Dr. Rich Edwards

Out of the Past Podcast: Official Discussion Topic

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I have been requested to open up a separate official discussion topic related to the podcasts of "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir." Shannon Clute and I began that podcast back in 2005 and we ended up recording 52 podcasts that each investigate a single film in relation to film noir.

 

You can visit our podcast site, http://outofthepast.libsyn.com/, to listen to all 52 podcasts, if you like.

 

For this course, I only assigned a handful of the films that were also a part of TCM's Summer of Darkness. We also have a new podcast up in which Shannon and I were interviewed about this TCM-Ball State class by Miguel Rodriquez of Monster Island Resort and Will McKinley of Cinematically Insane. We recorded it right before we started this class. 

 

Feel free to use this topic to discuss the podcasts! 

 

Let the discussions begin!

 

 

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Out of the Past Podcast: D.O.A.

The podcast’s background discussion of D.O.A., about the quality of the prints once the film fell into the public domain, was very helpful. The poor quality of the prints that I have seen detracts from the viewing experience, which is unfortunate, but I’m glad to know the reason behind it.

 

One aspect of the podcast really stuck in my mind, and that was the discussion of the sequence when Frank Bigelow, played by Edmond O’Brien, pauses at the newsstand after running away from the news of his own death, so to speak. While he stands at the newsstand, a child’s ball bounces into the frame, and he returns the ball to the child who appears onscreen in search of it. A man and a woman meeting at the newsstand are oblivious to Frank’s presence. They don’t notice him at all as they meet and go on about their business.

 

I wonder if the couple and even the child represent the indifference of the universe impinging on Frank’s consciousness and a turning point in his existential crisis. Frank can choose action or simply resignation now that he knows that he has been poisoned. Bigelow chooses action (I think the podcast used the term self-determination) by choosing to solve his own murder. The rest of the movie shows him doing just that and taking control where he can. The beginning of the film, including the zinging sound effects, the exaggerated acting (especially with Paula), the frenetic sequences in the jazz club, could be the meaninglessness, the absurdity of the universe. None of it means anything until Frank starts to search for the truth.

 

So I’m not sure that D.O.A. represents the end of film noir, not just yet, as the podcast mentioned. Maybe it represents a turning point, where the existential crisis of the postwar world is now a major theme in film noir, as represented in D.O.A. via one man’s crisis. I’d have to see the film again before I commit to this interpretation, but I’m liking it more and more!

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That scene where Frank is running and there is the life magazine.. life, life, life, there is the little girl playing, the happy couple.. for me that scene is very realistic.  Not to go off on a tanget but briefly, This is coming from a person who has experienced the feeling of not having much life left and all you can see is other people enjoying life when you feel your life is coming to an end. His resignation and determination to find his murderer is not far fetched or hokey. When you think about it, You can see that determination in people like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Robin Roberts, people with hard circumstances but take their life and become extraordinary people and you hear people say how can this blind person or sick person or paralyzed person  doing such great things. It's that determination and appreciation for life.

 

I also think it points to how some people have little or no appreciation for life until they realize through their own circumstances or viewing others how great life is and then there is the appreciation for it

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That scene where Frank is running and there is the life magazine.. life, life, life, there is the little girl playing, the happy couple.. for me that scene is very realistic.  Not to go off on a tanget but briefly, This is coming from a person who has experienced the feeling of not having much life left and all you can see is other people enjoying life when you feel your life is coming to an end. His resignation and determination to find his murderer is not far fetched or hokey. When you think about it, You can see that determination in people like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Robin Roberts, people with hard circumstances but take their life and become extraordinary people and you hear people say how can this blind person or sick person or paralyzed person  doing such great things. It's that determination and appreciation for life.

