TimHare

"Beat" and noir

26 posts in this topic

One thing that I don't remember hearing a lot about is the intersection of "Beat Generation" ideas and film noir.  Remember that the post-war years were tough years - job shortages for people returning from the war; cultural adjustments - women who had gained independence and self-confidence through war work now asked to return to home-making only;  a housing shortage; guys who had lived life on the edge returning to now-seeming-dreary-work.  Some of that spawned the ideas of the Beats who first met up in New York in the 40s.  In this  Wikipedia article it says:

'The adjective "beat" could colloquially mean "tired" or "beaten down" within the African-American community of the period and had developed out of the image "beat to his socks" :

 

and you can see the tired and beaten down aspects in the "grittiness", the drinking, and the problems of so many noir "heroes".  You can also hear it, if you listen, in the music - especially in the later years (the 50s) when "cool jazz" became more popular - for example, this song -

always evokes noir images for me.
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One thing that I don't remember hearing a lot about is the intersection of "Beat Generation" ideas and film noir.  Remember that the post-war years were tough years - job shortages for people returning from the war; cultural adjustments - women who had gained independence and self-confidence through war work now asked to return to home-making only;  a housing shortage; guys who had lived life on the edge returning to now-seeming-dreary-work.  Some of that spawned the ideas of the Beats who first met up in New York in the 40s.  In this  Wikipedia article it says:

 

'The adjective "beat" could colloquially mean "tired" or "beaten down" within the African-American community of the period and had developed out of the image "beat to his socks" :

 

and you can see the tired and beaten down aspects in the "grittiness", the drinking, and the problems of so many noir "heroes".  You can also hear it, if you listen, in the music - especially in the later years (the 50s) when "cool jazz" became more popular - for example, this song -

always evokes noir images for me.

 

I'm very much into the cool school of jazz.   I listen to late 50s jazz more than any other music.    Cool school,  west coast jazz,,,  it was all fine music and to me the peak of U.S. Jazz.   

 

Interesting take on 'beat' as it relates to the beat generation.    I always assume that 'beat' was related to the rhythm of the music associated with pre-rock and roll artist like Louis Jordan that had the 'beat'.    

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I want to point out that the song I linked to was composed in 1939 - just before what we've learned is the scholars' belief is the beginning of noir - although I always associate it with the 1950s for some reason.

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I ordered The Beat Generation (1959) I'll see if it has some connection to beat & noir. ;)

 

One place that I have noticed the connection is in some of the late 1950's TV Crime shows that inherited Noir. Shows like Mike Hammer, Johnny Staccato, Peter Gunn, had episodes that delved into the beats.

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I'm very much into the cool school of jazz.   I listen to late 50s jazz more than any other music.    Cool school,  west coast jazz,,,  it was all fine music and to me the peak of U.S. Jazz.   

 

Interesting take on 'beat' as it relates to the beat generation.    I always assume that 'beat' was related to the rhythm of the music associated with pre-rock and roll artist like Louis Jordan that had the 'beat'.    

Surely, be-bop is the artistic peak, no?  Be-bop is very contemporary to post war noir, just as swing is for wartime noir.  Now, I'll admit listening to a lot of 50s jazz too, and while cool and west coast are easier listening and more approachable, I'd find it difficult to say that they represent an artistic peak.  The peak in popularity really belongs to swing.

 

Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan are great, but the artistic equivalent to JJ Johnson?  I could understand an argument for Coltrane, but not for cool or west coast.  Then again, you play the stuff, I just listen to it !!

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Surely, be-bop is the artistic peak, no?  Be-bop is very contemporary to post war noir, just as swing is for wartime noir.  Now, I'll admit listening to a lot of 50s jazz too, and while cool and west coast are easier listening and more approachable, I'd find it difficult to say that they represent an artistic peak.  The peak in popularity really belongs to swing.

 

Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan are great, but the artistic equivalent to JJ Johnson?  I could understand an argument for Coltrane, but not for cool or west coast.  Then again, you play the stuff, I just listen to it !!

