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Film Noir: Flip Side of the All-American Success Story
June 30, 2009 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Maybe you already know about film noir, how Italian-born French film critic Nino Frank coined the term in 1946, and that Dashiell Hammett's book The Maltese Falcon was adapted for film 3 times in 10 years. Or perhaps you've just browsed through the detailed Wikipedia page, and found the list of film noir series and films to be daunting, and IMDB search provides a list that is lacking. Either way, Noir of the Week has a wealth of information if you crave more details, but focuses on one film per week if long lists are daunting. Not interested in this week's film? They have over 240 movies covered to date.
posted by filthy light thief (20 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you! There is much to come back and savor in this post.
posted by blucevalo at 1:09 PM on June 30, 2009


Great post. Thanks.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2009


Augh! This is going to make me late for work! I'll have to come back later. Great post!
posted by Kimothy at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2009


I have to say that wikipedia entry is pretty loose with the noir titles. Many are not technically noir.
Any study of noir [in English] starts with Paul Schrader's seminal essay. [Look under 1971]
But others are just as good at narrowing down what is essential to noir and where there is critical disagreement.
posted by Rashomon at 1:31 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


filthy light thief, this is amazing timing. I re-watched the Maltese Falcon last night, and wasted a good chunk of my morning reading reviews of the 1931 movie to see if it was worth renting (verdict: probably not) and trying to figure out who was and wasn't a queer (verdict: every male but Bogart was gay).
posted by kanewai at 1:32 PM on June 30, 2009


Noir of the Week is a great blog, and Night of the Hunter, which they're featuring this week, is a great film. Davis Grubb, the guy who wrote the book upon which it is based, is probably post worthy. Also, The Murder City Devil's song "Left Hand, Right Hand" was inspired by Night of the Hunter (Youtube link to loud music).

I think my favorite film noir would have to be Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, which is covered on Noir of the Week in two parts.
posted by dortmunder at 1:35 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you, filthy light thief!
posted by brundlefly at 1:37 PM on June 30, 2009


eponysterical FPP. You heard it here first, folks.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:43 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Odd timing! Kanewai, FLT: I ALSO re-watched the Bogart/Astor one last night! For reals.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:59 PM on June 30, 2009


Splendid!
posted by No Robots at 3:02 PM on June 30, 2009


And I just watched most of The Big Sleep for the first time last night. Spooky.
posted by gofargogo at 3:04 PM on June 30, 2009


Awesome set of links!

The 1931 Maltese Falcon was merely OK, but looks and seems worse in comparison with the Bogart/Astor Maltese Falcon, which is just tremendously good. I've heard the radio versions of The Maltese Falcon with Bogart and Astor and Greenstreet et al, and they really highlight how well the movie was shot and framed, and how important the visuals were to the movie.

Mitchum is fantastic in Night of the Hunter, just so malevolent and focused, but my favorite on that list is Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, which frames the noir in the all-American bright-and-sunny picture-perfect world. It's a bit of a precursor to full-fledged noir, but is insidious. Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright are just so good in it.
posted by julen at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2009


I forgot to check Archive.org for any handy catch-all page or link. Lo and behold, they have a Film Noir collection. There are only 46 items listed currently, though I'm not sure if they're all properly sorted or tagged.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:49 PM on June 30, 2009


filthy light thief, this is amazing timing. I re-watched the Maltese Falcon last night, and wasted a good chunk of my morning reading reviews of the 1931 movie to see if it was worth renting (verdict: probably not) and trying to figure out who was and wasn't a queer (verdict: every male but Bogart was gay).

The 1931 version is worth watching, if just for the fact that it is pre-code, and rather explicit for it's time. Also, I think it kind of sheds some light on Spade's character. Pay attention to the scene at the beginning where Spade speaks Chinese. It will eventually put his actions in a different light. You can make an argument that Bogart's Spade is some sort of existential hero. You can't say the same thing about Spade in the first film. I think the first film gets closer to Hammett's spade than Huston's does.

Also, Archer's not gay. It would be a very different story if he were.
posted by dortmunder at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2009


I watched Dead End the other night. A very good -& short- film.
I'd never even heard of it until it was recommended by Errol Morris as one of his '5 Favorite Films'. He calls it 'The Greatest American Movie'!
posted by Flashman at 4:18 PM on June 30, 2009


Film noir movies always have the best lamps. Have you ever noticed that? The lamps in the rooms of film noir movies are the most awesome lamps in movies.

Great post. Whenever there's a classic dark film I want to learn more about, Noir of the Week is my go-to site. One of the best they've turned me on to is 1948's The Big Clock, which I recommend highly as a fantastic, suspenseful and visually stylish little thriller. It has great acting from Ray Milland, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein) in a great comic role as a ditzy artist, plus a young Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H) as a mute thug. It takes place over the course of one day mainly in the art deco office building of a murder magazine, which adds to the atmosphere beautifully. It was remade in 1987 as "No Way Out" with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman, but don't hold that against it. And lookee here; someone's posted it in 11 parts to YouTube.

Watch for the lamps.
posted by mediareport at 7:06 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and detnovel.com is a marvelously informative site with tons of great info about the books many of these films came from.
posted by mediareport at 7:10 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brick.
posted by now i'm piste at 10:42 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Detour is okay, but for my money the best noir are Kiss Me Deadly, Raw Deal, The Killers, and of course Double Indemnity.

What was most startling to me about Satan Met a Lady (the middle, comedic adaptation of Maltese Falcon) was how very similar it was to the other two films, while having a totally different effect due to its tone. I liked Marie Wilson's performance more than her analogues in the other versions.
posted by beerbajay at 5:25 AM on July 1, 2009


now i'm piste: I just watched Brick, thanks for the suggestion. Pretty good. Maybe a bit too much "tying up all the loose ends" but stylish, convoluted and fun.
posted by beerbajay at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2009


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