 

I also think it points to how some people have little or no appreciation for life until they realize through their own circumstances or viewing others how great life is and then there is the appreciation for it

To me, angst (which is a word I would apply to Frank's situation and his feelings in the film) is an all-encompassing term that describes any reaction to the apparent indifference of the universe and the enormous amount of choice involved in coming to terms with that. Each person has to define angst and the universe and her or his place in it for her- or himself. It's at once liberating and frightening. Each film noir shows us a different way to describe or to define the human condition because it's our human condition. I'm starting to find film noir much more inspiring rather than depressing.

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Thank you so much for doing all of this!  This was a genre I didn't really even understand, and took the class to challenge myself.  My husband is a HUGE 1950s science-fiction B-movie fanatic, but now I can't tease him because a lot of the elements that are in those SF B-movies are also found in film noir.  Bless his heart, but he has sat through me through almost all of the Friday night movies, and we've been playing our own version of MST:3K -- The Film Noir Style.  

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I enjoy the plot twists in the best of the films in this group; these films do grip and hold my attention.  I am a romanticist at heart; though, a "Gone With the Wind" kind of girl who falls in love with the leading man and that is not something one can easily do with this film genre; many of the characters are anything but likeable.The post-war brutal realism displayed in these films has a modern feel, even though the films are from a previous generation.  These films draw me into their world but I want to escape from them; not into them!  I very much appreciate the opportunity to learn about this part of our cultural history.  Thank you TCM for offering this course.

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Out of the Past Podcast: Touch of Evil

I must confess that this podcast made me feel like total beginner. The close examination of all the conventions of filmmaking (and not just film noir filmmaking) in the discussion about Touch of Evil showed how far I have come but also how much I still have to learn. I hope I feel differently as Professor Edwards’s film noir course concludes and we watch films made toward the end of the classical film noir period.

 

So where to begin?! Clute or Edwards mentioned in the podcast that Touch of Evil reminded them of movies that have come after Touch of Evil because so many films used various parts of the movie for inspiration. But the only thing I thought of was the film Get Shorty, based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard. That film was very self-conscious about portraying the film industry mostly from the point of view of the hustler Chili Palmer (played by John Travolta), and it worked beautifully. It was part comedy, part neo-noir, part heist because it retold the story in Leonard’s novel. But I never thought until I heard this podcast how hard it is to pull off a self-conscious story like that. And that may be the only way Get Shorty connects to Touch of Evil.

 

I’m really going to have to watch Touch of Evil again: That’s the biggest takeaway for me.

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DOA

 

What I like about the podcasts is that they invariably make me think long and hard about the films in questions: make me questions some of my conclusions too. DOA was (almost) a case in point. I really enjoyed the discussion and realized that there were things I missed, or perhaps didn't appreciate at the time. I laughed out loud at their statement about Frank's death being the worst in Film history...because I was surprised I agreed! It was SO bad! But I really disagree with Edmond O'Brien being labelled a great character actor: I honestly think he was only any good running through the crowd and walking in step with the music! 

 

I want to go and watch it again now though...

 

A Touch of Evil

 

Now, I've never seen the movie so I'm not qualified to make any comments about it, but I have to wonder at the...awe that they seem to hold Orson Welles and the virtual omniscience that they attribute to him in A Touch of Evil (the image of the bull with spears in it being somehow an allusion to the end of his hollywood career. Seriously?). It seems to me that you can analyze and over-analyze a scene into meaning almost anything and I felt this was the case in this podcast. I have to say I've never been convinced for the argument for Welles's greatness and I was stunned to hear some of the conclusions about this film and also in their analysis of The Lady from Shanghai.

 

Anyway, I will watch the film and make my own mind up and I like that this course in allows me and others to voice my opinions and say how and why I might agree or disagree. 

