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The Ultimate Film Noir Thread


speedracer5
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This is a thread to discuss one of the most ambiguous and most diverse film genres--film noir.

 

There are no rules with this thread: lists, discussion about specific films, noir actors, noir directors, photography, lighting, whatever aspect you wish to discuss.

 

My only rule: 

 

If you are going to discuss or reveal a specific plot point about a film, please add a disclaimer so that those who do not wish to have plot points revealed can ignore that aspect of conversation.  I know that I do not like when major plot twists or endings are revealed.  

 

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I'll just start things off with this and hope that this encourages further discussion:

 

Favorite Film Noir of the 1940s:

 

1. Double Indemnity

2. Gilda

3. The Maltese Falcon

4. Dark Passage

5. The Lady From Shanghai

6. The Killers

7. The Big Sleep

8. Out of the Past

9. The Third Man

10. The Dark Corner

11. Laura

12. Key Largo

13. The Stranger

14. Kiss of Death

15. Nightmare Alley

 

Feel free to post your own list or discuss a film or what not.

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My favorite: 1940s Film Noir in epistolaric order:

 

Laura (1944)

Double Indemnity (1944)

The Third Man (1949)

Dark Passage (1947)

Cat People (1942)

The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

The Unsuspected (1947)

Conflict (1945)

This Gun for Hire (1942)

Tension (1949)
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I'm glad to see that you love Dark Passage too.  

 

There are three things about that film that I love the most: The first person perspective for the first half of the film, 1940s San Francisco scenery and Agnes Moorehead.

 

Lauren Bacall's apartment is fabulous, especially the spiral staircase.  This is such a unique film and it stars three of my favorite performers: Humphrey Bogart, Bacall and Moorehead.  I also love the ending. 

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Speedracer,

 

Great thread idea. Hopefully it survives intact. As you mentioned, the film noir "genre" is nebulous at best. And of the films that can be categorized as such, there are so many that are favorites of mine, AND my ranking of the Top favorites can change from time.to time. Let me throw out a few titles, and will try to stick with some of the more renowned ones.

 

1. IN A LONELY PLACE

2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY

3. LAURA

4. NIGHT AND THE CITY

5. THIEVES HIGHWAY

6. CRISS CROSS

7. FALLEN ANGEL

8. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

9. SCARLET STREET

10. THE STREET WITH NO NAME

11. CRY OF THE CITY

12. MURDER MY SWEET

13. THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

14. THE FILE.ON THELMA.JORDAN

15. THE BLUE DAHLIA

16. WHIRLPOOL

17. KISS OF DEATH

18. NIGHTMARE.ALLEY

19. OUT OF THE PAST

20. DARK PASSAGE

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I love Dark Passage, such a strange, brooding movie. I also love Gilda and The Mask of Dimitrios, which appears on SansFin's list just below Cat People, another one of my favorites. And one of my favorite scenes from ...Dimitrios actually involves cats, briefly -- it's Peter Lorre's scene with Victor Francen, who plays Grodek and who has two Siamese cats, Heloise and Abelard.

 

I think Victor Francen's performance in that brief scene in The Mask of Dimitrios is one of the greatest examples of acting. He is perfect -- every line, every expression, every gesture.

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That's brilliant to consider CAT PEOPLE as noir. It truly is, but I've never thought of it that way before. My noir list isn't terribly original:

 

Top Noir Favorites of the Forties

 

1. DOUBLE INDEMNITY

2. THE MALTESE FALCON

3. OUT OF THE PAST

4. LAURA

5. THE BIG SLEEP

6. THE SET-UP

7. KISS OF DEATH

8. THE KILLERS

9. THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

10. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

11. SCARLET STREET

12. DETOUR

13. MURDER, MY SWEET

 

 

One thing with noir is its definition. Some people will consider one film as a noir, while others will disagree. What do you feel is a defining characteristic of noir?

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I love Dark Passage, such a strange, brooding movie. I also love Gilda and The Mask of Dimitrios, which appears on SansFin's list just below Cat People, another one of my favorites. And one of my favorite scenes from ...Dimitrios actually involves cats, briefly -- it's Peter Lorre's scene with Victor Francen, who plays Grodek and who has two Siamese cats, Heloise and Abelard.

 

I think Victor Francen's performance in that brief scene in The Mask of Dimitrios is one of the greatest examples of acting. He is perfect -- every line, every expression, every gesture.

