Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

A Walk on the Noir Side


rohanaka

Recommended Posts

Thank you, MissG! This is how I usually get interested in movies - through the stars that were in them. I need a personality to cling to in a movie, someone I like or empathize with. This Q and A should be just the ticket into noir for me.

 

And to Mr. Grey -

 

If it was so easy to dupe Charles MacGraw, then what kind of a cop is he? I understand it if some normal guy was duped, but Chuck is a cop. I also didn't like that he appeared so nervous. I don't mind him _being_ nervous, but he showed it too much.

Link to post
Share on other sites

_MissG_ wrote: *He's already upset I'm sure that Wagon Master was even mentioned in his beloved noir universe. (ChiO, too)*

 

*You can't escape Ford!*

 

Unfortunately, apparently truer words have never been written. Imagine...sullying a thread focusing on the great "F" directors Fuller and Fleischer, and then mentioning _that_ name. Truly a noir moment.

 

And speaking of A Walk on the Noir Side, I'm hoping to see this afternoon on the Big Screen my favorite Anthony Mann/John Alton noir, He Walked By Night. I feel overcome by shadows already.

 

And this may give you some comfort. Upon reflection, I am prepared to state that I disagree with _Mr. Grimes_ (aka Mr. Grey) regarding his characterization of noir (or its characters) being "grey" (if that is an inaccurate characterization, I apologize and throw myself on the mercy of Lawrence Tierney). Noir and its major characters are either (a) black, or (B) black _and_ white. There is no grey. The black and white co-exist separately in the same character and it is that juxtaposition that makes noir so fascinating to me.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a nice mixture of "black" and "gray" and some "white" characters always makes noirs more interesting. If all characters were along the same lines, it would probably be pretty boring. Much of the fun is trying to figure out who is the "blackest" and how far they will go to get what they want, and how much the "gray" characters can compromise their views if they need to, because they know they can't do things in the "right" way.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And this may give you some comfort. Upon reflection, I am prepared to state that I disagree with Mr. Grimes (aka Mr. Grey) regarding his characterization of noir (or its characters) being "grey" (if that is an inaccurate characterization, I apologize and throw myself on the mercy of Lawrence Tierney). Noir and its major characters are either (a) black, or (B) black and white. There is no grey. The black and white co-exist separately in the same character and it is that juxtaposition that makes noir so fascinating to me.

 

Oh my golly.... Mr. ChiO sir.... are you by any chance my long lost cousin???????????????????????? ha. :-)

 

And PS: (to you and the Grey Dude both I ask)

 

Re FORD and Noir (oh I hate to get on the wrong side of a new found family member...) What about... The Whole Town's Talking????? (which I saw several months ago, by the way, and really liked a lot.)

 

I WOULD have asked about The Informer too... but I understand that one is open for debate whether it is a Noir or NotNoir. :-)

 

(And PS again, for the record... I had to copy and paste too.... I am about to hit reply for the second time.. if you are reading this... it worked.)

 

Edited by: rohanaka on Sep 23, 2009 11:44 AM

Link to post
Share on other sites

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

> I WOULD have asked about The Informer too... but I understand that one is open for debate whether it is a Noir or NotNoir. :-)

 

I didn't know it was even open to debate. By most definitions, the period of classic American noir lasted roughly from the early 40s to the late 50s. If we go by that definition, no 30s movie can be pure noir, although there are certainly some which share some characteristics in common - Ford's The Informer and Lang's You Only Live Once are sometimes thought of as proto-noirs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that most of the femme fatales in "noir" (Greer in OUT OF THE PAST, Stanwyck

in DOUBLE INDEMNITY) are "black" characters.

 

Yes, I definitely agree with that.

 

Who is an example of a "black" male noir protagonist? Tierney in BORN TO KILL?

 

That's a good question. Tierney is certainly "black" in Born to Kill, so you're right

about that. But I don't consider him to be the protagonist. I believe Claire Trevor's character

is the "pro." I view Tierney's character as the antagonist.

 

You would think Sterling Hayden's characters in The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle

to be "black," but I view them as "grey." I sympathize with both and I wish for them to

succeed despite their "black" undertakings. This is why I consider them to be "grey"

and why I consider film noir to be the "greyest" of all "genres."

