Edgar G Ulmer: Detour (1946), Strange Illusion (1947), Ruthless (1948)Anthony Mann: Strange Impersonation (1946), T-Men (1947), Desperate(1947), Raw Deal (1948)Stanley Kubrick: The Killing (1956), Killer’s Kiss (1956) …
Film Noir Some famous ‘noir’ directors---and some of their films (cont’d) …John Farrow: Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), The Big Clock (1948), WhereDanger Lives (1950)Michael Curtiz: Casablanca (1943), Mildred Pierce (1945)Joseph Lewis: Gun Crazy (1950), The Big Combo (1955)Robert Wise: Born to Kill (1947), The Set-Up (1949), Odds Against Tomorrow(1959)Charles Vidor: Gilda (1946)Robert Rossen: Body and Soul (1947), All the King’s Men (1949)William Wyler: The Letter (1940), Desperate Hours (1955)Douglas Sirk: Lured (1947), Shockproof (1949)Jacques Tournier: Out of the Past (1947), Berlin Express (1948), Nightfall (1956)Mark Robson: Champion (1949), Edge of Doom (1950), The Harder They Fall(1956)Samuel Fuller: Pickup on South Street (1953), Underworld USA (1961), ShockCorridor (1963), The Naked Kiss (1964).
Film Noir Some famous ‘non-noir’ directors whodirected some classic ‘noir’ films …Tay Garnett: The Postman Always RingsTwice (1946)James V Kern: The Second Woman (1951)Arthur Lubin: Impact (1949)Ida Lupino: The Hitch-Hiker (1953)---theonly ‘true’ film noir ever directed by a womanGeorge Marshall: The Black Dahlia (1946)David Miller: Sudden Fear (1952)Vincente Minnelli: Undercurrent (1946).
Decline and ‘demise’ of film noir… and the emergence of neo-noir
Film Noir Decline and ‘demise’ of film noir… … Post-World War II socio-historicaland cultural developments … suburbanisation … returned ex-servicemen abandonedurban life for the new invention---‘thesuburbs’ working women went back to thekitchen the Baby Boom began its 10-15 year surge television … forced film noir out to suburbia tocompete with ‘pulp’ crime on TV …• noir was effectively dead as a filmgenre by 1955 the femme fatale disappeared too … until a new era of social unease, the1970s, with the much greater genderchallenge of feminism, saw film noir’sfirst true revival (‘neo-noir’) …
Film Noir Neo-noir … often ‘retro’ (eg set in1940s or 50s) usually filmed in colour generally more violentthan classic film noir more ‘in-your-face’ very fast-paced … quick changes inscene speeding up thepace more ‘noisy’ and ‘sexy’ very coarse language