Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Sign in to follow this  
MissGoddess

Why Do You Like Film Noir?

Recommended Posts

I should have credited you with helping me (almost) formulate what makes a film (most likely noir) one that I like...you and that Ford vs. Mann Western-thing

 

Now who's the cagey one? ;):)

 

And I always, always intend a compliment, ChiO. I would never insult a Professor of Voyeurism!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good day to you, Grahame's Guy -- Well ChiO gave the smart answer.

 

He gave me the smartmouth answer. He's gonna get his comin' up.

 

I will merely babble as I'm prone to do. I wrote all this last night and now with ChiO's post it looks silly but I wrote it so dagnabbit I'm posting it.

 

Perfect, and what you wrote was even more so. Now we're gonna have to see if we can twist ChiO's slippery arms.

 

I basically agree with ChiO's points. There are always numerous examples of exceptions to a generalization about a particular period in film. I also wanted to touch on what you said about having a harder time getting into those lighter thirties films.

 

There are almost always exceptions to the general rule. That goes without saying. I don't expect every little thing to fit snugly into a tidy little box. How depressing that would be. I was merely interested in seeing if my assumptions and early impressions are off base.

 

In the depths of the depression and before enforcement of the code, films were grittier with more social commentary. Films like Gabriel Over the White House, Man's Castle, and Wild Boys of the Road pack more of a punch than films made after the enforcement of the code. Warner's was perceived as the more masculine studio but they had to eventually change their heroes from the gangsters to the G-Men. Compare a pre-code film like Mayor of Hell to it's tamer remake Crime School.

 

Excellent! That's the kind of answer I was seeking. I have never seen any of these films and they look to be the kind of 30s films I should look to check out. The next question I have for you is, do those films have a visual style?

 

Look at the career of sad eyed, suffering Sylvia Sidney who after the code, was snatched up by Lang, who insisted that she be cast in his first two American films which we've already mentioned as precursors to noir. She also appeared in films like Dead End and Sabotage but she was never suited to lighter fare.

 

I never knew Lang insisted on Sylvia being in his first two American films. That's fascinating. I ended up liking Sylvia because of those two films, too. I like her in Sabotage, as well. What I haven't seen with Sylvia just yet is range. She played the same note in the films I have seen of her. It just happens to be a note that I really like and I like her way of playing it.

 

In general Hollywood did move to more escapist fare. Shirley Temple cheered people up. Fred and Ginger transported people to a dream world. Screwball comedies both envied and skewered the rich. Nick Charles gladly lived off Nora's money and Errol Flynn had one hand on his sword and the other around Olivia de Havilland. Edward G. Robinson played the gangster for laughs in A Slight Case of Murder. You also had films like Mutiny on the Bounty one of my all time favorites and also more of a guy picture. My mom tells me that in the mid thirties all the guys she knew in her working class (poor) Richmond neighborhood went to the local theater to watch the westerns. They seemed to have made a hundred B westerns a year back then. If you wanted to catch a film like Stella Dallas or The Good Earth you went downtown.

 

That is exactly what I think of with the Hollywood films of the 30s. I consider it a decade of performers and scripts more so than directors. The visuals are that of costumes and sets more so than cinematography. I'm also under the impression that the characters were less complex, less mysterious. I'm throwing all of this out there to be corrected, by the way. I'm wanting to be very wrong. I'm looking to be directed.

 

Personally I love the light stuff, I usually go wherever a film wants to take me. I still look to these films as an escape from my day to day anxieties but I can escape inside a film like Flying Down to Rio as easily as a film like Out of the Past, it just depends on my mood at the time. I do, however, find the latter types of films more provocative.

 

I also like my share of light, including films from the 30s, like My Man Godfrey. But my preference is that of films from the 40s and 50s, particularly those post-WWII. If I was to come up with my list of my all-time favorite classic films, I don't know how many Hollywood films from the 30s would make the cut compared to those from the 40s and 50s. I'm trying to figure out the whys. I say all of this while pleading ignorance. I haven't seen nearly enough films from the 30s to know for sure if I will like them as much as the films of the 40s and 50s. Something tells me that I won't, hence my asking for the opinion of you (and others) on the topic. What I'm asking is basically an offshoot of Miss G's thread here. I'm a huge fan of film noir, so what's there for a fan of film noir to like from Hollywood of the 30s? What is most similar to it?

