TopBilled

When the term N-O-I-R is (too) generously applied

17 posts in this topic

This morning I watched the United Artists release GUEST IN THE HOUSE. It's based on a play, betraying its stage origins at nearly every turn-- plus a lot of the dialogue was delivered like performers on an old radio program would deliver them. And there was a high-caliber cast involved: Anne Baxter, Aline MacMahon, Ralph Bellamy, Ruth Warrick, Jerome Cowan, Margaret Hamilton, etc. Overall, I enjoyed it despite my thinking I would not.

 

But after the film ended, I looked up reviews online. First of all, the wiki page for the film calls it a noir. And even some of the user comments on the IMDb referenced it as a noir.

 

Personally, I do not consider GUEST IN THE HOUSE a noir. About 85% of the action takes place inside the titular dwelling and while there are nice, suspenseful touches and Lee Garmes' effective cinematography aiding it along, I do not see it being atmospheric in the way we come to identify most noir from the 1940s. In fact, I do not even know what words I would use to describe this film.

 

Critic Bosley Crowther called it a 'cracked tale...with torturings up front.' Even that seems a bit too generous...too much of a blanket statement to throw on top of this picture.

 

Anyone else feel there are films that are not correctly labeled noir...?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This morning I watched the United Artists release GUEST IN THE HOUSE. It's based on a play, betraying its stage origins at nearly every turn-- plus a lot of the dialogue was delivered like performers on an old radio program would deliver them. And there was a high-caliber cast involved: Anne Baxter, Aline MacMahon, Ralph Bellamy, Ruth Warrick, Jerome Cowan, Margaret Hamilton, etc. Overall, I enjoyed it despite my thinking I would not.

 

But after the film ended, I looked up reviews online. First of all, the wiki page for the film calls it a noir. And even some of the user comments on the IMDb referenced it as a noir.

 

Personally, I do not consider GUEST IN THE HOUSE a noir. About 85% of the action takes place inside the titular dwelling and while there are nice, suspenseful touches and Lee Garmes' effective cinematography aiding it along, I do not see it being atmospheric in the way we come to identify most noir from the 1940s. In fact, I do not even know what words I would use to describe this film.

 

Critic Bosley Crowther called it a 'cracked tale...with torturings up front.' Even that seems a bit too generous...too much of a blanket statement to throw on top of this picture.

 

Anyone else feel there are films that are not correctly labeled noir...?

 

I have noticed that the users that write about movies on Wiki do tend to have a very loose definition of 'noir'.   Sometime they cover their bets buy using phrases like 'noir thriller' or 'crime\noir'.    

 

I wouldn't say Guest in the House has enough of the noir 'style' or characteristic for me to label it noir.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I wouldn't say Guest in the House has enough of the noir 'style' or characteristic for me to label it noir.   

I would be interested to know what elements of GUEST IN THE HOUSE might make it an authentic noir, in your opinion. I want to be able to call it a noir, but I feel it's too stage-bound and Baxter's character is almost too much of an invalid (messed up but still sympathetic) to be considered a real femme fatale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be interested to know what elements of GUEST IN THE HOUSE make it an authentic noir, in your opinion. I want to be able to call it a noir, but I feel it's too stage-bound and Baxter's character is almost too much of an invalid (messed up but still sympathetic) to be considered a real femme fatale.

 

Note that I said 'I wouldn't say' as in would NOT.   To me the film is a psychological drama and doesn't have much authentic noir as it relates to how it was filmed or the characters in the film.     I agree with you about Baxter's character.    

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note that I said 'I wouldn't say' as in would NOT.   To me the film is a psychological drama and doesn't have much authentic noir as it relates to how it was filmed or the characters in the film.     I agree with you about Baxter's character.    

Thanks for clarifying. I had gone back and added the word 'might' to my earlier response. I see you agreed with my initial observations. But say for a moment that someone felt it was truly a noir, what evidence might be present to substantiate that viewpoint? 

 

I think the phrase 'psychological drama' is a more apt description. You're right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This morning I watched the United Artists release GUEST IN THE HOUSE. It's based on a play, betraying its stage origins at nearly every turn-- plus a lot of the dialogue was delivered like performers on an old radio program would deliver them. And there was a high-caliber cast involved: Anne Baxter, Aline MacMahon, Ralph Bellamy, Ruth Warrick, Jerome Cowan, Margaret Hamilton, etc. Overall, I enjoyed it despite my thinking I would not.

