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FILM NOIR -Love it, Hate it, or not sure?


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You didn't come off as pompous as all misswonderly. Thanks for posting that.


I know we have talked about the definition often in the Film Noir board but I do have to say that after you have watched about 10 - even the A noirs...you will just know a noir when you see one. It will have that feeling to it.....even if it's a B.


Sansfin - interesting observation about middle ground. I think I have come to the point where I am so biased that if a noir isn't that good, I will still enjoy it for the elements that were good in it. There are some noirs out there with obvious plot holes or that solely rely on the extreme incompetence of the police.


jamesjazzguitar - I think I agree since I tend to balance my noir viewings with the other genres. I'm willing to give any film a try, but I can watch noirs over and over again


JefCostello - right on! To date, there is not a single noir that I couldn't get through or wouldn't watch again. I can't say that for any other type of film.


markbeckuaf - Whenever I talk about films with people who may have never heard of the term film noir, I usually just say "crime/mystery/gangster" movies. I don't care what it's labeled, if it involved a murder or prohibition or double crossing and was released between 1930 to 1960, I guarantee I will sit through it at least once. TCM has made me love those early "whodunit" type films from the 30s that pop up on the schedule occasionally in the 6am or 7:30AM EST block as well as series like Philo Vance, Thin Man, The Falcon, The Saint, and the Whistler.


Mugs Mahoney - interesting post. I think at the most for film noir to be available on demand and be identified as such would be a treat to many. I also wish many of the unseen films were available to be viewed online and possible restored for television viewing and DVD release.

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You're good. Chiefly around the eyes, when you say things like, "You will help me won't you, Mr. Spade?"


it's not as though Robert Siodmak or Jules Dassin ( for instance) decided "Yes, I'm going to make a film noir . I'd better make sure it has an element of crime the story, and lots of shadows..."


That's probably why they're so good. Label? Category? Who cares? It's a movie. Let's watch. There are some some serious comedies, or humorous dramas, that defy the pigeon hole just as effectively. Is HOLIDAY funny? Is THE APARTMENT sad? Chaplin's best work hits so many levels it's astonishing. HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is an epic story of love and repression. Yet, many consider it a horror film.


The noir elements add a lot to a crime drama. The atmosphere, the choice, the consequences. But MALTESE FALCON doesn't throw that in your face. It's more a straightforward telling of a constantly twisting story. The great gangster tales are dark, character driven, and end unhappily. But they're wilder and more energetic than say, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT or SCARLET STREET.


Even color doesn't preclude a movie's fitting the description. BODY HEAT is the best example, even if it is overwhelmingly like James Cain. It's as noir as just about anything else. The director John Dahl has poked around in the area with good, and colorful, results. Like other posters, I love a story of deception, revenge, human frailty and the evils wrought by it. Is it noir? Is it something else? You tell me, baby. I'm just along for the ride!


Edited by: redriver on Sep 13, 2010 3:19 PM

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Ah, the inevitable lists. Here's mine, with the caveat that like all my lists of favourites, whatever type of film under discussion, it is constantly changing:

In no particular order:









THE KILLING (not to be confused with THE KILLERS, which invariably puts me to sleep)





Oops, that's more than 10. Honourable mention: THE BIG COMBO, ROADHOUSE, SUNSET BOULEVARD, TENSION

I did not put THE BIG SLEEP on the list, although I love it, because it's so funny , I regard it as much as a comedy as a noir. Also not mentioned " many HItchcock films, because Hitch is kind of in his own category.



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I pick favorite noirs based on how the women are written and played.


There are a few different ways, and I would say Barbara Stanwyck shows us more than any other lead actress, how they are best represented:


_Victims at the Mercy of Abusive Male Figures_





_Power to even the score_






_Somewhere in-between_

CRY WOLF...she is no wilting flower, though it's clear Flynn's character has the upper hand

Then, there are westerns with noir elements, such as

THE FURIES...she is victimized by her father but brings him to his knees

TROOPER HOOK...she has been kidnapped by a tribe of violent natives but survives

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Babs is always good to watch, whatever she's in. I really like that "Word of Mouth " short about her, courtesy of Jennifer Jason Leigh, a current actress whom I like a lot.