 

I agree about Dark Passage.  I think the "strange and brooding" feeling is part of what attracts me to the film.  This moody quality definitely matches the mindset of Bogart's character.  If you're on the lam, you're definitely going to feel paranoid and nervous.  He's untrustworthy of everyone and scared that he'll be recognized. 

 

Gilda is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Rita Hayworth is one of my favorite actresses and this is definitely the definitive Rita Hayworth film.  I especially love the intense love-hate relationship between Gilda and Johnny.  They love and hate each other so passionately that they can't be together, but they can't be apart either.  The Johnny/Balin/Gilda triangle adds another dynamic to the plot as well.  I'm so excited that this film was released on Criterion. 

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Today's 10 favorite film noir (as I understand it to be) of the 40's.
 
1. Obsession (1949)*
2. Thieves' Highway (1949)
3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
4. Scarlet Street (1945)
5. They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)*
6. Kiss of Death (1947)
7. Brighton Rock (1947)*
8. Born to Kill (1947)
9. Nightmare Alley (1947)
0. Act of Violence (1948)

 

 

The three that I marked with * are all fine British films. Britain was making some excellent film noirs during this time; often more gritty, violent and unsettling than American films were typically allowed to get away with in the middle of the code-era.

 

1. follows a mad psychiatrist and his ghastly plan to do away with his wife's lover. Robert Newton plays the terribly sane-appearing lead with ease and elegance. The relationship he develops with his potential victim is especially amusing. It's a particularly fun noir.

 

5. is a particularly gritty noir. Framed by his gang, a man is sent to prison, and escapes with vengeance on his mind. Trevor Howard plays the lead here with tragedy and intensity as he becomes ruthless and obsessed.

 

7. is about a psychotic teenager who takes over leadership of his gang after the previous one is killed. Richard Attenborough plays the delinquent boss with suitable depravity as he manipulates and slashes his way through all obstacles.

 

Does anyone else have some favorite British noirs they'd recommend?

 

(Edit: promoted Brighton Rock)

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I love very much both: Laura (1944) and: Cat People (1942) but I would not have classified them as: noir. I looked at lists of: noir movies so that I would not appear stupid by forgetting some of the most classic ones and was surprised to find these two on several lists. IMDB.com gives their genre as: Film-noir. 

 

I can understand the rationale to an extent in that they portray innocents drawn into situations not of their making and the cinematography has stark elements common in: noir.
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I have BRIGHTON ROCK taped, but haven't watched it yet.

 

I also recently bought a noir box set, chiefly for THE PHENIX CITY STORY, which I liked a lot, but it contains several I haven't seen yet:

 

CORNERED

DEADLINE AT DAWN

DIAL 1999

DESPERATE

BACKFIRE

ARMORED CAR ROBBERY

CRIME IN THE STREETS (I've seen this one)

 

Any comments on those? Any good?

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That's brilliant to consider CAT PEOPLE as noir. It truly is, but I've never thought of it that way before. My noir list isn't terribly original:

 

Top Noir Favorites of the Forties

 

1. DOUBLE INDEMNITY

2. THE MALTESE FALCON

3. OUT OF THE PAST

4. LAURA

5. THE BIG SLEEP

6. THE SET-UP

7. KISS OF DEATH

8. THE KILLERS

9. THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

10. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

11. SCARLET STREET

12. DETOUR

13. MURDER, MY SWEET

 

 

One thing with noir is its definition. Some people will consider one film as a noir, while others will disagree. What do you feel is a defining characteristic of noir?

 

I think one of the defining characteristics of noir are the characters.  The protagonist is not a "good guy."  The "good guys" in many noir are the police, FBI or other law enforcement.  However, in a noir, the law is often the ones pursuing the protagonist.  Audiences want the protagonist (who often times has committed a crime) to get away.  The law is the enemy.  

 

One film that I can think of that fits this example is I Wake Up Screaming.  

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Kay, I'm also a fan of THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE and especially BRIGHTON ROCK. Richard Attenborough doesn't seem the likeliest actor to play a budding young psychopath, but he is brilliant. I also recommend IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, SO EVIL MY LOVE, the 1950s noir THE LONG MEMORY, and Joseph Losey's early 1960s film THE CRIMINAL. There are also American noirs set in England. NIGHT AND THE CITY and SO WELL REMEMBERED come to mind.

