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Dr. Rich Edwards

Into the Darkness Video Lecture #3: The Means (Noir & the Studios)

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The studio system always interested me. As a long time classic movie lover, I can tell a MGM, RKO, Universal, Warner Brothers film from each other. Now I have more detail why.

I also understand when I watch b-movies, for me 60% are mediocre, 20%watchable and 20%gems.

It explains why watching b-movies is like searching for gold, because when i find a good b-movie, it's gold.

RKO film noirs are always the best to me, followed by Warner Brothers, but RKO noirs are more authentic to me. The paramount films are the funniest.

But the one thing I'm on the hunt for is 20th century fox films, noirs or not seem to be an untapped source- They're classic movies are very good, but hard to find.

Any one know a source of 20th century fox films- noirs or not- but from the 1930s to 1950s??/

FXM movie channel on cable, but they are all on DVD also.

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FXM movie channel on cable, but they are all on DVD also.

unfortunatley FXM only comes on digital cable in my area and i'm not going digital   :lol:

guess i gotta get dvd's. thanks to this board learning of alot of fox movies

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Yes,  Paramount noir movies often don't get the same level of attention as those from RKO,  WB,  or 20th Century Fox,  but Ladd starred in many fine noirs (6,  3 with Lake),  and Stanwyck made two of my favorite noirs at the studio; Double Indemnity and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers as well as The File on Thelma Jordan and Sorry Wrong Number.

 

Other noirs worth seeing are The Accused with Loretta Young,  Ace in the Hole (dark as they get), I Walk Alone (Lancaster \ Douglas \ Liz Scott),  and of course Sunset Blvd.

 

Yes, all so great, jamesjazzguitar! :)

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Video Lecture #3: The Case of Film Noir: The Means

 

I loved finding out about the differences between A and B movies and about the experience of going to see a movie in the 1930s and 1940s: with cartoons, newsreel, B movie, and then the headliner A movie. I really enjoyed the article by Chris Dashiell about the different movie studios, especially the Poverty Row Corporation (PRC) studios. I even listened to the podcast about Detour—lots of insights about the production of the movie. In fact, all the information about PRC helped me to understand why Ulmer might have decided to go with PRC.

 

Interesting discussion, Professor Edwards, about fate and the gaze and the eyes as windows of the soul. It reminded me of one of many memorable details about Detour. Al is driving along and Vera is asleep in the passenger seat of Haskell’s car. Al feels a bit uncomfortable because Vera is sleeping in the same position as Haskell had when he died. Al starts to feel sorry for Vera, and just when he looks back at her, she has one eye open and starts right in on him. She seems to bore right into him, with her eyes and her savage delivery. (I really couldn’t watch it the first time!)

 

I didn’t get to the guides for writing about film noir; I’ll save those for the last half of the summer. I’m trying to keep up. There’s so much good stuff!

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I appreciate the readings on the studio system and the characteristics associated with various studios. I like to think I know quite a bit about film, but I've never really paid that much attention to the influence of a studio on the content, look and feel of its films. I'm learning!

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I appreciate the readings on the studio system and the characteristics associated with various studios. I like to think I know quite a bit about film, but I've never really paid that much attention to the influence of a studio on the content, look and feel of its films. I'm learning!

It's been a real learning experience for me, too. When I signed up for this course, I never imagined that I would learn so much. I'm having a bit of trouble keeping up, to be honest, but it's been great. And I can always keep reading and viewing after the course is completed.

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i agree with that, i believe the studio system made better actors because often times they had to work to move from B actor to A actors. This whole studio system B-picture thing reminds me of the film, the bad and the beautiful.

But also it explains why there are alot of movies in that time that had similar plots but slightly different ending, cast, ect,, they were churning those movies out like being on an assembly line

Often, you'll find that an actor who might be fifth or sixth down in the billing of an "A" might have a second lead or even an above the title in a "B".

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Another very cool and interesting lecture!