 

I do agree Be-bop is the artistic peak.    I can see how my comment could be misunderstood.   What I was trying to say was that overall jazz reached its artistic peak in the 50s,   but not because of or due to west coast \ cool school jazz.     I love be-bop which did get its start in the 40s,  but I still favor the works of the be-bop musicians in the 50s over their 40s work (just a little more refined as well as better sounding studio recordings).   

 

Take JJ Johnson.   His Blue Note records in 53 and 55 are first rate but so is work in the late 40s but a lot of this is live sessions where the sound quality is lacking.   

 

PS:  I'm married.  Now what does that have to do with anything?  Well she does love jazz but if I play too much Be-bop she turns into William Bendix from The Blue Dahlia.     

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I do agree Be-bop is the artistic peak.    I can see how my comment could be misunderstood.   What I was trying to say was that overall jazz reached its artistic peak in the 50s,   but not because of or due to west coast \ cool school jazz.     I love be-bop which did get its start in the 40s,  but I still favor the works of the be-bop musicians in the 50s over their 40s work (just a little more refined as well as better sounding studio recordings).   

 

Take JJ Johnson.   His Blue Note records in 53 and 55 are first rate but so is work in the late 40s but a lot of this is live sessions where the sound quality is lacking.   

 

PS:  I'm married.  Now what does that have to do with anything?  Well she does love jazz but if I play too much Be-bop she turns into William Bendix from The Blue Dahlia.     

And if you think playing Charlie Parker is dangerous, try Ornette Coleman sometime !!  P.S. - I'm married as well.  That's a big reason there's multiple Duke Ellington CDs on the machine now.  We just got back from the Montreal Jazz Festival and I played it safe' first indoor show?  Steve Miller Band !!!

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Interesting take on 'beat' as it relates to the beat generation.    I always assume that 'beat' was related to the rhythm of the music associated with pre-rock and roll artist like Louis Jordan that had the 'beat'.

 

"Beat" as in beaten down was the original idea. John Clellan Holmes wrote an article called "This is the Beat Generation" explaining that sense of weariness among those raised in the Depression who came of age during WWII and then became the hard-living Beats of the 50s.

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Updating here to ask if anyone else noticed the "craziness" of the jazz band and "Jive lovers" at The Fisherman bar in DOA?  They made them appear to be almost manic personalities

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Updating here to ask if anyone else noticed the "craziness" of the jazz band and "Jive lovers" at The Fisherman bar in DOA?  They made them appear to be almost manic personalities

 

Yes, and in Phantom Lady you see an even crazier depiction of jazz and musicians.  I think this reflects a common image of musicians, or at least jazz musicians, at the time.  In short, they were stoned, disreputable, perhaps dangerous people on the fringes of society.  So when a character entered a bar with a jazz band they were taking a walk on the wild side, veering into the dark corners of life.

 

Naturally not all movies, or all of society, took this dim view of musicians.  But several treated jazz musicians as people you would want your sister to date.

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I did, when I first watched D.O.A I said that jazz band has lost their mind. The scene still seems "off" like they are little too much into that music, sweating, almost deranged. The people that enjoyed the music seemed off too. Like the guy in the bar saying come down man, come down.. The jazz was excellent But there are parts of D.O.A. that are off to me, and it's still one of my favorite noirs

Updating here to ask if anyone else noticed the "craziness" of the jazz band and "Jive lovers" at The Fisherman bar in DOA?  They made them appear to be almost manic personalities

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I noticed that in Sweet Smell of Success. the guy was a jazz musician and looked down upon

.

 

Naturally not all movies, or all of society, took this dim view of musicians.  But several treated jazz musicians as people you would want your sister to date.

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Updating here to ask if anyone else noticed the "craziness" of the jazz band and "Jive lovers" at The Fisherman bar in DOA?  They made them appear to be almost manic personalities

I love the dialogue when Edmond O'Brien says, "Nice quiet place you have here." Then when he tries to get information from a patron, the guy says, "Don't bother me, man, I'm being enlightened."