 

Some favorite 1940s noirs:

 

BORN TO KILL

THE LONG NIGHT

THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS

LAURA

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

RAW DEAL

GUN CRAZY

CRISS CROSS

THE LOCKET

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Today's 10 favorite film noir (as I understand it to be) of the 40's.
 
1. Obsession (1949)*
2. Thieves' Highway (1949)
3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
4. Scarlet Street (1945)
5. They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)*
6. Kiss of Death (1947)
7. Born to Kill (1947)
8. Nightmare Alley (1947)
9. Act of Violence (1948)

0. Brighton Rock (1947)*

 

The three that I marked with * are all fine British films. Britain was making some excellent film noirs during this time; often more gritty, violent and unsettling than American films were typically allowed to get away with in the middle of the code-era.

 

1. follows a mad psychiatrist and his ghastly plan to do away with his wife's lover. Robert Newton plays the terribly sane-appearing lead with ease and elegance. The relationship he develops with his potential victim is especially amusing. It's a particularly fun noir.

 

5. is a particularly gritty noir. Framed by his gang, a man is sent to prison, and escapes with vengeance on his mind. Trevor Howard plays the lead here with tragedy and intensity as he becomes ruthless and obsessed.

 

0. is about a psychotic teenager who takes over leadership of his gang after the previous one is killed. Richard Attenborough plays the delinquent boss with suitable depravity as he manipulates and slashes his way through all obstacles.

 

Does anyone else have some favorite British noirs they'd recommend?

 

 

I love The Third Man.  It's an excellent film.  I'm sure many here have seen this one.  Orson Welles' Harry Lime has one of the best all time entrances in film.

 

I also really loved Lured starring my favorite Lucille Ball.  Ball appears as a dancer working in London who learns that her friend has disappeared.  She's approached by a police investigator (Charles Coburn) who believes that Ball's friend has been murdered by a serial killer who uses personal ads to lure his victims.  Coburn concocts a plan to use Ball as bait to catch the killer.  This film also features George Sanders.

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I agree about Dark Passage.  I think the "strange and brooding" feeling is part of what attracts me to the film.  This moody quality definitely matches the mindset of Bogart's character.  If you're on the lam, you're definitely going to feel paranoid and nervous.  He's untrustworthy of everyone and scared that he'll be recognized. 

 

 

I feel the tone is perfect. The sense of controlled desperation is intense. 

 

I believe that this movie strikes a particular chord with me also in that the method of presentation is often used as a gimmick but this is the movie which established it as legitimate storytelling technique. Alternative would have been to have two actors of similar build playing before and after surgery roles. I feel that would not have worked nearly as well. 

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I also really loved Lured starring my favorite Lucille Ball.  Ball appears as a dancer working in London who learns that her friend has disappeared.  She's approached by a police investigator (Charles Coburn) who believes that Ball's friend has been murdered by a serial killer who uses personal ads to lure his victims.  Coburn concocts a plan to use Ball as bait to catch the killer.  This film also features George Sanders.

Wasn't Karloff a suspect in that, too? I recall him being fun in that.

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My top ten noir's of the 1940's is pretty mainstream.

 

1.  The Maltese Falcon (1941)

2.  The Third Man (1949) noir according to the imdb

3.  Double Indemnity (1944)

4.  Laura (1944)

5.  The Stranger (1946)

6.  Key Largo (1948)

7.  The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

8.  Notorious (1946)

9.  The Big Sleep (1946)

10. The Letter (1940)

 

There are quite a few that have been mentioned by others that I have not seen as yet:

The Long Night, Dial 1999, Desperate, Backfire, Crime In the Streets, The Street With No Name.

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I still haven't seen it. I did see the remake. VICKI, I think? With Richard Boone?

I believe it is.  I haven't seen the remake! I've only seen the original.  The original stars Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis and Laird Cregar.  I'm not normally a Mature fan but he was excellent in this film.  Cregar was a true standout in this film.  Grable's role is interesting in that I believe that this may be the only dramatic role in her career.  I thought she was great in this movie and it's a shame that she didn't take on more roles like the one she had in I Wake Up Screaming.  The tragic Carole Landis appears as the tragic Vicki Lynn, the victim in the story.  The story is told in a series of flashbacks, which is an interesting way to watch the plot unfold. 

 

I also really love the title: I Wake Up Screaming.  It's a great film noir title.

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My top ten noir's of the 1940's is pretty mainstream.

