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Dr. Rich Edwards

Into the Darkness Video Lecture #2: The Set-Up (Official Discussion Thread)

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Hi #NoirSummer Students:

 

Please use this topic to discuss Video Lecture #2: The Set-Up.

 

Lecture #2 covers

  • Cinematic Precursors to Film Noir (Realism, Formalism, Other Film Movements)
  • Noir and Other Art Forms (Photography, Painting, Music, and Theater)
  • Literary Precursors to Film Noir (Hard-Boiled Stories and Novels). 

Let the discussion begin!

 

PS, I encourage you to not only reflect and extend on these influences that helped create film noir, but let us also discuss specific examples from the films you have already seen on June 5 and June 12. I think we can start to apply this lecture's ideas and insights directly on what we have seen with our own eyes.

 

Have you noticed these influences in the films in TCM's Summer of Darkness so far? If so, let's discuss specific movies, scenes or shots as part of our growing case-file into the mysteries of film noir. 

 

Thanks, Prof. Edwards

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Just wanted to post a link to a larger copy of the Weegee photo from the lecture. It has text imposed on it by Getty Images, but in unobtrusive places.

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/the-results-of-a-motor-accident-on-grand-central-station-news-photo/3436289

 

While I'm at it, back on June 1 I posted a link to an IMDb list I created of the films in TCM's Summer of Darkness:

http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/53382-noirsummer-list-of-films-on-imdb/?hl=bderoes&do=findComment&comment=1094463

which says:

For those who keep your records on IMDb, here's the list of Summer of Darkness films.

The Internet Archive public domain films from the course will be added when available.

http://www.imdb.com/list/ls072789868/

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Interesting and informative lecture. Happy to see theater and architecture mentioned as having an influence on Film Noir. Regarding the latter I thought I'd present this shot from MURDER, MY SWEET. It's more interior design than architecture, but the use of this hallway, more so by the way it's lit, helps enhance the feeling of disorientation and anxiety Marlowe is going through during his escape from Amthor's place. 

 

CHkesCVVAAA8ibe.jpg

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Looking at the literary precursors to film noir, one cannot ignore the advent of the crime comic book in 1942. Crime Does Not Pay was a comic that dealt with the gritty realism of criminal activity. Nothing was spared depiction. The more outrageous, the better. All in living four color. Like many cheap forms of entertainment, it "borrowed" heavily from other influences. In this case, the MGM shorts Crime Does Not Pay. That film series does have a number of noir-ish episodes.

 

In '42,  twelve million comics were flying off the shelves per month. Publishers were jumping on the bandwagon to cash in. Lev Gleason, the publisher, asked Charles Biro and Bob Wood (more on him later) to craft a comic to supplement his line.

They figured  a comic more suited to older readers with more adult themes would sell.  They were right.

 

Covers depicted violence in all its forms. The stories often dealt frankly with adult relationships, drug use and sex, in addition to the depictions of physical violence, torture, and murder. The art was very much in keeping with what we would know as noir. In the post war period crime comics exploded in popularity. Not surprising since many servicemen found Crime Does Not Pay included in their packages from home. They wanted more of the same when they returned. Likely the same reason for the plethora of noir films in the same period.

 

Crime comics rode a wave of popularity very similar to the Film Noir cycle. Most disappeared in the mid fifties, partially due to Dr. Fredric Wertham and his Seduction Of The Innocent, a book that warned of the dangers of violence in comics that can lead to juvenile delinquency as well as the Senate Subcommittee dealing with the same subject. This led to the Comics Code which sanitized comic books overnight.

 

Incidentally, Bob Wood bludgeoned a 45 year old divorcee to death in 1958 after an 11 day tryst. She had the audacity to mention marriage. He served 3 years in Sing-Sing. Released in '61 and unable to get work in the comic book field, he worked as a short-order cook in a New Jersey diner.  Unable to pay gambling debts, he was "taken for a ride" and dumped along a Jersey turnpike.

 

A fitting, ironic and very noir-ish end to the creator of crime comics.

 

For more info, see: Blackjacked and Pistol-Whipped: A Crime Does Not Pay Primer.  (I didn't write the book)

 

post-48294-0-32895400-1434403484_thumb.jpgpost-48294-0-19730000-1434403493_thumb.jpg

 

post-48294-0-32895400-1434403484_thumb.jpg

post-48294-0-19730000-1434403493_thumb.jpg

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I know I need to give hard examples of my ideas but for now I wanted to get these two thoughts Down:

 

1- Theatrical influence: "Theatre of the absurd" had a huge influence on film noir.