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Since we're talking jazz... No one (that I've read) has mentioned YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN as Noir. Right time in film history, B&W, noirish lighting techniques. Narrator (Hoagy Carmichael), driven & tortured musician (Kirk Douglas), twisted (?) & manipulative female (Lauren Bacall), an innocent (Doris Day), flashbacks, nightmares, class & race issues, etc. And that MUSIC & questions of what "drives" & what kills. The original book (by Dorothy Baker) is good, too. {For anyone interested, she & her husband (Howard) & Peter Tewksbury & his wife (Kit) co-founded The Barn Theatre in Porterville, CA -- the longest continuously functional little Theater west of the Mississippi.}

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thanks for posting that. i've never seen young man with a horn, on my watch list. douglas and becall sounds like a winner

Since we're talking jazz... No one (that I've read) has mentioned YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN as Noir. Right time in film history, B&W, noirish lighting techniques. Narrator (Hoagy Carmichael), driven & tortured musician (Kirk Douglas), twisted (?) & manipulative female (Lauren Bacall), an innocent (Doris Day), flashbacks, nightmares, class & race issues, etc. And that MUSIC & questions of what "drives" & what kills. The original book (by Dorothy Baker) is good, too. {For anyone interested, she & her husband (Howard) & Peter Tewksbury & his wife (Kit) co-founded The Barn Theatre in Porterville, CA -- the longest continuously functional little Theater west of the Mississippi.}

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As others mentioned, I'm no expert, but in terms of Noir and beats, the earliest thing I can think of is the Fisherman's jazz club in DOA with the be-bop jazz players and the clearly intoxicated ginsberg type 'beat' patrons. It is a really strange sequence, but one that arguably fits into that movies' existential concerns, even if I think what it ultimately has to say about authenticity is rather old-fashioned.

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thanks for posting that. i've never seen young man with a horn, on my watch list. douglas and becall sounds like a winner

 

Young Man with a Horn is a fine film and my favorite jazz centered film (also my favorite Day film).   Well worth seeing.  But I wouldn't say it is noir.

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Young Man with a Horn is a fine film and my favorite jazz centered film (also my favorite Day film).   Well worth seeing.  But I wouldn't say it is noir.

You should also be tuned in to TCM next Friday for "The Strip". Mickey Rooney plays the drums in a dixieland band led by none other than the immortal trumpeter Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and the great (caucasian) trombonist Jack Teagarden. (who once said to Satch: "you a spade, and I'm an old fade...we got the same soul...let's blow".) They truly  loved each other and it's a joy to see a noirish flick that features these two "soul brothers"  sharing their sweet sounds on the same stage. Nothin' brother'er than that!

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I'm very much into the cool school of jazz.   I listen to late 50s jazz more than any other music.    Cool school,  west coast jazz,,,  it was all fine music and to me the peak of U.S. Jazz.   

 

Interesting take on 'beat' as it relates to the beat generation.    I always assume that 'beat' was related to the rhythm of the music associated with pre-rock and roll artist like Louis Jordan that had the 'beat'.    

Also beatific and beatitude..

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i will!!

You should also be tuned in to TCM next Friday for "The Strip". Mickey Rooney plays the drums in a dixieland band led by none other than the immortal trumpeter Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and the great (caucasian) trombonist Jack Teagarden. (who once said to Satch: "you a spade, and I'm an old fade...we got the same soul...let's blow".) They truly  loved each other and it's a joy to see a noirish flick that features these two "soul brothers"  sharing their sweet sounds on the same stage. Nothin' brother'er than that!

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You should also be tuned in to TCM next Friday for "The Strip". Mickey Rooney plays the drums in a dixieland band led by none other than the immortal trumpeter Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and the great (caucasian) trombonist Jack Teagarden. (who once said to Satch: "you a spade, and I'm an old fade...we got the same soul...let's blow".) They truly  loved each other and it's a joy to see a noirish flick that features these two "soul brothers"  sharing their sweet sounds on the same stage. Nothin' brother'er than that!