If you're going to rate noirs from the female point of view, I'm surprised you didn't mention all those Joan Crawford pictures, many of which fall more or less into the noir category.

You know, Joan-o-dramas. *Mildred Pierce* of course comes to mind, but she made many others melodramas that flirt with noir.

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What I love about Noir is that nobody ever really gets away with anything. If you're in a Noir movie and you think you have, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. There's some detail you've forgotten that comes back to haunt you. If you get acquitted of a crime you committed, you'll be convicted of a crime you didn't commit.


Noir scenes I love:


*Double Indemnity:* Edward G. Robinson's speech on, of all things, actuarial tables and suicide. Robinson telling Fred McMurray he'll never make the elevator, and being right. McMurray telling Robinson "I love you, too."


*The Maltese Falcon:* Peter Lorre mildly asking for his gun back, then turning it on Bogart and saying (for a second time) that he intends to search Bogart's offices.

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The Joan Crawford films in this vein, namely the ones she made at Warners, almost seem to be in their own category. Are they women's pics? Are they film noir? Or a combination of both?


And Joan doesn't ever seem to play a femme fatale. She surely could, because she has it going on in the looks department...but she seems to play women who have been victimized and are trying to reclaim a bit of dignity, despite questionable morals. You can root for her more than you can for some of Stanwyck's hardened dames.


Among the ones where Crawford is given more than a measure of sympathy:


DAISY KENYON...caught in an unfortunate love triangle, as the other woman.

POSSESSED...late forties offering where she is in a deteriorated mental condition.

MILDRED PIERCE...a driven career woman trying to protect her daughter.

HUMORESQUE...in a loveless marriage and under the charming spell of John Garfield

THE DAMNED DON'T CRY...tangled up in the web of a powerful syndicate

FLAMINGO ROAD...her most sypathetic role, as a woman railroaded by Sidney Greenstreet.

SUDDEN FEAR...a career woman trying to survive a murderous husband

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I think Crawford is one of the most brilliant actresses of her generation...it is a testament to her talent that she was able to basically make her own 'genre.'


As for Stanwyck, probably my favorite picture of hers is REMEMBER THE NIGHT. Though it's a Preston Sturges film with the accent on comedy, it has some dark moments and is considered by film historians as an early pseudo-noir. I think it gives Stanwyck the perfect opportunity to oscillate from pathos to hilarity. There is that hysterically funny bit where she starts a fire at a police precinct than in the very next scene he is taking her to her childhood home and we see that she lived a hard life. (And of course, Stanwyckphiles know that she had a rough upbringing in real life, so there is a lot of truth in those scenes.)


Another actress I like and she did not have the chance to do film noir is Marie Dressler. She is another one who keeps you on your toes, going from pathos to comedy on the turn of a dime. And what makes her so unusual is that she doesn't rely on the script to change the tone of the character from one scene to the next, like with a passage of time in the narrative. She switches from funny to sad and back to funny again usually in the same scene, and sometimes in the middle of the same line of dialogue.


Dressler was often cast in loud-mouth roles, usually in women's pics...but I think it would've been interesting to see her as a ruthless noir type, like playing the May Whitty role in MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS or a female version of the Greenstreet role in FLAMINGO ROAD. And as much as I adore Margaret Wycherly, Marie Dressler would've been the _perfect_ Ma with James Cagney in WHITE HEAT.

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Misswonderly's Sept. 12 description of what makes a movie "film Noir" was on the spot. I was going to kick in my opinions but she skillfully beat me to it.


I know Jules Dassin directed The Naked Citywhich is more like a documentary than Noir but did he do other films in the genre? I remember the TV show from the 50's-60's which is a genuine classic, gritty and realistic in terms of story and consequences. It came as close to Noir as they would let TV be. Besides CityI only know Dassin from Never on Sunday which definately belongs on another thread.