 

2- Philosophical influence: Existentialism philosophers such as Camus and Sartre influenced noir.

 

More later...

 

3- Photographic influences: Weejee, Brassaï and Jaques Henri Lartigue

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I know I need to give hard examples of my ideas but for now I wanted to get these two thoughts Down:

 

1- Theatrical influence: "Theatre of the absurd" had a huge influence on film noir.

 

2- Philosophical influence: Existentialism philosophers such as Camus and Sartre influenced noir.

 

More later...

 

3- Photographic influences: Weejee, Brassaï and Jaques Henri Lartigue

 

Great points! FYI, I cover existentialism and the more philosophical elements behind film noir in Video Lecture #4 The Motives. I intentionally avoided mentioning philosophical influences in Video Lecture 2 because I was focusing more on the influence of art forms. That said, I agree that modernist theatre, especially aspects of absurdism and Brechtian theater, were key influences as well. 

 

And I also agree that I am "using" Weegee as only one example of photographic influences that involve the artists you mention and others like Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz, among many others. But the basic point is that noir was influenced by what photographers were doing in their art during this period. 

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Looking at the literary precursors to film noir, one cannot ignore the advent of the crime comic book in 1942. Crime Does Not Pay was a comic that dealt with the gritty realism of criminal activity. 

  

Thanks for the info!.  As I listened to the lecture, Detective Comics and Dick Tracy came to mind, but I was not familiar with Crime Does Not Pay.  

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Whilst viewing this scene I could only think she was going to make Johnny very upset.  

 

tumblr_n7hkzseM4X1qdm4tlo1_r1_500.gif

 

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Rita Hayworth gave good face - Vogue Madonna 

  • Costume designer: Jean Louis used his talents to really express Gilda's performance as The Glamour/It Girl .
  • The musical performance was to share the triple threat -   Depending on the story line the music can be used to express pending doom and or assisting an actor in Hard boil; fem-fatale or goodness.  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • tumblr_mcmg6v1nCa1rp4tw6o6_250.gif

Sexual freedom !

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Gun Crazy had an interesting score which reminded me of Bernard Herrmann's score in "Obsession".

 

Lighting, camera angles, camera movement and set design are used by directors in presenting the story in a stylish manner, emphasizing an important moment or drawing attention to a significant moment in the story. Music when used wisely may also aid the directors set a tone or enhance the mood of a scene.

 

One thing I learned from the video lecture this morning (#2) is that film noir is not just about story and directing, or camera angles but rather that its an all consuming entity. What you see, hear and feel is all part of film noir. Like the professor said we must pay attention to everything we see on the screen and I'm guessing music and sound may apply also.

 

 

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I can't help but wonder about the influence of American Broadcast Radio on Film Noir.  Most folks today have little experience or memory of the classic radio programs of the 40's.  Still, so many of the hard boiled stories of Cornell Woolrich were broadcast on radio again and again starting in the early 40s.  The main-stream public would have been more familiar with radio than the American Stage (which to my thinking would have been more New York oriented.)  Wouldn't radio have been the medium through which New York stage actors and performances would become familiar to middle America. 

 

Radio, being an aural medium, relies on snappy dialog, music used to convey mood, and jargon.  Are these not also closely identified with Film Noir?  I just wanted to bring this up since it seemed to be an area that, to my mind, has been missed.

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I can't help but wonder about the influence of American Broadcast Radio on Film Noir.  Most folks today have little experience or memory of the classic radio programs of the 40's.  Still, so many of the hard boiled stories of Cornell Woolrich were broadcast on radio again and again starting in the early 40s.  The main-stream public would have been more familiar with radio than the American Stage (which to my thinking would have been more New York oriented.)  Wouldn't radio have been the medium through which New York stage actors and performances would become familiar to middle America. 

 

Radio, being an aural medium, relies on snappy dialog, music used to convey mood, and jargon.  Are these not also closely identified with Film Noir?  I just wanted to bring this up since it seemed to be an area that, to my mind, has been missed.

If one has SiriuxXM, one can listen to Radio Classics, which oftentimes plays those Noir-type radio broadcasts.  They are a hoot.  And just as entertaining as film.  As a matter of fact, many films, noir and others, were reproduced for radio back then.  I encourage everyone who can to check this out.  It's great fun!  And perhaps your mind will be able to visualize these stories in a way that no film director could!

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If one has SiriuxXM, one can listen to Radio Classics, which oftentimes plays those Noir-type radio broadcasts.  They are a hoot.  And just as entertaining as film.  As a matter of fact, many films, noir and others, were reproduced for radio back then.  I encourage everyone who can to check this out.  It's great fun!  And perhaps your mind will be able to visualize these stories in a way that no film director could!