 
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I really have enjoyed the podcasts, although started to listen to an assigned one for a film I had not seen yet. I found myself getting annoyed that I could not visualize what they were discussing...so I stopped listening, watched the film, then listened. I have a strange feeling that this was an important step. :D

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I enjoy the podcasts quite a lot. I will sahy though that I agree that sometimes, with the Orson Welles movies in particular, Klute and Edwards go a little too overboard for my tastes in their interpretations. Personally, I thought their discussion of Lady of Shanghai was fine and not too much, but Touch of Evil was a bit much. It was almost like they jettisoned textual interpretation nearly completely on that one. There's lots of valid modes of interpretation, and I do like when approaching a movie from a multi-pronged perspective like contextually, intertextually, or autobiographically (which for movies is probably most easily done by focusingm on the auteur, but you know...you've gotta talk about the movie as a movie too! If you get too far away from that, there's too great a risk of just projecting meanings into the text. And Touch of Evil works very well as movie too, not just as an artistic meta-commentary on noir.

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I found this podcast interesting, but it raises some very important issues in critical methodology.  For the record, I'd rate D.O.A. very near the top of the noir output--I'm a long-time enthusiast for film noir, and am well on the way to watching every film that TCM has broadcast in the current noir series.  (I'm contributing capsule reviews of each on a thread on Amazon's Movie Forum.)  I'm a long-time student of film.  I also come to this task with a couple of advanced degrees in English literature--I say that only to clarify my approach.

 

E. D. Hirsch makes a useful distinction in Validity In Interpretation between meaning and significance--meaning being defined by the intent of the author and thus a topic that it is possible to approach with a high degree of objectivity, and significance being defined by the reader's reaction and thus individual and subjective.  Much modern criticism confuses the two--in fact, much modern criticism denies the existence of meaning in the first sense, which strikes me as at the very least unreasonable, privileging as it does the reader over the author and ultimately undercutting the notion of meaning itself.  For the sake of this discussion, let’s take an auteurist point of view and take the director as the author, or at least a reasonable proxy for the author in a printed text.  Clute and Edwards discuss a sequence in D.O.A at some length, in which Frank Bigelow, learning that he has been fatally poisoned, runs pell-mell along a San Francisco street and stops in front of a newsstand, with a rack of Life magazines clearly visible.  Mate follows this with two vignettes of life that is closed off from him—the ball rolling into the screen followed by the little girl (which might well be an ironically positive inversion of a similar motif near the beginning of M) and then the woman waiting for her boyfriend, ignoring Bigelow.  Objectively, the meaning is clear.  Whether it works, or is believable or appropriate—I would opine that it does work and is an appropriate strategy in the film—is a matter of critical judgment.  To suggest, however, that Mate means (again in Hirsch’s sense) to suggest the exhaustion of the traditional means of noir goes well beyond a reasonable analysis of meaning.  The scene may well suggest that to a viewer—but it has nothing to do with what Mate had in mind.

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DOA

 

What I like about the podcasts is that they invariably make me think long and hard about the films in questions: make me questions some of my conclusions too. DOA was (almost) a case in point. I really enjoyed the discussion and realized that there were things I missed, or perhaps didn't appreciate at the time. I laughed out loud at their statement about Frank's death being the worst in Film history...because I was surprised I agreed! It was SO bad! But I really disagree with Edmond O'Brien being labelled a great character actor: I honestly think he was only any good running through the crowd and walking in step with the music! 

 

I want to go and watch it again now though...

 

A Touch of Evil

 

Now, I've never seen the movie so I'm not qualified to make any comments about it, but I have to wonder at the...awe that they seem to hold Orson Welles and the virtual omniscience that they attribute to him in A Touch of Evil (the image of the bull with spears in it being somehow an allusion to the end of his hollywood career. Seriously?). It seems to me that you can analyze and over-analyze a scene into meaning almost anything and I felt this was the case in this podcast. I have to say I've never been convinced for the argument for Welles's greatness and I was stunned to hear some of the conclusions about this film and also in their analysis of The Lady from Shanghai.

 

Anyway, I will watch the film and make my own mind up and I like that this course in allows me and others to voice my opinions and say how and why I might agree or disagree. 

