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


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>>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.


SCARLET STREET is a good example, although it is made clear that the irony of fate can be a worse form of imprisonment.

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Because the production code forced the filmmakers to put nails on the coffins of these film noir (and gangster film) characters, it meant that there really could be no sequels-- everyone was usually dead or incarcerated for life by the final fadeout.


James, I agree that THE BLUE DAHLIA would've been much better if the war vet was the bad guy. But I guess it was too risky to suggest that war had a dehumanizing effect on the men who served.


Misswonderly, I look forward to your discussion of films where the characters did skirt around justice. I know that the flashback device was often used in these kinds of pictures. This implied that any wrong-doing or instances of someone evading justice were in the past, and the point of view of a wiser character was used to tell the story (even if he happened to be dead and he was telling us how he had met his violent end).

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_MyFavoriteFilm_ wrote: *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.*


Close, but the most recent tale I've read about this nearly doomed tale reveals that the Breen Office (the Code enforcers at the time) did _not_ force Paramount to change who committed the murder. According to Raymond Chandler, who wrote the story, it was the Navy Department who asked for the change. The Breen Office requested several other changes, which were made, revolving around Johnny (Alan Ladd) who Chandler had written to be more similar to Buzz (William Bendix) -- savagely brutal when under stress.


Which is not to say that the Breen Office wasn't delighted with the Navy's change or that the existence of the Code didn't impact on Paramount's willingness to make the change. But, to say "that proved to be against the code" doesn't tell the whole story.

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Thanks for the clarification on that. THE BLUE DAHLIA is one of my favorite noirs, but the ending is such a let-down.


I am also disappointed in the ending of SUSPICION. I think Cary Grant's character should've been a bad guy, not this sudden romantic figure at the end to give us (and Joan Fontaine's character) a happy ending.


Carol Reed does it right in THE RUNNING MAN twenty-five years later. He has Laurence Harvey literally shove someone off a cliff at high-speed...then he gets away for awhile, until a police dragnet finally closes in on him. The final moments, when wife Lee Remick catches up to him as he lies dying, it is still not revealed to the police his even greater crimes.

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



> I am also disappointed in the ending of SUSPICION. I think Cary Grant's character should've been a bad guy, not this sudden romantic figure at the end to give us (and Joan Fontaine's character) a happy ending.




Me too! Ive read that that was the original ending, but the studio heads thought that people wouldn't accept Grant as a killer. I would have--he was nicely ambiguous throughout, and the evidence just kept piling up...

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My favorite noir or noir-ish films:


The Asphalt Jungle


Out of the Past


Double Indemnity


The Postman Always Rings Twice




Pickup on South Street (for Thelma Ritter's wonderful performance as much as anything--Love her!)


The Letter


Hollywood Confidential


The Big Sleep




Touch of Evil


The Maltese Falcon


Le Jour se Leve


La Quai des Brumes


Blade Runner (and the book that inspired it...most of Phillip K Dick's work really)


The first 9/10ths of Keeper of the Flame (honorable mention)

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Some great lists here. I think DOUBLE INDEMNITY is the very best. Story, dialogue (unbelievable dialogue!), character and pace. This little treasure has it all. MALTESE FALCON is my second favorite. The story just never stops. OUT OF THE PAST may be the most typical. The epitome of the genre. DETOUR the most impressive when measured against budget. THE NARROW MARGIN answers to that too. But DETOUR doesn't even have a train! ASPHALT JUNGLE is one of those "in between" genres. Noir? Heist film? Whatever it is, it's wonderful. I also like:












and many others. But the library is closing. I have to go!

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You all have made some darn good points about the endings of some films.


I think if I had to analyze a huge bulk of noir films I would say that generally a big message in film noir is that "life isn't fair". Sometimes as I am watching the fate of a character like Victor Mature in KISS OF DEATH, it's my first thought - he has to give up the fast life and fast money and return to the family life supporting two daughters and a wife - which means getting a regular job. This is something that is still hard for felons to do today. In the film, Victor Mature wants this but it's going to cost him his street credibility and almost his life because now not only is he an informant but he's practically working undercover for the cops. Hey, life isn't fair.


Now, for my gripe. Film noir always plays the message that life isn't fair on the side of the bad guy, but not the good guy. I blame the production code for this. In several noirs the bad guy should have gotten away. In BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, the plot twist at the very end is what makes the film; however in DETOUR, Al should have gotten away with the crime...maybe in today's standards it would have left the door open for a DETOUR 2. We never get to see that message that sometimes victims don't get justice or closure. By the time a film noir is in the last scene, every murder is accounted for, all the two timing, embezzlement and blackmail has been exposed - it leaves almost nothing for the viewer to walk out of the movie and ponder on.


Sometimes these films seem cheaply wrapped up at the end (again, because of the production code) when it almost seems like even the director's vision was for the bad guy to get away. Couldn't at least ONE person get to enjoy their share in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE?


Also, I'd like to add that FALLEN ANGEL would have been superb if Alice Faye was the killer.


BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT may have been better with Joan Fontaine as the killer with a twist in her finding out who the woman was to her fiance (would have beefed up her part in this film as well)


SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT is definitely one of my favorite Fox noirs even though the pacing can be a little snoozefest-like in the beginning. The suspense and ending are really good. I really hope TCM leases this film, I think it would be popular discussion around these parts.

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Ok, you asked for it. I?ve been accused of ?lecturing? by another poster. If you find this true, let me know; I just think of myself as a humble poster with questions to ask and info to share.


The thing for me about Film Noir movies is that they have a high degree of morality even though they deal with some of the most vicious crimes. Sometimes the leads are decent on the outside but let themselves be suckered into the world of crime for money, pride, or what they think is love. Sometimes it is the real thing but doesn?t black out the quagmire they end up in. Even if they want to turn back they have often lost control and have to play it out with them-and us-hoping for a positive outcome. If not, the end is no cause for rejoicing but just the opposite.


Sometimes the kingpins are living high on the hog but the usually dark tone of the film-both b&w and story-show they can?t really enjoy it. If an underling isn?t trying to overtake them, the law is. It?s tough trying to look over both shoulders at once.


The women seem to be two types: the innocent drawn into the conflict by her feelings for a lead male-Cathy O?Donnell or Audrey Long-or the hard as nails moll-Claire Trevor, anyone-who sometimes finds herself falling for a ?good guy? but because she has gone along with so much of the villain?s skullduggery the code and justice-mostly the code-demand a 45 in the gut and a long death scene.


The atmosphere is dark and pessimistic or starts cheery but soon dissolves into the former. While it seems that people are ?getting away with it? they don?t really and it all catches up to them in the end. Crime doesn?t really pay in any of them in the long run. These stories were really morality plays done up in a sophisticated veneer and modern setting so the message got us under the radar before we even noticed. That they were able to be made at so little a cost and be so good is a point sadly lacking today-too much frosting and not enough cake or layers not tasty enough to stand by themselves. It?s obvious the people involved gave a damn and took pride in their work regardless of whether or not they were Oscar worthy. And Narrow Margin was.

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I think you are correct.


Some modern films have some very serious problems with them, that make them very bad for society in general.


For example, I saw a British TV version of ?Rebecca? in the late ?90s. It was on the PBS network:




The problem with this version is that Mr. DeWinter admits to his new wife that he purposely murdered Rebecca. So the new wife helps him cover up that fact during the inquiry, when the sunken boat is found.


This might be ok for some adults, but what about kids watching PBS. What kind of lesson is this movie giving kids, since it says that it was ok for Mr. DeWinter to kill his first wife, since she was ?bad?.


This, combined with other movies that have similar themes and endings, is teaching a whole new generation of kids that it?s ok to murder someone, even one?s wife or husband, if they are ?bad?, or if they just irritate us enough.


Is this a lesson we want our future spouses to learn when they are kids growing up? Is this a lesson that Americans want to teach their kids?

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I agree totally with what you said. Modern day movies lack alot of what the classic movies had in them. On one hand, which of today's movies do you say that are really good to watch, not many. I don't know most of the actors and actresses that are here today. I don't watch today's movies because of all the profanity and sex and nudeness in them. I am not into any of that. When I watch a movie I want to see something that will stick with me, romance films, dramas, comedies and biographies about famous people. Movies such as "Abe Lincoln in Illinois", "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Robin Hood, movies about Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, Robert Schumann, Elizabeth and Essex, Romeo and Juliet, How Green Was My Valley, most of the old musicals, especially made by MGM, and others, these are the kind of movies that I like and that I watch. I am so glad for Turner Classic Movies because they show these kind of movies all of the time. There are a few modern day movies shown now and then, but not very many. I enjoy watching an all day showing of an actress or actor, to find out what other movies that they starred in. Not too long ago I watched the movie, "It Happened One Night". I have seen this once before but I enjoyed seeing it again. It's very comical when Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable are standing beside a country road waiting for someone to come to pick them up. Clark Gable is funny at how he tries to stop cars. The time when he puts his finger to his nose and calls for a car I think is pretty well done, but I love Claudette's part where she is laying on top of the fence looking at him strangely and then after awhile she comes to him and asks him if she could do it, and when she lifts her dress up a little and points her foot a car puts on it's breaks and stops. I get a kick out of that. I love watching Shirley Temple. On a CD I have a song she sang, "Animal Crackers in My Soup", she does this fantastically. Sometimes when I hear this song I say to myself, "Sing it." The movie "The Little Princess" is a sad movie, especially in the scene where she is with her father before he goes off to war. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. They both love each other very much and she doesn't want him to go and he doesn't really want to go either. The affection that they show is something, but when he dad asks her to turn around and face the window he says something to her that she is to say back to him. It's hard for her to say it, but she does by saying, "My daddy has to go away." You can hear the emotion in her voice. It's harder that when she is saying it and she hears the door close, she stops, but then finishes the words. On the cheerful side I love watching her sing the song, "In the Good Ship Lollipop" with the men singing along with her. Take the movie, "The Wizard of Oz". There was a movie remake of this film done that they called, "The Wiz". It is not even near what the original movie was. In "Destry Rides Again", I love the scene where James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich and many other people are in a saloon having a good time. She takes a gun and turns around and points it right at him. People quickly step away. Then when she sees that this isn't working she starts throwing beer bottles at him, and then she gets a chair and throws it at him. But before she does, Jimmy says, "Now, come on lady." The finale in this movie is very well done, and the music just makes the scene much better. What about the movie, "Gone With the Wind"? If it were made today, would it be like the original? I like MGM movies because they had a lesson in them and sayings from the Bible were mixed in with the script. I could go on and on, but I think that you know what I am trying to say. The movies of the 30's, 40's and some from the 50's is the kind of movies that I watch, and I enjoy watching them.