Or check out YouTube, some will be found there as well. This is the 1945, June 11 radio presentation of MURDER, MY SWEET starring the same cast as the film. 

 

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It’s clear that all the arts contributed to what was to eventually become film noir but I am curious about the effect of current events.  As you watch the films evolve through the early 40’s, they seem to get darker and more personal.  World War II must have had a profound influence in many ways.  It is hard to imagine what the war did to the psyche of our nation as a whole and how traumatizing it would have been on an individual level. 

 

One of the influences mentioned in the lecture was psychoanalysis.  Looking at these films with that in mind it is interesting to see how the themes of fatalism and guilt become more prevalent.  Detour is great example.  Al not only laments how fate is stacked against him but also how his own poor choices have led him astray.   By 1944/1945 there seems to be a move towards this inner paradox of helplessness against greater forces while at the same time feeling guilty for poor decisions.  It would seem those same thoughts must have been present in those lived through the horrors of war, maybe lurking just under the conscious threshold.

 

There is much in film noir that is like our unconscious.  In some ways it seems function in the same way.  If you think of film in a Freudian sense what ends up on the screen is like the ego, the finished product that is presented to the world.  Conforming to the film code and the will of the censors is similar to submitting to the super ego.  Then there is the unconscious, the swirling stuff of raw emotion.  These are the creative forces that drive art in the first place.  Film noir is like a Freudian slip, a glimpse into what lurks underneath.

 

Today we call it PTSD, they didn’t really call it anything after WWII.  Maybe film noir is partially a glimpse into that world.  At any rate, I doubt it would have been the same had the war not happened.

 

 

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It’s clear that all the arts contributed to what was to eventually become film noir but I am curious about the effect of current events.  As you watch the films evolve through the early 40’s, they seem to get darker and more personal.  World War II must have had a profound influence in many ways.  It is hard to imagine what the war did to the psyche of our nation as a whole and how traumatizing it would have been on an individual level. 

 

One of the influences mentioned in the lecture was psychoanalysis.  Looking at these films with that in mind it is interesting to see how the themes of fatalism and guilt become more prevalent.  Detour is great example.  Al not only laments how fate is stacked against him but also how his own poor choices have led him astray.   By 1944/1945 there seems to be a move towards this inner paradox of helplessness against greater forces while at the same time feeling guilty for poor decisions.  It would seem those same thoughts must have been present in those lived through the horrors of war, maybe lurking just under the conscious threshold.

 

There is much in film noir that is like our unconscious.  In some ways it seems function in the same way.  If you think of film in a Freudian sense what ends up on the screen is like the ego, the finished product that is presented to the world.  Conforming to the film code and the will of the censors is similar to submitting to the super ego.  Then there is the unconscious, the swirling stuff of raw emotion.  These are the creative forces that drive art in the first place.  Film noir is like a Freudian slip, a glimpse into what lurks underneath.

 

Today we call it PTSD, they didn’t really call it anything after WWII.  Maybe film noir is partially a glimpse into that world.  At any rate, I doubt it would have been the same had the war not happened.

 

I agree, but I cover these issues in Video Lecture #4 (The Motives) and #5 (The Opportunity). For this lecture, I want to keep our focus on the cinematic influences and the influences from other art forms. But stay tuned! Psychoanalysis and the impact of World War II are going to get a lot of lecture attention very soon. 

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I am so glad you mentioned the Val Lewton movies as an influence.  Even though little of what Lewton employed was entirely original, he showed how to make the dark and shadowy cinematography heap mood on the film while at the same time allowing it to mask the paper thin sets his minuscule budgets demanded.  Here was a technique the B movie crime pictures could embrace.

 

It is a little ironic that later prestige pictures probably spent a Lewton sized budget on lighting and sets just to imitate the look Lewton was forced to accept.

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Lookin around the web today I found a site called "prettygoodfilms.com" which gives these definitions of the somewhat elusive terminology that we're discussing in 'the set-up' (I think the below helps clear up the confusion that can come from big verbage):

 

Realism: how things really look

Classicism: how things should look

Formalism: how things feel

 

The above site also offers film examples that fall under each category.

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I posted this earlier today in 'The Heist'' thread but I thought it was equally relevant to 'the set-up" as I'm discussing what influenced the background of film noir:

 

Short thought:

 

I've been thinking about this concept of the heist and who had the means, motives, n opportunity to create movies in general let alone film noir.. Is it just a coincidence that Americans were stealing from German expressionism whilst Germany was stealing parts of the world? I think not.