As for the genre-they don't make then like this any more. Want to add a crying sun but don't know how to add those cute little cartoons yet.

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Dressler was only in her mid-60s when she succumbed to cancer. If only she had gone another 20 years, there would've been some really great MGM films of the 40s and 50s with her. I wonder how they would've used her in war films in the 40s. Maybe she would've done the lead in THE WAR AGAINST MRS. HADLEY. Interesting thought.


Speaking of Crawford, I was looking at her filmography and there's a picture she did near the end of her Warners contract in which she seems a bit more criminal...but it looks like the boyfriend is the violent one, and she again is allowed to win the audience's sympathy and a new lover:


From the synopsis for THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS:


Beth Austin (Joan Crawford) is the leader of a hold-up gang and the mistress of its most cold-blooded killer Matt Jackson (David Brian). She has suffered from failing eyesight and travels to a distant state for an operation. Her lover promises to lay low until she returns. At the hospital, Beth and her doctor Ben Halleck (Dennis Morgan) fall in love. Meanwhile, Jackson becomes suspicious of his mistress's lengthy recovery period and sends a detective to snoop about. Beth breaks off her relationship with the doctor, hoping to dissuade Jackson from committing any harm against him. Jackson travels to the hospital planning to wipe out the man who has displaced him in Beth's affections. The FBI steps in before any violence is done. Beth is promised leniency, and looks forward to a life with the doctor after a short prison sentence.



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> What I love about Noir is that nobody ever really gets away with anything. If you're in a Noir movie and you think you have, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. There's some detail you've forgotten that comes back to haunt you. If you get acquitted of a crime you committed, you'll be convicted of a crime you didn't commit.



This is not because of the conventions of the noir genre. In fact, the formula would probably dictate that the criminal hood or femme fatale keep on acting destructive and go on without getting caught. Or that if they were brought down, they wouldn't stay down for long, because they would know how to bribe someone on the other side of the law to spring them.


It's the Hollywood production code and the prevailing morals of the time that make these characters get their comeuppance and a dose of justice meted out.


But if these movies were made post 1968 the outcomes would be different...probably there would be more ambiguous endings like the kind we find in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. And in a film like THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, they would not both wind up dead in a murder-suicide.


Another film worth mentioning is THE BLUE DAHLIA. Originally, Raymond Chandler intended for the returning war vet to be the killer. But that proved to be against the code and it also would've meant less of a market for the film, since patriotism was at an all-time high in North America. The filmmakers had to change the ending and pin the murder on another character...even though clues throughout the movie suggest the vet is the actual culprit.

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Thanks for the compliment, wouldbestar. It's always difficult trying to give even a rough description of film noir, because it's so hard to define. I know I must have left out a lot of points. Please give us your own take on the genre and its definition. - I'd love to hear it.


"Noirs" by Jules Dassin: BRUTE FORCE, THE NAKED CITY, NIGHT AND THE CITY, and THIEVES' HIGHWAY. I've never seen the last one.


MyFavouriteFilm, while it's true the that the creators of this type of film had to adhere to the "code" as much as everyone else, it seems to me that sometimes they skirted it a little. Yes, the bad guys usually get it in the end, but once in a while somebody got away with something. But I'd have to think about it to come up with any titles where this happens.

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Great point about the production code. I believe this impacted many noir endings but I would have to review the original source material to be sure on any specific movie.


The Blue Dahlia would of been better in my view if the war vet had been the killer. He had a plate in his head and this caused him major headaches and due to his war trama, it would of sent a message about the impact of war on men instead of the typical ending it had; the corrupt house dick.

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

> LoveFilmNoir,baby, our posts "collided". You got to Jules Dassin first. :)


We love our Dassin!


I don't have an order of my favorites but here are randomly some noirs off the top of my head I can watch over and over and over and over again:





























MY GUN IS QUICK (I need to get my hands on this film again!!!)

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