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Love and others, good thoughts, great discussion!!


DETOUR is an interesting film. There are a lot of indications that we may not be able to even believe Tom Neal's character, and even at the end...is that just him imagining what will happen in his paranoid state, or did it really happen? I love this film because it allows for layers of interpretation of what is real and what isn't, and all points in between.


SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT would be an AWESOME flick to see on TCM, but FCM does play it fairly frequently (or did last year when I had FCM). It's a good one. I love amnesia films, especially when they are done as well as this one.

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I recently watched A BULLET FOR JOEY. Has anyone seen it lately? Great cast with Eddie Robinson and George Raft in the lead roles (EGR is the detective; and Raft is the crook).


I wanted to mention this title because it's produced in the mid-50s. And bad guy Raft is actually involved in a plot to smuggle atomic secrets. I thought it was a good example of the evolution of this genre, reflecting cold war concerns.

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Writer, thanks for your passionate comments on TCM and old movies and why you love them. It's always nice to get examples like you gave of scenes or bits of dialogue from the films that you remember and cherish.

Sounds like you prefer some of the other types of films TCM shows to noir. And there are so many different types ! Turner certainly serves up a pot-pourri of classic movies; seems to be something for everyone.

I remember the first time I saw *It Happened One Night*; I thought it was so much fun, a blend of comedy, adventure, and romance. I always like movies about people on the road, having adventures.

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LoveFilmNoir, I think you nailed one of the core ideas in noir when you said this:


"...I think if I had to analyze a huge bulk of noir films I would say that generally a big message in film noir is that "life isn't fair". "


That's it! More than most other genres, film noir posits this view of life . And, perversely, that is one reason why I like it.

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Oh come off it. What you saw on PBS was apparently a version of Rebecca that

followed the plot of the novel. It was changed for the 1940 Hitchcock version due to

the Production Code. Now there probably weren't many kiddies who read Rebecca,

but if a few did, I doubt they would have decided to kill their spouses when they

grew up and got married, any more than children who happened to see the newer version

would. There will always be a tiny number of people who are influenced by what they see

in movies and act it out in real life, but the great majority of people realize it's just a movie

and leave it at that. To think that a new generation will act any differently than past generations

in this regard is ridiculous. Nervous nellies of various stripes have been moaning about this

subject for decades and yet the world keeps on going along much as it always has.

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The book was written for adults, not children. When kids see movies like this on TV, they think it?s ok to kill someone if the person is ?bad?, like Rebecca was supposed to have been.


The killer gets rid of the ?bad? dame, his new wife approves, they both lie in court, and they get away with it. Not a good lesson for kids to see on PBS. Especially not if they see the same lesson in other movies and TV shows while they are growing up. Kids learn from any source they are exposed to. I worked in the media all my life. I know how kids are influenced by TV and movies.


In any society at any time, there are a certain number of people who basically grow up to be somewhat crazy, angry, and impulsive as adults. If they are taught all their childhood by TV shows and movies that they must learn to control their anger, or else they will be punished in some way, either by the cops or by some other means, more of them can learn to control their anger as adults.


But if they grow up being taught by TV and movies that they can act out their anger and even get rid of someone, as long as they are clever and lie the right way, then a greater percentage of those border-line crazy people will act out their anger. Some will become serial killers and gang killers.


It?s very simple. It?s like showing a ?Jackass? movie to teenagers, and then a certain number of stupid ones will try some of the tricks, and a certain number will breaks their bones or kill themselves trying to act out stupid stunts.






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Just as a practical matter, I doubt many kids or teens were interested in watching

an "old" melodrama on PBS in the first place. But I doubt that many that did came

away with the lesson that they should probably at least consider killing their future

spouse, even if he or she was "bad." That's what divorces are for. Yes people are

sometimes influenced by what they see on TV or in the movies, but very rarely to

the extent of wanting to go out and kill people. Children have other influences in their

lives besides TV or movies. If there was such a direct link between what kids see

and their actions, we'd have a murder rate going through the roof, which we don't.

Sure there will always be a small number of people who are crazy, but it's doubtful

that what they see on TV will have much effect on them. Do you think somebody who

is truly insane will care one way or the other what message he or she receives from

the media? So we will always have that small number with us, but the great majority

of children, despite all the things they are exposed to in their viewing, will grow up

to be fine, normal people.

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