You have to see Edmond O'Brien in either The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or Seven Days in May.  Then you will see what a great character actor he became.   Then, for chuckles, look at him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (yes, he's there!) with Charles Laughton.

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Out of the Past Podcast: His Kind of Woman!

Clute’s and Edwards’s podcast gave me a new appreciation for the humor in His Kind of Woman! Somehow the funny lines seem even funnier when they are retold—and believe me, I thought they were funny the first time around.

 

Here are some examples of what I thought was so amusing:

 

• Charles McGraw (as Thompson narrating at the beginning) calls Nick Ferraro an “upper-crust crumb.”

 

• Myron Winton: “People don’t go to the movies to see how miserable the world is. They want to eat popcorn and be happy.”

Martin Kraftt: “It [Cardigan’s movie] has a message no pigeon would carry.”

(These lines come after Cardigan’s movie within the movie, and the characters are discussing the film and offering their criticisms.)

 

• Dan Milner to Lenore Brent: “You’re not going to find a thing except yourself.”

 

• After the fight in Dan Milner’s apartment, Dan gets a phone call. This scene was also discussed during the podcast, but the humor wasn’t the only detail that impressed me about it. It takes Dan a while to answer the phone because he’s practically knocked out. My favorite line of the whole movie comes during his phone conversation: “No, I’m not busy, Corely. No, I was just getting ready to take my tie off. Wondering if I should hang myself with it.” All of the phone conversation is one-sided, but it’s conducted as though someone really were on the other end of the line. The built-in pauses, which are needed to make the phone conversation believable, add even more humor and comedic timing, it seems to me. (I’m laughing again, as I write this, and remembering Mitchum’s scene.)

 

Clute mentioned the cinematography and all the sharp lines of the shots. I heard, I think in an interview with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell on a DVD, that the set at the Mexican resort was built purposely for His Kind of Woman! It’s possible that it was constructed to make the most of the modern architectural lines. I did notice that the interior shots were more modern than earlier films noir. It was meant to look like a modern luxury resort and it did.

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A Touch of Evil

 

Now, I've never seen the movie so I'm not qualified to make any comments about it, but I have to wonder at the...awe that they seem to hold Orson Welles and the virtual omniscience that they attribute to him in A Touch of Evil (the image of the bull with spears in it being somehow an allusion to the end of his hollywood career. Seriously?). It seems to me that you can analyze and over-analyze a scene into meaning almost anything and I felt this was the case in this podcast. I have to say I've never been convinced for the argument for Welles's greatness and I was stunned to hear some of the conclusions about this film and also in their analysis of The Lady from Shanghai.

 

Anyway, I will watch the film and make my own mind up and I like that this course in allows me and others to voice my opinions and say how and why I might agree or disagree. 

 

I"m enjoying the podcasts, they're tremendously informative and bring out a lot of new angles and connections. But in this case I have to agree with Sir David and BrianBlake. I'd like to know: as genius as Orson Welles was, did he put all that meta-stuff in there intentionally? Or are we finding it there after the fact?

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I really enjoy listening to the podcasts. I've listened to over half now. The podcasts add yet another perspective to what is probably the most in depth, and  thorough inquiry into the subject of film noir ever. For example- I watched Union Station a number of years ago and I was struck by the impressive photography throughout the film. I learned now while listening to the DOA podcast that  Union Station was directed by Rudolph Mate who was cited as being one of the great cinematographers.

i"m now looking forward to watching Union Station and DOA with fresh eyes looking for particular techniques in filming that gave Mate his unique style.

 

I'm so glad to have discovered these podcasts and I hope you can some day find time to continue doing them.

 

This entire course has been such a great learning experience for me and I can't thank Professor Edwards enough for providing me and the 20,000 other students who participated in this - (the largest of it's kind learning project) -  this great opportunity. This was truly ground breaking!