 

Here's a couple of shots from movies (some I posted before in other topics) that directly relate to what has been addressed in the lecture; camera angles, lighting, mise-en-scene, etc. 

 

This is a shot from MURDER, MY SWEET. This is just before Marlowe escapes the house of Amthor. It's probably meant as a PoV shot for Marlowe, looking at the hall and stairways. The angle and shadows make for a disorienting feel. Also notice how the stairs' shadow looks like a man's contour on the wall. 

CHkesCVVAAA8ibe.jpg

 

This shot is from THE GANGSTER

It shows a number of the cast sitting at different tables in the ice cream parlour. It not only connects four plotlines in one shot, but also manages to display the isolation of all the characters despite them being together in the same room.

 

CHdUFYRUwAAnuRY.jpg

 

This shot is from THE GLASS KEY.

A choker close up with low key lighting portraying the mad despair of henchman Jeff (William Bendix)

 

CHS0mGiUcAA1Xoh.jpg

 

 

A formalist shot from GUN CRAZY, near the end when our two protagonists are 'caught and trapped' in the swamp near the climax of the film. Again a simple, and beautifully lit mise-en-scene as a metaphor for maybe the bars of a prison. A prime example of how to become creative with low/no budget.

 

CHuti2vWEAAm4p7.jpg

 

This shot is from CRACK-UP. 

A typical Noir setting for a climax sequence; on a shipyard. The low angle and lighting make the ship look intimidating and grotesque and manages to block out the shot to lead our eyes to the left top corner where our protagonist Steele (Pat O'Brien) can be barely made out.

 

CH4hTllVAAAh6kz.png

 

 

But it doesn't necessarily need to be dark to create a sense of confinement or entrapment. This is a shot from MYSTERY STREET. Again at a typical Noir setting; a train station. But this time shot in broad daylight. The trains on both sides block the frame to not only put focus on the killer, but also on the tiniest escape route possible.....

 

CIBbT9OWIAADPcZ.jpg

 

And then this final one from HOLLOW TRIUMPH/THE SCAR. This film is basically a master class for all possible tricks used in Film Noir. You can analyze it shot by shot and apply all the techniques mentioned in the lecture. 

This shot uses low key lighting, moves in to a choker close up, but the best bit is the lamp. Look at the stand, where the face is a fantastic visual signifier for Muller's double identity play. Talk about using a simple prop for maximum effect....

 

CIKxhvJWwAAp3Qj.png

Not only do I want to 'bump' your work to top of thread but I want to take you. I think seeing these stills really helps me understand the noir visual conventions. They'll be easier to recognize as I go along!

 

I really enjoyed this week's lecture and am about to delve into the readings. The studio system is a very interesting beast, and I am really interested in reading more about the audience perspective. So this was the kind of entertainment people went to see weekly, how did that really work? Did people have the same loyalty to studios as they had for genres or actors? Was there the same sort of hype that exists today when a certain movie genre came out? Or because of how often movies were released, did it even matter?

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ref: Assigned Reading - "A Crash Course in Studios"

     Perhaps I misread something.  In discussing the silent era, the author refers to the Motion Picture Patents Company as MPCC.  I would think the initials used would be MPPC.  Typo or am I missing the boat somewhere?  Thoughts? 

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I agree with most people here. I'm really enjoying the lectures and I've found myself thinking about them quite a bit afterwards. Great look at the studio system and the machinery behind the films.

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Like most people, I guess, I've never paid much attention to which studio produced which film and if I did, I never thought it made a lot of difference. That's the beauty of this course: now I'm looking at everything in a new light, even analyzing the opening credits for clues as to what I can expect from the movie. Who knew? So glad I found this course.

 

Incidentally, I now find I have a favorite studio as a result of all this - I seem drawn to RKO movies for some inexplicable reason! 

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Incidentally, I now find I have a favorite studio as a result of all this - I seem drawn to RKO movies for some inexplicable reason!

 

I am loving this course and how much I'm learning. I'm not sure what I 'thought' it would encompass - maybe just watching and talking about all these movies I love.