 

Thanks for the tip.  I have seen The Strip a few times and it is a good film.   Like you noted lots of sound jazz music and of course the one and only Armstrong along with Teagarden.      Standard storyline but Rooney is in fine form with Demarest playing it fairly straight.

 

As for Man With A Horn;  What I like about the story is a jazz musician looking for his 'sound' getting it,  and than the struggle to keep it which requires a lot of work even once one has made it.    The relationship between the young musician and his mentor is touching and realistic.    I have also known a few first rate musician that end up playing in second rate joints.    The backstory with Bacall is kind of silly but Bacall is a hoot in the film as a gal that goes both ways.

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This is an interesting thread. The Beat Generation was started in the 1950s' (and had literary, poetic, and musical practicioners), among them Jack Keroauc, Allen Ginsberg, and many of the musicians listed in this thread (to just name a couple, out of the many who are associated with the "beats.") For me, though, outside of the musical influence, the literary and poetic Beats would influence the films that came after them, not contemporary with them. The Beats had a large influence on the growing 1960s counterculture and see more Beats influence in the New American cinema of the 1960s than I do on late era film noir of the 1950s. 

 

But there are notable exceptions, especially in terms of jazz scores influenced by be-bop for late film noirs in the 1950s.

 

For jazz in noir, I am a fan of Miles Davis' score in Elevator to the Gallows, and this film will play on TCM July 24 in the Summer of Darkness. You can hear some of Miles Davis' score for this film in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-XVlrauLxc

 

I also am a fan of Harry Belafonte, Mae Barnes and the Modern Jazz Quartet's music in 1958's Odds Against Tomorrow, a very late entry in the 1950s film noir cycle. Here's a YouTube clip on that film's opening and wonderful jazz score, and then a performance by the Quartet, Belafonte, and Barnes featured in the opening scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_70b3XYYsE 

 

Move over zither, bring on the vibraphone!

 

 

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I always loved this scene. The jazz is great as well as the despair Harry Belafonte shows, he really is in trouble - no spoilersm i'll say no more, but what a great score

This is an interesting thread. The Beat Generation was started in the 1950s' (and had literary, poetic, and musical practicioners), among them Jack Keroauc, Allen Ginsberg, and many of the musicians listed in this thread (to just name a couple, out of the many who are associated with the "beats.") For me, though, outside of the musical influence, the literary and poetic Beats would influence the films that came after them, not contemporary with them. The Beats had a large influence on the growing 1960s counterculture and see more Beats influence in the New American cinema of the 1960s than I do on late era film noir of the 1950s. 

 

But there are notable exceptions, especially in terms of jazz scores influenced by be-bop for late film noirs in the 1950s.

 

For jazz in noir, I am a fan of Miles Davis' score in Elevator to the Gallows, and this film will play on TCM July 24 in the Summer of Darkness. You can hear some of Miles Davis' score for this film in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-XVlrauLxc

 

I also am a fan of Harry Belafonte, Mae Barnes and the Modern Jazz Quartet's music in 1958's Odds Against Tomorrow, a very late entry in the 1950s film noir cycle. Here's a YouTube clip on that film's opening and wonderful jazz score, and then a performance by the Quartet, Belafonte, and Barnes featured in the opening scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_70b3XYYsE

 

Move over zither, bring on the vibraphone!

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I did, when I first watched D.O.A I said that jazz band has lost their mind. The scene still seems "off" like they are little too much into that music, sweating, almost deranged. The people that enjoyed the music seemed off too. Like the guy in the bar saying come down man, come down.. The jazz was excellent But there are parts of D.O.A. that are off to me, and it's still one of my favorite noirs

Try stoned.

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What's that rather awful film from the early Sixties where the guy wants to be a sculptor but has no talent so he discovers he can kill people and make sculptors out of them?  And they ALL hang out at a coffee house?  That is set in the beat generation culture and it's "in the moment" rather than after the fact.  Another film that has a beat generation undertones is Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn.  She is a beatnik in the beginning.  More stylized than realistic, but you'll get the gist.  Another person who could channel beat to perfection was Frank Gorshin, a comedian, celebrity impersonator from that time.

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