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I really enjoy listening to the podcasts. I've listened to over half now. The podcasts add yet another perspective to what is probably the most in depth, and  thorough inquiry into the subject of film noir ever. For example- I watched Union Station a number of years ago and I was struck by the impressive photography throughout the film. I learned now while listening to the DOA podcast that  Union Station was directed by Rudolph Mate who was cited as being one of the great cinematographers.

i"m now looking forward to watching Union Station and DOA with fresh eyes looking for particular techniques in filming that gave Mate his unique style.

 

I'm so glad to have discovered these podcasts and I hope you can some day find time to continue doing them.

 

This entire course has been such a great learning experience for me and I can't thank Professor Edwards enough for providing me and the 20,000 other students who participated in this - (the largest of it's kind learning project) -  this great opportunity. This was truly ground breaking!

They sound really worthwhile!  Never heard one yet, but I can tell you Union Station is a very good film that I saw a few years ago.

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You have to see Edmond O'Brien in either The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or Seven Days in May.  Then you will see what a great character actor he became.   Then, for chuckles, look at him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (yes, he's there!) with Charles Laughton.

 

Don't forget Edmond O'Brien's wonderful onscreen narrative in The Wild Bunch (1969)!  In particular his descriptive conversation with Robert Ryan at the end or near end, an amazing and most valuable character actor!

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Don't forget Edmond O'Brien's wonderful onscreen narrative in The Wild Bunch (1969)!  In particular his descriptive conversation with Robert Ryan at the end or near end, an amazing and most valuable character actor!

 

Thanks to the Summer of Darkness and the podcast on D.O.A. by Edwards and Clute, Edmond O'Brien has become one of my favorites. He was great in Backfire, a film noir that wasn't part of the TCM lineup and worth seeing. I understand the film didn't get very good reviews when it was first released, but I enjoyed it. The plot took me by surprise, and I have to applaud any movie that can surprise me. Backfire surprised me twice.

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Out of the Past: Podcast for Rififi (and the Blacklist Period)

 

I saw Rififi a couple of weeks ago, and last night I discovered that Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards discuss Rififi on their podcast show Out of the Past. They spoke at length about Dassin’s experience as a blacklisted American director, and this part of the podcast I found fascinating. Dassin believed that people had to make a choice during this difficult period between their work and betraying their friends. And in the arts, as Dassin said, your work is very important: “It’s your oxygen; it’s your life.” In fact, the history behind the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the film industry’s response was the best part for me! I also enjoyed the discussion about Rififi as an allegory for Dassin’s experiences during this time, but the film itself was a long hour and fifty-eight minutes for me. I was bored with the almost real-time filming of the break-in, in spite of the camera angles and the camaraderie among thieves at their work. I still wish Tony’s girlfriend Mado had been treated better, and I still wish the movie had been twenty minutes shorter.

 

I had really hoped that Edwards’s and Clute’s enthusiasm would revive my interest in the film, but that just wasn’t the case for me. But I definitely recommend listening to the podcast! It provides examples of the human element and the tragedy of the HUAC episode in American history.

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Out of the Past: Podcast for Brick (dir. Rian Johnson)

 

Check out Shannon Clute’s and Richard Edwards’s podcast about Brick at http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/f/a/c/fac25a0716cf037b/OOTP_2008_02_01_B.mp3?c_id=2060301&expiration=1446651447&hwt=829d541ded30d3b79a7c8e64a10ca17d

In case the link is deleted, go to Out of the Past at outofthepast.libsyn.com/ and scroll down to Episode 44.

 

I had a totally different take on the film, but I do think the director and writer Rian Johnson did a great job. I thought Brick was closer to a parody of film noir. I found the podcast interesting, especially because I listened to it after seeing the movie. That seems to be best approach, at least for me, because Clute and Edwards examine the details, and I think they assume that you have seen the film before listening to the podcast.

 

I did wonder if they saw any parallels between Brick and The Maltese Falcon because I sure did. The dialogue in Brick is one of its strongest features, and I think that’s yet another correlation between Brick and film noir in general, not just The Maltese Falcon.