 

As the world moved to war and people got more anxious films got a little darker. Films like Let Us Live, The Letter and The Maltese Falcon. The remarkably daring To Be or Not to Be. Heck, even Fred and Ginger edged a little toward the dark side in the Castle biopic, the last of their thirties run. You had those homefront films, Mrs Minver and such and those crazy Fox musicals with Carmen Miranda. Preston Sturges had his great run.

 

The early-40s holds a few films that catch my attention, most notably the Bogie pics. I'm also a Preston Sturges fan.

 

The two genres that really stick out for me in the post-war era are the grittier noirs and the big musicals.

 

Westerns are big for me. John Ford definitely put westerns on the map and then others, like Anthony Mann, continued to take them further, make them more complex. Westerns were no longer the simplistic and quite predictable "white hat tracks down the black hat."

 

I really don't know too much about musicals. They have always struck me as being too artificial. Maybe I just need to see the right musicals.

 

I also see the focus on the "everyday person" and a lot of films dealing with returning soldiers, not just in noir type films but in dramas like From This Day Forward and also one showing up tomorrow on TCM that I would recommend, Until the End of Time. These films can contain elements of noir, as ChiO said the genre is very fluid. I really love noir films but sometimes I need a little Carmen Miranda to balance things out.

 

I'm curious to see how the straight dramas of the 30s compare to those of the 40s and 50s. I'm wondering if there is a different acting style of the decades and which will appeal to me most. For the most part, I like the acting style of the late-40s and 50s. The actors and actresses of that timeframe really appeal to me.

 

And I do like "low" society versus high society films.

 

FYI, I did tape Till the End of Time.

 

Good day to you, my main Mann, ChiO -- So you chose to be difficult, eh?

 

I tend to question sociological explanations when it comes to movies.

 

You question EVERYTHING. That's something I greatly admire with you, but I'm gonna

try to have you unbutton that top button... half way. No need to strip clean, we already know you're dirty. ;)

 

My movie watching experience is skewed (both intentionally and unintentionally) and I certainly haven't made a study of the topic. Such views, e.g., '30s = escapist and post-WWII = realism (or something like that), are generally accepted, are attractive, make a facially valid point, and can help in casual discussion, but I have doubts as to whether they really hold up.

 

If I were to ask you to describe Hollywood films of the 30s and Hollywood films post-WWII (through the 50s), how would you describe them? I'm speaking in general terms. And I want YOUR opinion, not that of others. I'm a novice who has been talking about his assumptions and premeditations, so what are YOUR more seasoned film-viewing thoughts on each?

 

Some issues (and never any answers):

 

Hey, now that sounds like me! Okay, replace "some" with "too many to count."

 

Aren't movies, as a general proposition, "escapist" regardless of form and content? Despite high-falutin' analysis and treatment as works of art (discourses that I love), aren't movies for most people, including we (too) deep-thinkers, a form of entertainment. Art, after all, can be entertaining and it takes us somewhere else, i.e. helps us escape. What we're each escaping may vary, but that's another topic(s).

 

Absolutely. What is escapist to you is going to be far different than what is escapist to Miss G. But, again, I was speaking in general terms. What kind of films do you wish to find an escape with and where will you find more of them, Hollywood of the 30s or post-WWII Hollywood (through the 50s)? I'd like for you to make a choice. What are your reasons behind your selection?

 

 

What is the universe being analyzed? All films of a period? All feature films of a period? All with a significant national distribution? Does one take into account gross income generated? Number of paying viewers? U.S. productions only?

 

All films from "Hollywood," the United States. You can take into account any kind of film that you desire under that umbrella. And I'm asking for YOUR opinion, not the "gross income generated" opinion. Come on now. Don't tell me you've lost all of your lid and now you're going to let mass appeal speak for you.

 

 

When is one looking at the universe? Looking at how the viewers (or critics) at the time saw the movies vs. how we now look at those movies? Doesn't the latter become, at least in part, a function of what movies of that period both survive and are available to be seen? And maybe most significantly, the analysis of a prior period's movies may tell us more about the period in which the analysis occurs than it does of the period being analyzed.