 

But after the film ended, I looked up reviews online. First of all, the wiki page for the film calls it a noir. And even some of the user comments on the IMDb referenced it as a noir.

 

Personally, I do not consider GUEST IN THE HOUSE a noir. About 85% of the action takes place inside the titular dwelling and while there are nice, suspenseful touches and Lee Garmes' effective cinematography aiding it along, I do not see it being atmospheric in the way we come to identify most noir from the 1940s. In fact, I do not even know what words I would use to describe this film.

 

Critic Bosley Crowther called it a 'cracked tale...with torturings up front.' Even that seems a bit too generous...too much of a blanket statement to throw on top of this picture.

 

Anyone else feel there are films that are not correctly labeled noir...? 

Just this afternoon I posted my question for Eddie Muller and it is about this issue.  When would Mr. Muller personally consider a film to simply have noir aspects as opposed to it being a true noir film.  What is the tipping point on the scale?  I am hoping Dr. Edwards might answer the question as well because it would be interesting to see if they agree on this.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As with any genre, there are movies that seem absolutely steeped in noir tropes, while others seem to have just a hint of noir elements. There's definitely a grey area, and I don't think that you can draw a firm line and say "This is what makes something a real noir, while that is what makes something just a movie with noir touches."

 

I do, though, think that the label "noir" is sometimes used as a lazy short-hand for any crime or thriller or mystery filmed in black and white. Similarly, I think that the phrase "neo-noir" is sometimes also too broadly applied. I think that some people genuinely don't have a notion of what noir is (I know that sounds a little snobbish), and think it does just mostly have to do with being filmed in black and white.

 

I think that genre labels are mostly a good way to help someone contextualize what they are about to watch, and that can sometimes get a little sloppy.

 

Mostly I don't care, but every now and then someone says "Oh that's a horror/noir/drama/whatever." and I think "Really?!". Like when you hear someone say "That blue couch" and think to yourself "That couch is clearly green." To a certain degree, you just can't argue perspective. And I think that, aside from outlandish exceptions, most genre debates are largely down to perspective.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do, though, think that the label "noir" is sometimes used as a lazy short-hand for any crime or thriller or mystery filmed in black and white. Similarly, I think that the phrase "neo-noir" is sometimes also too broadly applied. 

Doesn't it seem like it's overused sometimes, for marketing purposes? As in to sell films to audiences who enjoy film noir, when these films are mostly just psychological dramas?

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Doesn't it seem like it's overused sometimes, for marketing purposes? As in to sell films to audiences who enjoy film noir, when these films are mostly just psychological dramas?

 

Well, I think that people who promote movies will try to find as many angles as possible to pull in an audience. Like when a movie is advertised as "featuring" a certain actor/actress and then you watch the thing and they're in it for like two minutes.

 

I think that "noir" is something that a lot of people (especially non-experts) associate with sultry femme fatales, violence, and mystery-thriller plots. It's certainly a word that makes me sit up and pay attention. It implies darkness, and that's a good way to get people interested. You almost have to wonder if the people writing the marketing don't totally know what they're talking about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I think that people who promote movies will try to find as many angles as possible to pull in an audience. Like when a movie is advertised as "featuring" a certain actor/actress and then you watch the thing and they're in it for like two minutes.

 

I think that "noir" is something that a lot of people (especially non-experts) associate with sultry femme fatales, violence, and mystery-thriller plots. It's certainly a word that makes me sit up and pay attention. It implies darkness, and that's a good way to get people interested. You almost have to wonder if the people writing the marketing don't totally know what they're talking about.

Or if they had even watched the whole movie they were writing advertising copy for...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Doesn't it seem like it's overused sometimes, for marketing purposes? As in to sell films to audiences who enjoy film noir, when these films are mostly just psychological dramas?

 

I think that is exactly how it is most often overused.  I believe Mr. Muller alludes to this in a commentary he did for on of the SoD films though I can't recall which one.  I think TCM took quite a license with the term in selecting their SoD films.  The last two I watched this weekend A Woman's Secret (1949) and Walk East on Beacon (1952) really don't cut it for me.  At least A Woman's Secret has good noir pedigree (Nicholas Ray director and Gloria Grahame)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today I watched Talk About a Stranger, which was honestly more like an extended episode of Leave It to Beaver than anything else!