 

You know, I'm not sure I can think of a "black" protagonist in film noir. I'm

struggling. Maybe those who know the world better than I can toss us a few.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't remember if I have seen Born to Kill, but Lawrence Tierney in The Devil Thumbs a Ride certainly seems to me to be a fairly "black" character.

 

Kirk Douglas in I Walk Alone and Ray Milland in Alias Nick Beal also seem to me about as black as they can get.

 

I suspect a lot of screenwriters started out with what seemed like a fairly "black" character but gave him a redeeming feature or two at the last minute, to make it a bit harder for the audience to respond in the most basic way, which is to dislike or root against the "black" character and to cheer for those who are gray, who show redeeming features. I do think the most interesting villains generally tend to show some redeeming features, but that's just a strictly personal opinion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

*And this may give you some comfort. Upon reflection, I am prepared to state that I disagree with Mr. Grimes (aka Mr. Grey) regarding his characterization of noir (or its characters) being "grey" (if that is an inaccurate characterization, I apologize and throw myself on the mercy of Lawrence Tierney). Noir and its major characters are either (a) black, or (B) black and white. There is no grey. The black and white co-exist separately in the same character and it is that juxtaposition that makes noir so fascinating to me. - ChiO*

 

I think I'm getting a headache. :)

 

*I disrespectfully disagree! I believe the protagonists in film noir are mostly grey. The "white"*

*characters are usually gals like Ann Miller (Virginia Huston in Out of the Past). You'll*

*find "black" characters like Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer in Out of the Past). And then*

*there is our "grey" hero, Jeff (Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past). The "heroes" of*

*film noir tend to be terribly flawed, which makes them "grey." And film noir will often show*

*our flawed heroes doing both good and bad. In a genre like "westerns," the bad "past" of our*

*hero is often just intimated or referred to, rarely seen. - FrankGrimes*

 

No wait, I'm sure I'm getting a headache. :D

 

I've always thought of the characters as grey. The idea of the black and white co-existing separately is either a great new insight to consider or another way of saying the same thing. If the black and white are separate within the individual then there is a struggle going on as to which impulse the character will follow. Doesn't that make the character grey? That inner struggle being a defining characteristic, and where does hapless Jeff Bailey fit into all of this?

 

I must ponder this more.

 

Welcome to the dark side Kathy! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not very used to this "black-white-gray" analysis, but it seems to me that if noir is always going to be about exploring the darkest recesses of the human spirit, then the protagonists by definition almost always will have to hesitate a bit between doing the right thing and doing something rotten.

 

To me, the most interesting ones are going to be about the guys who could have been good, but did the wrong thing, fell to their own worst temptations, and paid the price for it, like Swede in The Killers and Walter Neff in Double Indemnity.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always thought of the characters as grey. The idea of the black and white

co-existing separately is either a great new insight to consider or another way

of saying the same thing. If the black and white are separate within the individual

then there is a struggle going on as to which impulse the character will follow. Doesn't

that make the character grey? That inner struggle being a defining characteristic,

 

Nicely said. What you wrote is what I believe. You do a much better job of expressing

than I do.

 

"White" characters are generally straightforward and "black" characters are

generally straightforward. It's the pesky "grey" characters that leave you wondering.

 

As Jackie said before, The Narrow Margin is more of a "black and white" film

noir. It's very much like a western, in that regard. A film like Scarlet Street is

where you are going to see some blurring. You'll see plenty of "black" and some

"white," and lots of "grey." Your feelings for the protagonist will be challenged. That's

film noir.

 

Typically, in "black and white" films, your feelings for the "pro" are already set. There

is less thinking and feeling involved when things are "black and white."

 

and where does hapless Jeff Bailey fit into all of this?

 

He's grey! One of the ultimate film noir "heroes."

Link to post
Share on other sites

*The idea of the black and white co-existing separately is either a great new insight to consider...*

 

I'll accept that.

 

*...or another way of saying the same thing.*

 

Probably, unfortunately, nearer the Truth.

 

_Mr. Grimes_ is blending black and white and coming out with a gray (or, grey)...or a undefinable wishy-washy amalgam. I view the black and white as distinct and in constant conflict as to which one will prevail. But we both end up at, or near, the same place...an ambiguous character fighting him or her Self and Fate.