 

In case you haven't figured this out, I don't read squat. I know what the most critically-acclaimed films in history are due to osmosis or going to sites like They Shoot Pictures, Don't They and DVD Beaver or this message board, but that's about it. When I watch a film, I want to watch the film on my own terms, not someone else's. I have some knowledge of the time period a film was made, but I'm far from learned. So I'm judging the film on my own merits.

 

How does one account for these '30s gems: All Quiet on the the Western Front, Freaks, Scarface (and the rise the Gangster genre), Our Daily Bread, The Bride of Frankenstein, Fury, You Only Live Once, Only Angels Have Wings -- these are arguably closer to film noir (which, most would argue, did not yet exist -- yeah, right) than the usual conception of "escapist". Or these "normal" and "realistic" movies of the '40s: The Palm Beach Story, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Paleface, On the Town, The Pirate, Samson and Delilah.

 

As I wrote to Molo above, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule, especially when dealing with a large body of work. My question to you is, are those the exceptions or the rule? What have YOU found in YOUR film journey? What's Hollywood of the 30s to YOU? What's post-WWII Hollywood (through the 50s) to YOU. I ask you these questions because I greatly value your opinion... so long as it's your opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*That is exactly what I think of with the Hollywood films of the 30s. I consider it a decade of performers and scripts more so than directors. The visuals are that of costumes and sets more so than cinematography. I'm also under the impression that the characters were less complex, less mysterious. I'm throwing all of this out there to be corrected, by the way. I'm wanting to be very wrong. I'm looking to be directed.*

 

From everything I've come across, Frank Capra was incredibly popular in the 30's, especially after *It Happened One Night*. He won 3 Oscars for best director for his 30's films, and he was also associated with good box-office. (Perhaps with the exception of *Lost Horizon*, from what I've heard). I'd venture to guess he may have been as much of a box-office attraction as JS or some of the other actors he directed.

 

*I really don't know too much about musicals. They have always struck me as being too artificial. Maybe I just need to see the right musicals.*

 

It's all about entertaining viewers. A musical like *West Side Story* showed that musicals could be gritty, too, but in earlier decades, movie goers seemed to prefer a big dose of escapism with their musicals. That's not to say that all or most of these musicals are going to be to everyone's taste, and it's possible you will never really warm up to these bubbly, carefree musicals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the darkness and cynicism of the characters. Most seem to believe that they have nothing to lose or that they have seen it all before so what the heck. It seems that maybe they can catch a break but if not ok. There is always one character that is so stunningly amoral it makes all the rest interesting as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've suspected my fondness stems from slight fantasy of the noirish life-style. I always think I'd have been trickier than Richard Basehart in HE WALKED BY NIGHT (or aboard the Seaview, for that matter). I like to think I too would have told the TV repairman to 'fix the TV' like James Gleason did in SUDDENLY. And I think Sterling Hayden shoulda pulled his gun when he first walked into the late-night meeting with Louis Calhern and his friend Bob in ASPHALT JUNGLE. He coulda been ridin' with the horses in the Kentucky bluegrass if he'd had the drop on Friend Bob.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So nice to see you in the shady part of town again, Ollie! :)

 

Your post made me wonder if many men see themselves in the characters in noir, or would like to?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*Your post made me wonder if many men see themselves in the characters in noir, or would like to?*

 

I've been wondering the same thing, April. Great minds... ;)

 

Ollie - nice to see you, too! B-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(We're still 3 weeks away from being 'home home' but we're enjoying snowy weather and I'm almost finished with my client-guests.)

 

Wifey also thinks 'projectionism' is one of the draws for her into films as well. Is that what I'd do? "Why are these people saying so many dumb lines - just shoot 'im and move on! Stop threatening and actually DO something!"

 

In UNION STATION, the cops have found one of the kidnapping accomplices and a half-dozen of them take the guy down some empty catwalk in front of an on-coming train. They talk SO casually about tossing him in front of the train. That's a great scene. Barry Fitzgerald gives him this kind of tip o' his hat, "Well, I asked, you lied, so there's nothing I can do for ya..." and these detectives are dangling him into the path of that train. Me? I've have spilled my guts when 6 or 7 of these brutes had me down in the tunnel by themselves!!

 

It's also a film that's got the blind girl shrieking away, almost certainly drawing the attention of the killer. I've never understood that - "Go play in the freeway" must have been her favorite game. I think she shoulda curled up in a fetal position and played dead. LOL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*(We're still 3 weeks away from being 'home home' but we're enjoying snowy weather and I'm almost finished with my client-guests.)*

 

Best luck with that, Ollie! B-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm going to go through all the posts on this thread, but of what I've read so far...my god, you should all write a book. Wonderful...well-said.