 

1.  The Maltese Falcon (1941)

2.  The Third Man (1949) noir according to the imdb

3.  Double Indemnity (1944)

4.  Laura (1944)

5.  The Stranger (1946)

6.  Key Largo (1948)

7.  The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

8.  Notorious (1946)

9.  The Big Sleep (1946)

10. The Letter (1940)

 

There are quite a few that have been mentioned by others that I have not seen as yet:

The Long Night, Dial 1999, Desperate, Backfire, Crime In the Streets, The Street With No Name.

 

I'm glad to see the love for The Lady From Shanghai.  When I first saw this film, I couldn't figure out what was going on.  It was so complicated.  However, for whatever reason, the confusing plot wasn't a turn off for me.  The film was interesting despite my not picking up on the plot right away. Every time it aired on TCM, I wanted to watch it again.  The more times that I've seen it, the more that the pieces of the plot come together.  Rita Hayworth, despite having cropped bleached blonde hair, is still gorgeous.  I am a big fan of Orson Welles and I really enjoyed this film.  My only complaint regarding Welles though is his very uneven Irish accent.  He seemed to have trouble maintaining it throughout the film.  The film's climax in the Hall of Mirrors is a standout and is truly one of the greatest moments in noir. 

 

Orson Welles also rented my love, Errol Flynn's yacht for use in this film.  Apparently, Flynn was at the helm of the captain wheel during the duration of the shoot, though he never appears on the yacht in the film.  Flynn also contributed the aerial photography for the film.  His dog portrays the dog in the film.  Supposedly Errol can be seen in the cantina during the film, but I have yet to locate him. 

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One thing with noir is its definition. Some people will consider one film as a noir, while others will disagree. What do you feel is a defining characteristic of noir?

 

 

I can not define it but I know it when I see it.

 

What places a movie squarely in: noir classification for me is sense that main character is very desperate but is controlling it but that control is illusionary and might disappear at any moment. The movies must also be intense on personal level. Other elements such as it is crime thriller with stark elements in cinematography must be present but desperation and intensity are what mark it for me as: noir.

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I feel the tone is perfect. The sense of controlled desperation is intense. 

 

I believe that this movie strikes a particular chord with me also in that the method of presentation is often used as a gimmick but this is the movie which established it as legitimate storytelling technique. Alternative would have been to have two actors of similar build playing before and after surgery roles. I feel that would not have worked nearly as well. 

 

I also enjoyed the plastic surgery part.  Though that doctor was super creepy, but he only added to the aesthetic.  He apparently was a very good surgeon though, because the guy in the newspaper clipping looks nothing like Bogart. For some reason, the scenes of the bandaged Bogart crack me up.  

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Speedracer,

 

Great thread idea. Hopefully it survives intact. As you mentioned, the film noir "genre" is nebulous at best. And of the films that can be categorized as such, there are so many that are favorites of mine, AND my ranking of the Top favorites can change from time.to time. Let me throw out a few titles, and will try to stick with some of the more renowned ones.

 

1. IN A LONELY PLACE

2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY

3. LAURA

4. NIGHT AND THE CITY

5. THIEVES HIGHWAY

6. CRISS CROSS

7. FALLEN ANGEL

8. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

9. SCARLET STREET

10. THE STREET WITH NO NAME

11. CRY OF THE CITY

12. MURDER MY SWEET

13. THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

14. THE FILE.ON THELMA.JORDAN

15. THE BLUE DAHLIA

16. WHIRLPOOL

17. KISS OF DEATH

18. NIGHTMARE.ALLEY

19. OUT OF THE PAST

20. DARK PASSAGE

 

I'm glad to see that you loved In a Lonely Place.  I just saw it a couple months ago for the first time and loved it.  Bogart's character isn't all that great of a guy, he has a bad temper that can easily lead to violence.  He's depressed because he hasn't had a hit screenplay in years.  The main conflict in the film isn't all that original for a noir: A character is believed to have committed a murder that he knows he didn't commit and now has to clear his name.  What makes this variation on the plot interesting is that it isn't implausible that Bogart's character could have committed the murder.  He's prone to violence and is known around town for having a quick temper.  I really loved Gloria Grahame in this film.  Prior to In a Lonely Place, I had only seen Grahame in Song of the Thin Man and The Bad and the Beautiful and didn't think much about her in either film.  However, in 'Lonely Place,' I thought she was excellent and will check out more films that she appears in and maybe give The Bad and the Beautiful another viewing.

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