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Favorite Film Noir Cinematographers


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This was another FrankGrimes suggestion (and he's too much of a weeny -- or is it weasel?-- to do this), so blame him.

 

If any type of movie is defined by the cinematographer as much as it is by the director, then it is film noir. Give us your 10 (or fewer) favorite film noir cinematographers (or, directors of photography, if you wish) in order of preference and, if so moved, the reason(s) for inclusion. Extra points for multiple use of ?Expressionistic?, ?baroque? and ?chiaroscuro? (and spelling counts).

 

10. James Wong Howe: Hangmen Also Die!, Pursued, Sweet Smell of Success ? Not a lot of films noir, but good ones from a pioneer.

 

9. Ernest Laszlo: Impact, D.O.A., Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Knife, While the City Sleeps

 

8. Russell Metty: The Stranger, Naked Alibi, Touch of Evil ? Two by Welles and a little-seen Sterling Hayden gem?well?

 

7. Milton Krasner: The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, The Set-Up, House of Strangers, No Way Out

 

6. Joe MacDonald: Call Northside 777, The Street with No Name, Panic in the Streets, Niagara, Pickup on South Street, House of Bamboo

 

5. John Seitz: This Gun for Hire, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Big Clock, Sunset Blvd ? My introduction to the noir look with the three Wilder movies.

 

4. Stanley Cortez: Secret Beyond the Door, Man on the Eiffel Tower, Night of the Hunter, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss ? Anyone who can put these, The Magnificent Ambersons and They Saved Hitler?s Brain on his resume needs to be near the top.

 

3. George E. Diskant: Desperate, They Live by Night, Port of New York, The Racket, On Dangerous Ground, The Narrow Margin, Beware, My Lovely, Kansas City Confidential, The Bigamist

 

2. Nicholas Musuraca: Stranger on the Third Floor, The Spiral Staircase, Deadline at Dawn, Out of the Past, Woman on Pier 13, Clash by Night, The Hitch-Hiker ? Arguably the first noir and, in addition to these, five of the Val Lewton horror films noir

 

1. John Alton: T-Men, The Spiritualist (aka The Amazing Mr. X), Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar), Border Incident, Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book), The Big Combo, Slightly Scarlet, Lonelyhearts ? Fast, cheap, and spectacular. What more could a director want? Baroque angles, chiaroscuro lighting, with an Expressionistic look. His films are film noir.

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What's the score, CHIarOscuro? -- This was another FrankGrimes suggestion (and he's too much of a weeny -- or is it weasel?-- to do this), so blame him.

 

I'm both weeny and weasle... and much, much worse. You should just make this a noir list thread so we can just let loose. I have a feeling that some of the lists could spark dialogue between you and I and others. It could be fun to pick apart film noir; favorite this and least favorite that, best that and worst this. We could actually create an interesting little book here.

 

If any type of movie is defined by the cinematographer as much as it is by the director, then it is film noir.

 

You got it, my Mann. Film noir is definitely a visual medium that speaks a language all its own.

 

I have put together my top ten film noir DPs, but I don't have the time to post them right now. I just wanted to make sure you knew that I haven't abandoned your thread.

 

Your selections are impeccable as always.

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Sorry for the delay, ChiO.

 

I'm only going to list the films that I have seen from my favorite film noir DPs.

 

Here's my list:

 

1. John Alton -- Alton is as boring a selection as me naming Hitch as my favorite director, but the truth needs to be told. Alton deserves the top spot. T-Men, Raw Deal, and He Walked by Night are three prime examples of what film noir looks like.

 

T-Men, Raw Deal, Hollow Triumph, He Walked by Night, Border Incident, and Mystery Street.

 

2. Nicholas Musaraca -- I'm going to stretch my noir universe to include Cat People and The Seventh Victim. Those two films put great use to shadows. What we cannot see can hurt us. Out of the Past is often cited as Musaraca's masterpiece, but I actually like the look of Cat People even more.

 

Cat People, The Seventh Victim, The Spiral Staircase, Out of the Past, Clash by Night, The Blue Gardenia, The Hitchhiker.

 

3. John Seitz -- Seitz shot two of the most powerfully dark films noir in Double Indemnity and Sunset Blvd. He also helmed the very underrated This Gun for Hire.

 

This Gun for Hire, Double Indemnity, The Big Clock, Sunset Blvd.

 

4. George Diskant -- Diskant smoothly handled the city streets, countryside snow, and the shadowy cabin lighting in On Dangerous Ground and he tackled the very tough chore of shooting the claustrophobic The Narrow Margin.

 

They Live by Night, The Racket, On Dangerous Ground, The Narrow Margin.

 

5. Joseph MacDonald -- MacDonald is an underappreciated DP who really helped launch the gritty realism of film noir. Location shoots on such films as Call Northside 777, Panic in the Streets, Pickup on South Street, and House of Bamboo took film noir to a new level. MacDonald's creative shots in the underrated Fourteen Hours kept the "trapped" film fresh.

 

The Dark Corner, Call Northside 777, The Street with No Name, Panic in the Streets, Fourteen Hours, Pickup on South Street, House of Bamboo.

 

6. Joseph LaShelle -- What I like about LaShelle is that he was capable of capturing the lovely beauty of Gene Tierney and Linda Darnell amongst the dark worlds that surrounded each in films like Laura, Fallen Angel, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Hangover Square.

 

Laura, Hangover Square, Fallen Angel, Where the Sidewalk Ends

 

7. Russell Metty -- Touch of Evil alone lands Metty on my list, but I'm also very partial to The Stranger.

 

Whistle Stop, The Stranger, Touch of Evil

 

8. Milton Krasner -- In terms of films, I'd rank Krasner higher since he shot Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street and The Woman in the Window. But I don't consider either one of those films to be "cinematographer" films. The film that truly is a "DP" film is The Set-Up.

 

The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, The Set-up, No Way Out

 

9. Burnett Guffey -- In a Lonely Place, Human Desire

 

10. Robert De Grasse -- The Leopard Man, Born to Kill, Follow Me Quietly

 

I have only seen one Stanley Cortez noir but it happens to be one of my very favorite looking films in history, The Night of the Hunter.

 

Just Missed: James Wong Howe, Ernest Laszlo, Charles Lang, Harry Wild, Harry Stradling, Norbert Brodine, Bert Glennon.

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"James Wong Howe"

He Ran All the Way w/ John Garfield

Out of the Fog w/ John Garfield (again)

They Made Me a Criminal w/ That Garfield guy again!

City for Conquest w/ James Cagney

Nora Prentiss w/ Ann Sheridan

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