 

It's so interesting to learn about the Means, and the studio structure and to look at the films now and try to guess at which studio it was based upon the style.

 

Sir David, I totally agree, RKO seems to be at the top of my list!

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Me too,  I love RKO films best whether they are noir or not followed by Warner Brothers, then Paramount

I am loving this course and how much I'm learning. I'm not sure what I 'thought' it would encompass - maybe just watching and talking about all these movies I love.

 

It's so interesting to learn about the Means, and the studio structure and to look at the films now and try to guess at which studio it was based upon the style.

 

Sir David, I totally agree, RKO seems to be at the top of my list!

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Don't forget the Serials. I remember as a kid in the late 1940s and early 1950s that every Saturday my friends and I would go to the 2PM matinee with double feature, 10 cartoons, newsreel, and the serial and all for just $0.12. Serials were a short clip that lasted maybe 10 minutes or so. At the end of each segment, the hero would be in big trouble with no way out. One had to go next week to find out what happened. It was great fun. 

they sometimes show serials on TCM...I've seen some of the Saint pictures, and Joe mcdoaks. They even showed a batman one which was awesome. They mentioned them briefly as "short subject" in the cheap thrills article but you're right in that they weren't really explored as an entity. 

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I know that the request here on this one is to talk about the video lecture but the thing that hit me the hardest was the "Visual Motifs of Film Noir" article. I think I actually learned a lot about photography...actually went on ebay while reading that article to get filters for my camera...it was both confusing and thought provoking, which anything worth reading usually is. 

 

As far as the lecture goes, one of the things it reminded me of was the fact that bigger studios had their own theaters...it's something that I knew before but it sounded like if you wanted to see a paramont film you needed to go to a paramont theater. Something like 20 thousand theaters in the 40s I think it said, but surely every studio didn't have a theater in every town. Does that mean that in certain towns you couldn't see a fox picture or an MGM picture? 

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not really noir, but i really like the Saint pictures too and The Gay Falcon series. 

they sometimes show serials on TCM...I've seen some of the Saint pictures, and Joe mcdoaks. They even showed a batman one which was awesome. They mentioned them briefly as "short subject" in the cheap thrills article but you're right in that they weren't really explored as an entity. 

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not really noir, but i really like the Saint pictures too and The Gay Falcon series. 

 

Watched 3 Lone Wolf movies on GET-TV last night.   These Columbia films with Warren William as the wolf are fun pictures.  The best one with Ida Lupino and Rita Hayworth pre stardom days.     Corny, light entertainment.   

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thanks jamesjazzguitar. i like warren william films, never heard of lone wolf series. i will look those up and watch these!!!!

Watched 3 Lone Wolf movies on GET-TV last night.   These Columbia films with Warren William as the wolf are fun pictures.  The best one with Ida Lupino and Rita Hayworth pre stardom days.     Corny, light entertainment.   

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thanks jamesjazzguitar. i like warren william films, never heard of lone wolf series. i will look those up and watch these!!!!

 

If you have access to GET-TV they are showing crime \ detective serials the month of July.  But be warned they do show commercials.  

 

In these films William is Columbia's answer to William Powell and of course the studio wanted a serial similar to the Thin Man one.  The problem with these films is the women co-stars since, well one doesn't find a Myrna Loy everyday!     Now William and Lupino have a lot of chemistry which is why I like that film best but in the others the women are young newcomers that are no match to a vet like Loy. 

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no don't have get-tv :-( hope to find it online

If you have access to GET-TV they are showing crime \ detective serials the month of July.  But be warned they do show commercials.  

 

In these films William is Columbia's answer to William Powell and of course the studio wanted a serial similar to the Thin Man one.  The problem with these films is the women co-stars since, well one doesn't find a Myrna Loy everyday!     Now William and Lupino have a lot of chemistry which is why I like that film best but in the others the women are young newcomers that are no match to a vet like Loy. 

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