 

Ya shure started sumthin' MissGoddess! ;-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*I'm going to go through all the posts on this thread, but of what I've read so far...my god, you should all write a book. Wonderful...well-said.*

 

Awww, shucks, you're too kind. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been an education for me, CineMaven. I hope you'll continue to jump in whenever you

feel like it. I like getting both perspectives, male and female, on the subject.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*It's been an education for me, CineMaven. I hope you'll continue to jump in whenever you*

*feel like it. I like getting both perspectives, male and female, on the subject.*

 

Well said, April. I always enjoy CineMaven's comments. B-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think you could ever wear out your welcome here (or anywhere else on the TCM boards, for that matter) CineMaven. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*Molo wrote: In the depths of the depression and before enforcement of the code, films were* *grittier with more social commentary. Films like Gabriel Over the White House, Man's Castle,* *and Wild Boys of the Road pack more of a punch than films made after the enforcement of the* *code. Warner's was perceived as the more masculine studio but they had to eventually change* *their heroes from the gangsters to the G-Men. Compare a pre-code film like Mayor of Hell to it's* *tamer remake Crime School.*

 

*Frank wrote: Excellent! That's the kind of answer I was seeking. I have never seen any of these films and they look to be the kind of 30s films I should look to check out. The next question I have for you is, do those films have a visual style?*

 

Hi Frank,

Sorry I've been so long responding but I'm a bit under the weather. Visual style? I have a hard time answering that with any authority. In the thirties each studio had a particular general style like the MGM gloss and the more gritty Warner Brother's. I think individually directors like William Wellman had a certain visual style. Busby Berkley certainly had something visual that went beyond the kaleidescope, but outside of the Universal Horror pictures I can't say that anything jumps out at me. I'm certainly not saying they didn't. It's just that I can't make a general connection in my head right now. I think other posters could though. Certain scenes jump out at me like the rape scene in *Wild Boys of the Road.* The mob scenes and quick cutting close ups in *Fury.* Did the films I mentioned above have a connecting visual style? I don't think they necessarily did

 

*Frank wrote:I never knew Lang insisted on Sylvia being in his first two American films. That's fascinating. I ended up liking Sylvia because of those two films, too. I like her in Sabotage, as well. What I haven't seen with Sylvia just yet is range. She played the same note in the films I have seen of her. It just happens to be a note that I really like and I like her way of playing it.*

 

Did anyone ever look sadder and photograph more beautifully being sad than Sylvia Sidney? You can hardly blame the studios for typecasting her. She didn't like it of course. I agree though that she is very good at playing that type of role. A film I have on my watch list is called *Thirty Day Princess.* I've read she is very good in this rare (for her) comedy opposite Cary Grant. It's on DVD.

 

*Frank wrote:That is exactly what I think of with the Hollywood films of the 30s. I consider it a decade of performers and scripts more so than directors. The visuals are that of costumes and sets more so than cinematography. I'm also under the impression that the characters were less complex, less mysterious. I'm throwing all of this out there to be corrected, by the way. I'm wanting to be very wrong. I'm looking to be directed.*

 

*Frank wrote:I also like my share of light, including films from the 30s, like My Man Godfrey. But my preference is that of films from the 40s and 50s, particularly those post-WWII. If I was to come up with my list of my all-time favorite classic films, I don't know how many Hollywood films from the 30s would make the cut compared to those from the 40s and 50s. I'm trying to figure out the whys. I say all of this while pleading ignorance. I haven't seen nearly enough films from the 30s to know for sure if I will like them as much as the films of the 40s and 50s. Something tells me that I won't, hence my asking for the opinion of you (and others) on the topic. What I'm asking is basically an offshoot of Miss G's thread here. I'm a huge fan of film noir, so what's there for a fan of film noir to like from Hollywood of the 30s? What is most similar to it?*

 

We have mentioned some films already. Have you seen *The Petrified Forest* ? How about Mayo Methot's performance in *Virtue* or Aline MacMahon's in *Heat Lightning* ? I'm sure there are films that are similar in tone. I'll get back to you. Hopefully someone else will have some suggestions.