 

But on to more Freudian matters: Having seen *He Walked By Night* several times, but today for the first time on the big screen, all (well, not all) I can say is "WOW!!!" And, as with any great movie, I noticed something that hadn't hit me before. Basehart is in Bissell's office with "his" sonograph for Bissell to sell on consignment. It is special to him. It is positioned between his legs. He is fondling it. Query: Is that gray (or, grey)?

 

Edited by: ChiO on Sep 23, 2009 9:18 PM

Link to post
Share on other sites

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

> _Mr. Grimes_ is blending black and white and coming out with a gray (or, grey)...or a undefinable wishy-washy amalgam. I view the black and white as distinct and in constant conflict as to which one will prevail. But we both end up at, or near, the same place...an ambiguous character fighting him or her Self and Fate.

 

That's more or less what I was trying to say earlier. The character may be fighting fate, or their own worst instincts.

 

> But on to more Freudian matters: Having seen *He Walked By Night* several times, but today for the first time on the big screen, all (well, not all) I can say is "WOW!!!" And, as with any great movie, I noticed something that hadn't hit me before. Basehart is in Bissell's office with "his" sonograph for Bissell to sell on consignment. It is special to him. It is positioned between his legs. He is fondling it. Query: Is that gray (or, grey)?

 

Can't help you there, sorry!

Link to post
Share on other sites

How do, ChicagOwen -- Mr. Grimes is blending black and white and coming out

with a gray (or, grey)...or a undefinable wishy-washy amalgam.

 

I'm just looking for something to reflect my image! Wishy-washy is perfect.

 

I view the black and white as distinct and in constant conflict as to which one will

prevail.

 

Yes, but in film noir, you're gonna get a mix of the two from one. I can't think of a "genre"

that does this any better. And, remember, I view film noir as moral tales, which means

black and white. It's just that the protagonists tend to be terribly grey. Human.

 

But we both end up at, or near, the same place...an ambiguous character fighting him

or her Self and Fate.

 

This is true. Ambiguous equals grey! :P Just ask Quiet Gal.

 

But on to more Freudian matters: Having seen He Walked By Night several times,

but today for the first time on the big screen, all (well, not all) I can say is "WOW!!!"

And, as with any great movie, I noticed something that hadn't hit me before. Basehart

is in Bissell's office with "his" sonograph for Bissell to sell on consignment. It is

special to him. It is positioned between his legs. He is fondling it. Query: Is that gray

(or, grey)?

 

You know, it has been forever since I watched the film and that's why I don't even rank

it in my "seen" film noir list. I really need to hit "refresh." I'll keep a lookout for the

Freudian uhhhh... yeah. Ahhhhh, film noir.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I really don't see characters as colors, but as people with human failings that are much like ourselves. Fate is a word often associated with Noir and bandied about by characters (and writers), but I would argue that this is an intentional misdirection. We all have the potential for good or evil, and conflict in the genre is defined by personal choice. Rationalization is never effective in Noir. It might fool the protagonist for awhile, but in the end, there is usually a point of revelation where he or she must come to grips with who they are and the choices they have made.

Link to post
Share on other sites

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

> I really don't see characters as colors, but as people with human failings that are much like ourselves. Fate is a word often associated with Noir and bandied about by characters (and writers), but I would argue that this is an intentional misdirection. We all have the potential for good or evil, and conflict in the genre is defined by personal choice. Rationalization is never effective in Noir. It might fool the protagonist for awhile, but in the end, there is usually a point of revelation where he or she must come to grips with who they are and the choices they have made.

 

An excellent point. There may be elements of fate involved, but I would agree with you that the protagonists still get to make the choices that will determine the outcome of the story - and their destiny with it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

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

> I really don't see characters as colors, but as people with human failings that are much like ourselves. Fate is a word often associated with Noir and bandied about by characters (and writers), but I would argue that this is an intentional misdirection. We all have the potential for good or evil, and conflict in the genre is defined by personal choice. Rationalization is never effective in Noir. It might fool the protagonist for awhile, but in the end, there is usually a point of revelation where he or she must come to grips with who they are and the choices they have made.

 

This discussion leads me to ask the question:

 

How much reality is there in film noir? Human failings and choices made that have to be dealt with make me think it a highly realistic form. However, I see all the trappings of noir (lighting, costuming, set design, camera angles) as highly unreal, or even surreal.