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Out of the Past: Podcast for The Ice Harvest (dir. Harold Ramis)

 

Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir, Episode 42, podcast on The Ice Harvest, at http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/d/3/e/d3e6f259125213c0/OOTP_2007_12_01_TIH.mp3?c_id=2060278&expiration=1447647112&hwt=c322f8aeddc93f7a55dc8e1f229d4d3a

If the link is deleted, search online for Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir and scroll down to Episode 42.

 

Clute and Edwards just couldn’t convince me that The Ice Harvest is a neo-noir. I agree that the film has lots of noir characteristics. In fact, they made a lot of great observations about the use of film noir techniques that I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. And the film does have some comedic moments: I laughed out loud here and there. It takes place on Christmas Eve, and that alone lends itself naturally to some comedy. But I was surprised how bored I was too, and it’s less than an hour and half long! I really wanted to like the film. John Cusack (one of my favorites) and Billy Bob Thornton are great, but Oliver Platt really steals the show for me. He has some of the best lines, both serious and funny. I found his scenes with John Cusack to be the highlights; they were especially funny, but they’re not noir.

 

The podcast is about twice as long as usual because it includes an interview with the author Scott Phillips, who wrote the book The Ice Harvest, on which the film is based. This part of the podcast was fascinating because Phillips, Clute, and Edwards discuss the differences between the book and the film, and how hard it is to translate literature to film. It was also great to hear Phillips discuss his writing of the novel and how he felt about its translation to the screen. He talks about some of his experiences living in the Midwest and gives some facts about Wichita I hadn’t known.

 

I wish that I had read the novel first.

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Behind the Black Mask: Podcast Interview

with Rian Johnson, director of Brick

 

Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards also host another podcast called Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed, in which they interview mystery writers. One of their earliest interviews is with Rian Johnson, director of Brick.

 

You can check out Clute’s and Edwards’s podcast interview with Rian Johnson at http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/2/f/1/2f1a53c2ccd7d73c/BTBM_2006_08_15.mp3?c_id=2667487&expiration=1448243388&hwt=61cbf324939c68fb0a3bfb30ce0ca581

If the link is deleted, do an online search for Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed and scroll down to Episode 2.

 

I’m always fascinated hearing writers talk about their craft, and this podcast was especially fun because Rian Johnson talks about writing and crafting his film Brick. Rian Johnson discusses his literary inspirations (Dashiell Hammett), cinema inspirations (film noir and 1930s screwball comedies), and writing and creative process, and the quirky and wonderful dialogue and characters of Brick.

 

My favorite scenes in the movie Brick are those between Brendan Frye and the assistant vice principal Trueman. Great dialogue in these scenes, which I thought put the student Brendan and the assistant vice principal on an equal footing.

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Thanks for this Richard!  I'm very much looking forward to listening and have already started with Sunset Blvd.

 

I've enjoyed all 3 of the podcasts I've listed too.  I wish I had known about and taken the course.

 

Does anyone know if the course will be repeated in 2016?

 

I've been rummaging around in the noir forum looking for discussion on that but have not found anything yet.

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Thanks for this Richard!  I'm very much looking forward to listening and have already started with Sunset Blvd.

 

I've enjoyed all 3 of the podcasts I've listed too.  I wish I had known about and taken the course.

 

Does anyone know if the course will be repeated in 2016?

 

I've been rummaging around in the noir forum looking for discussion on that but have not found anything yet.

 

For me,  TCM's summer of noir as well as their partnership with Richard and his noir films on-line course was the best thing TCM has ever done.     In addition there was the follow-up discussions at this forum about noir films and actors and these were great.   

 

I don't know if the course will be repeated in 2016 but for your sake I hope it is.    Either way I recommend you use the noir forum.    There are a lot of very knowledgeable folks that use this forum (and ones like me that think they know more than they really do,  ha ha!).

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