 

 

*Frank wrote: Westerns are big for me. John Ford definitely put westerns on the map and then others, like Anthony Mann, continued to take them further, make them more complex. Westerns were no longer the simplistic and quite predictable "white hat tracks down the black hat."*

 

Exactly! Darker and more complex to me. I should have mentioned them as well. Anthony Mann made his mark in noir films before going in to Westerns.

 

*Frank wrote:I really don't know too much about musicals. They have always struck me as being too artificial. Maybe I just need to see the right musicals*.

 

Well musicals aren't to everyone's taste. The backstage musicals of the thirties had a story and then big extravagant stage numbers that were not integrated into the story. *Footlight Parade* is a very enjoyable film about Cagney trying to survive the transition to talkies by creating musical prologues for pictures.There are a lot of crazy subplots and it really plays like a comedy with no real musical productions until the very end when you get three big ones in a row. Sometimes these numbers can have significant social relevance to Depression era audiences. Check out the very powerful "Forgotten Man" number performed by Joan Blondell and a great but uncredited Etta Moten in *Gold Diggers of 1933.*

 

 

 

The Astaire/Rogers films create a certain magic for me that other films can't. I appreciate the artistry and often the humor. In fact, *The Gay Divorcee* is one of the funniest films I've ever seen, mainly due to it's brilliant supporting cast. I could go on and on about musicals but this is a noir thread so I'll stop. The Fox war musicals, the MGM musicals create a certain mood and are enhanced by their very artificial and escapist nature. It's alright not to like musicals. I'm an extreme case because as I have said before, I like all genres of film except operettas and I want to like those. Whether that makes me well rounded or just shallow I don't know. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*Sometimes these numbers can have significant social relevance to Depression era audiences. Check out the very powerful "Forgotten Man" number performed by Joan Blondell and a great but uncredited Etta Moten in Gold Diggers of 1933.*

 

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37-ocetYDdU*

 

I liked that number. Thanks for the clip. Personally, I still find it hard to believe that there are people who like music but don't like any kind of musical. But to each their own. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MrsCooper and I had a brief discussion of this number when she brought it up several months ago. :)

 

http://forums.tcm.com/jive/tcm/thread.jspa?messageID=8088840

 

The feeling behind a Musical number is important. Some are just catchy, some tell a story, some convey feeling. Frank brought up the song East to Love from *Side Street* as an example of the latter. Songs are often used so effectively in noir, particularly blues and torch songs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*MrsCooper and I had a brief discussion of this number when she brought it up several months ago. :)*

 

I clicked on the link to the YouTube clip from *Gold Diggers of 1933*... it says it has been "removed due to terms of use violation"... :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=CineMaven wrote:}{quote}

> Ladies, I humbly thank you. I promise NOT to wear out my welcome on these threads.

 

No danger of that, I assure you. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=ChiO wrote:}{quote}

>

> I'll let _the_ movie speak for me.

>

> Bart: Two people dead, just so we can live without working!

>

> Annie Laurie Starr: Come on, Bart, let's finish it the way we started it: on the level.

>

> Bart: We go together, Annie. I don't know why. Maybe like guns and ammunition go together.

>

> Packett: I saw the two of you, the way you were looking at each other tonight, like a couple of wild animals. Almost scared me.

> Annie Laurie Starr: It should. He's a MAN.

>

> Packett: Honey, I'll make money like you want me to. Big money. But it takes time, you gotta give me time.

> Annie Laurie Starr: You'll never make big money. You're a two-bit guy.

> Packett: Honey, listen...

> Annie Laurie Starr: No guts, nothing! I want action!

>

> I'll have to get back to you, Miss Kitty March. After all, tonight is *TIMOTHY CAREY* night!!!!

>

> Signed,

> G.P.

 

 

Somehow I completely _missed_ reading this reply, mon General, I do apologize.

 

I've never seen *Gun Crazy* but Annie Laurie's lines sound like....sound like....they

sound like ME! Oh my goodness! I think I have to watch this film now. WHy didn't

you post dialogue from it before? I would have already seen it by now. :P

 

P.S. Maybe I better not watch it---it may only reinforce my worst instincts. Spittin' grape

seeds is nothing to what I'm already capable of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

molo, I've gotten so much education out of your brilliantly informative post!

 

And here's that respite from all the darkness:

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...