 

OK. I'm off to bed. Just thought I'd throw that out - perhaps you'll be up all night now....sweet dreams, boys. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I really don't see characters as colors

 

Colors or lines or whatever kind of term you wish to use, characters are drawn a

certain way. In film noir, many are presented as a contrast and/or choice for the

protagonist, for film noir is often about decisions. You've got "Kathie" and you've

got "Ann." The audience is going to "see" the color or "feel" the line.

 

but as people with human failings that are much like ourselves.

 

That all depends. Do we associate with Max Cady (Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear)?

 

Fate is a word often associated with Noir and bandied about by characters

(and writers), but I would argue that this is an intentional misdirection. We all

have the potential for good or evil, and conflict in the genre is defined by personal

choice.

 

That's how I also view film noir, Arkadin. Although, there are times when the protagonists

in film noir are shoved into a situation that is not entirely of their choosing.

 

Rationalization is never effective in Noir. It might fool the protagonist for awhile, but in

the end, there is usually a point of revelation where he or she must come to grips with

who they are and the choices they have made.

 

That's excellent. And this is why I ultimately view film noir as morality tales. We

see the choices and we see the results. More can be learned from bad than

good. Unhappy is gonna make you think more than happy.

Link to post
Share on other sites

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

> How much reality is there in film noir? Human failings and choices made that have to be dealt with make me think it a highly realistic form. However, I see all the trappings of noir (lighting, costuming, set design, camera angles) as highly unreal, or even surreal.

 

The human element is true to life, I guess, but the trappings are all highly stylized.

Link to post
Share on other sites

How much reality is there in film noir? Human failings and choices made that

have to be dealt with make me think it a highly realistic form. However, I see all

the trappings of noir (lighting, costuming, set design, camera angles) as highly

unreal, or even surreal.

 

The situations and feelings are realistic but the surroundings are artificial, which

I believe to be typical of most film. Having said that, I think film noir is more

realistic than most "genres" because it mostly takes place in "real" settings

and in "real" time and with "real" people with "real" problems, especially financial.

As a guy, I can associate more with film noir than I can most any other "genre."

 

I'm not in a war, I'm not a mad scientist, I'm not dancing and singing, I'm not riding

horses with a holster, I'm not living in a lighthouse, I don't have a butler and throw

cocktail parties with the rich. But what goes in film noir can be me. I can be with a

femme fatale at an urban club.

Link to post
Share on other sites

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

> The situations and feelings are realistic but the surroundings are artificial, which

> I believe to be typical of most film. Having said that, I think film noir is more

> realistic than most "genres" because it mostly takes place in "real" settings

> and in "real" time and with "real" people with "real" problems, especially financial.

> As a guy, I can associate more with film noir than I can most any other "genre."

 

The really good noirs are not realistic at all, in my opinion, because the characters they present are such archetypes, and because the settings are usually also highly stylized, oftentimes in ways influenced by German expressionism. A good noir is not inherently any more realistic than a good western, in the sense that we know real life doesn't quite work like that, although it can certainly involve somewhat small dilemmas for people.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The idea that individuals have varying degrees of "good" and "bad" qualities which go to

make up the ambiguous nature of their character is as old as the hills. The not so old

I contain multitudes riff. Most of the antagonists in noir don't seem to be completely

evil. Tommy Udo is pretty mean but he displays a certain snarling sense of humor

occasionally. One of the most sadistic that I can think of was a supporting player,

Neville Brand as Chester in D.O.A. He really gets off on sticking his gun in Edmond

O'Brien's tender stomach. Again and again.

 

Like other genres, noirs are, to some extent, a series of repeated gestures and looks that the audience comes to expect, though most are individual enough in their vision to keep things

interesting as they go through the paces. Not very realistic unless you're a small gauge

private eye or criminal. They are, for the most part, more fantastic than realistic in their

situations and characters. Many seem to be a form of visual slumming, where the

comfortable audience gets a peek at the "dark side" of life, at least as imagined

by Hollywood. Now you can sit in your cozy chair, have a drink, and sit back and

watch some sucker scratch around in a series of big city dives. Of course this in no way compromises their entertainment value. It likely adds to it. I do take away one moral lesson from these films: Never leave a loaded gun around the premises. You're apt to be shot in the back.

By the most unlikeliest of people.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

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