 

The very word "heist" is pilfered from German language. America had the means, motives and opportunity to make these films because we were not conquered and censored unlike many other countries at the time. We didn't even get into the war really till 1942. By 1945, we had won which brought great wealth to our nation. Therefore we had the luxury of freedom, power, wealth and time to put out these films.

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I always felt that noir was never given full credit for the wonderful use of music to set the tone. There is not way that any film can divide both image and music without suffering the tragic death of tone and atmosphere.  I believe that it is more important in noir than in other types of film.

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thanks for that, i was having a hard time today- i went back to the lecture notes to get the definition of realism and formalism , that helped- this also helps as well 

Lookin around the web today I found a site called "prettygoodfilms.com" which gives these definitions of the somewhat elusive terminology that we're discussing in 'the set-up' (I think the below helps clear up the confusion that can come from big verbage):

Realism: how things really look
Classicism: how things should look
Formalism: how things feel

The above site also offers film examples that fall under each category.

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  Along with influence from photography, the arts, music, I think one aspect has been overlooked.  The radio programmes of the 40's and 50's.  Shows like 'Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar' and 'The Whistler' seemed to have undertones like the films noir of the time.  Albeit, being a serial, these shows didn't go as deep as the movies did.   I believe they did, however, display the characteristics of noir.  The stories, the characters, the use of sound and music.  The major difference being the visual and the mood that the cinematography normally made, was left to the imagination of the listener.

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I think it's important to champion the B pictures of films noir. These low budget movies were so popular that they led to film noir becoming main stream A movies from the major studios. The Poverty Row movies managed their limited budgets creatively. No money for a set? No problem shoot on location. No money for a huge cast? Focus on the story of one down on his luck protagonist. Save money on lighting, shoot in low deep shadow light.

 

I agree that the Pulp Fiction literature and the disillusioned returning Vets had a enormous influence on Film Noir. However, I believe it's important to give the B pictures and the Poverty Row pictures their due, respect, and their proper role as a major influence on the film noir style.

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I always felt that noir was never given full credit for the wonderful use of music to set the tone. There is not way that any film can divide both image and music without suffering the tragic death of tone and atmosphere.  I believe that it is more important in noir than in other types of film.

For another example of great music, check out Elevator to the Gallows when it airs. Miles Davis soundtrack improvised on the spot while watching the movie. It's hauntingly beautiful and captures the longing and claustrophobic mood of the film.

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I think it's important to champion the B pictures of films noir. These low budget movies were so popular that they led to film noir becoming main stream A movies from the major studios. The Poverty Row movies managed their limited budgets creatively. No money for a set? No problem shoot on location. No money for a huge cast? Focus on the story of one down on his luck protagonist. Save money on lighting, shoot in low deep shadow light.

 

I agree that the Pulp Fiction literature and the disillusioned returning Vets had a enormous influence on Film Noir. However, I believe it's important to give the B pictures and the Poverty Row pictures their due, respect, and their proper role as a major influence on the film noir style.

 

I agree! B pictures are very important, and they get a large focus in my next lecture, Video Lecture #3. This lecture focused on influences on noir from outside the Hollywood system. Lecture #3 approaches the investigation from inside the studio system, and that's where I kick off my discussion of the importance of the B picture - stay tuned for more! 

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So agree. Thanks for reminding me of Johnny Dollar. I also liked Murder is my beat.

 

Along with influence from photography, the arts, music, I think one aspect has been overlooked.  The radio programmes of the 40's and 50's.  Shows like 'Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar' and 'The Whistler' seemed to have undertones like the films noir of the time.  Albeit, being a serial, these shows didn't go as deep as the movies did.   I believe they did, however, display the characteristics of noir.  The stories, the characters, the use of sound and music.  The major difference being the visual and the mood that the cinematography normally made, was left to the imagination of the listener.

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I hope I am posting this question in the right place!

 

When I think of films noir I generally think of black and white films. I know there are many films noir filmed in color, but overall, I still think of black and white when I think of film noir. I'm afraid my knowledge of cinema history isn't all that great. My question is, was the use of black and white and artistic choice that the filmmakers opted for, or was color film in the mid 1940s so expensive that makers of low budget noirs had to use cheaper black and white film.

 

I think of movies in general as shifting from black and white to color film in the early 40s. Is that accurate?

 

In relation to the influence of German expressionism on film noir, I think this is an interesting question to pose. Early German expressionistic films used black and white because that was all that was available, but German expressionist painters were using vibrant palettes of color.

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