 

Noir? Barely, if you're judging it on a little alien paranoia and a few lighting and angle tricks, but honestly - the kid in the tale gets nothing more than a harsh look for emptying thousands of gallons of oil into some orange groves, and then even gets rewarded with a puppy by the guy whose life he almost destroyed!! 

 

I'm sure marketing (take a look at the poster if you can) it as a Noir helped dupe a few innocent rubes into parting with some hard-earned folding money on it at the time; I hope they weren't too disappointed! 

 

post-47431-0-96520000-1438117323_thumb.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today I watched Talk About a Stranger, which was honestly more like an extended episode of Leave It to Beaver than anything else!

 

Noir? Barely, if you're judging it on a little alien paranoia and a few lighting and angle tricks, but honestly - the kid in the tale gets nothing more than a harsh look for emptying thousands of gallons of oil into some orange groves, and then even gets rewarded with a puppy by the guy whose life he almost destroyed!! 

 

I'm sure marketing (take a look at the poster if you can) it as a Noir helped dupe a few innocent rubes into parting with some hard-earned folding money on it at the time; I hope they weren't too disappointed! 

 

I agree that TALK ABOUT A STRANGER is not a strong example of classic noir. Some titles in this series were inserted simply because they are available in the TCM library. But the true noir gems at Republic and Paramount continue to be overlooked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that TALK ABOUT A STRANGER is not a strong example of classic noir. Some titles in this series were inserted simply because they are available in the TCM library. But the true noir gems at Republic and Paramount continue to be overlooked.

 

What Republic noir gems are you refereeing to?   I only know of 3 noir films from that studio; City That Never Sleeps,  Moonrise and The Pretender.    I believe Moonrise was shown when TCM featured Dane Clark.    City That Never Sleeps is played often on MOVIES-TV.  

 

Paramount does have a good set of noirs but TCM tends to show only those by Alan Ladd,  Barbara Stanwyck and of course Sunset Blvd.    

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Republic noir gems are you refereeing to?   I only know of 3 noir films from that studio; City That Never Sleeps,  Moonrise and The Pretender. 

Republic made a lot of very good noir:

 

THE GREAT FLAMARION with Erich Von Stroheim & Dan Duryea (directed by Anthony Mann)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Flamarion

 

STRANGE IMPERSONATION with Brenda Marshall & Hillary Brooke (also by Mann)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Impersonation

 

JEALOUSY directed by Gustav Machaty (Maltin doesn't like it, but James Agee loved it)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jealousy_(1945_film)

 

HOODLUM EMPIRE with Brian Donlevy & Claire Trevor

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoodlum_Empire

 

There are plenty more...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Republic made a lot of very good noir:

 

THE GREAT FLAMARION with Erich Von Stroheim & Dan Duryea (directed by Anthony Mann)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Flamarion

 

STRANGE IMPERSONATION with Brenda Marshall & Hillary Brooke (also by Mann)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Impersonation

 

JEALOUSY directed by Gustav Machaty (Maltin doesn't like it, but James Agee loved it)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jealousy_(1945_film)

 

HOODLUM EMPIRE with Brian Donlevy & Claire Trevor

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoodlum_Empire

 

There are plenty more...

 

I guess the book Film Noir (Silver \ Ward),  didn't have anyone on their staff that was interested in Republic films since the book only covered the 3 I mentioned.     I looked at these films and some might fit that the question related to this thread:  I.e.  they are borderline noirs and lean more toward just being crime films.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess the book Film Noir (Silver \ Ward),  didn't have anyone on their staff that was interested in Republic films since the book only covered the 3 I mentioned.     I looked at these films and some might fit that the question related to this thread:  I.e.  they are borderline noirs and lean more toward just being crime films.  

I don't know if I would say that. Technically all noir could be called crime dramas (or just crime films). 

 

Republic was quite diverse. They became known for rural stories (namely westerns) but they also branched out into noir and comedies aimed at urban audiences. 

 

Most studios that made noir in the mid to late 50s were evolving the format, because there was competition from TV shows like Dragnet. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoticons maximum are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us