Noir Films

Moderators: Lzcutter, kingrat, movieman1957, moira finnie, Sue Sue Applegate

Re: Noir Films

Postby ChiO » Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:43 pm

"Influence" is a funny word. I read recently that CITIZEN KANE is one of the, if not the, films most commonly cited by current directors as being the most influential for them. Yet, how many CITIZEN KANEs are being made? "Influence" can be "inspired me to work in movies" or "my favorite" or "the greatest" or "hold out as my standard", not necessarily "I make my movies to look like it." The four movies receiving the most votes from directors in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll? TOKYO STORY, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, CITIZEN KANE and 8-1/2. I'm willing to assume that many of our usual suspects in the late-'30s/late-'40s had seen some German Murnau and Lang movies and were impressed by the lighting effects. But somewhere in the Noir tangle, the productions went from elaborate and expensive to, generally speaking, quick and cheap (fine by me).

Couldn't find much information on AMONG THE LIVING, but one of my reference books has information on the other two. STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR was a B-feature at RKO. It received so-so (at best) reviews in the U.S. (none known outside the U.S.), most criticizing the direction and complaining that Lorre was shortchanged in screen time. The lighting was touted by the studio, but greeted with apathy, some calling it too arty and (based on an assumption that it cost a lot because the studio was touting it) a waste of money. The production budget was $171,200. Presumably it failed at the box office and was rediscovered in the '70s. THE MALTESE FALCON got rave reviews in the U.S. and England, much of it revolving around Huston and Bogart. A cheap A-feature at Warner Bros., the production budget was $341,000 and shot in 36 days. It was so popular that Warner planned a sequel, but Huston had become such a hot property that it was scrapped.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles
User avatar
ChiO
 
Posts: 3901
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Noir Films

Postby RedRiver » Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:43 pm

Even Dashiel Hammett was inspired to write some follow up stories. Not sequels, but stories featuring Spade and Effie Darling. They're not real good.
RedRiver
 
Posts: 4003
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:43 am

Re: Noir Films

Postby CineMaven » Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:43 pm

ChiO wrote:Did a little digging relating to the German emigre/German Expressionism impact on American film noir by taking the movies in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, since it is the generally acknowledged standard reference, listed for 1940, 1941, and 1942, the start of the Classic Age, and checking out where the directors and cinematographers were born and where they worked.

I bought that reference book back in 1989. Here is my copy:

Image
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com
User avatar
CineMaven
 
Posts: 3799
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:43 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York

Re: Noir Films

Postby kingrat » Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:43 pm

Thanks, ChiO, for the heads up about Stranger on the Third Floor (1940, dir. Boris Ingster), for the information about its reception, and the additional background about the societal influences on film noir. Like the original viewers, I’d like to have seen more screen time for Peter Lorre. I did find the film quite interesting, with an almost romantic comedy beginning with the nice girl saving a place at the lunch counter for her boyfriend and then the movie turns dark and then darker with the full-out expressionism of the young man’s nightmare until the shadows are banished. John McGuire is an Arrow Collar Man type, which seems right for the part, and Margaret Tallichet made a pleasant heroine. The period mores are captured nicely: the heroine doesn’t mind going to her boyfriend’s room because they both know that nothing of an intensely carnal nature will occur. This scene is sensitively handled.

The hero’s self-inquisition and nightmare seems more like belated expressionism than film noir; compare this with Michael Redgrave’s putting himself on trial in Secret Beyond the Door (1947), where a similar idea seems less directly a product of German expressionist angst. Stranger on the Third Floor explores the Doppelganger theme, with no fewer than three alternate egos for the normal hero: Elisha Cook, Jr. as the man on trial for murder; Peter Lorre as the creepy stranger who might be a killer; and Charles Halton as Mr. Meng, the creepy voyeuristic neighbor. Normality seems just a step away from not quite fitting in (Cook) or having twisted sexual impulses (Halton) or even insanity (Lorre). The story emphasizes, perhaps too much, that everything Cook is accused of, our hero could have done.

Nicholas Musuraca’s handsome chiaroscuro cinematography looks like full-blown American film noir. Peter Lorre has one of the most memorable faces and one of the most memorable voices in movie history, along with a remarkable talent for making us feel a certain amount of sympathy for his scariest characters.

According to his biographer, William Wyler was romantically involved with both Margaret Tallichet and Bette Davis. One of them gave up her career to become Mrs. William Wyler. The other did not.

Another note about expressionism: Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine, a play about the bookkeeper Mr. Zero who murders his nagging wife, was a hit way back in 1923, so there had been native as well as German examples of the style which would have been familiar to theater-going audiences.
kingrat
Moderator
 
Posts: 2147
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:43 pm

Re: Noir Films

Postby RedRiver » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:43 pm

This is a very well written analysis of the things I like about "Stranger." Peter Lorre has one of the most memorable faces My brother feels the advent of the widescreen was the worst thing for movies. "Movies are about faces. Not scenery." This is no more evident than in Lewis Milestone's RAIN, with Joan Crawford. My thoughts on that visual poem are on another thread!
RedRiver
 
Posts: 4003
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:43 am

Re: Noir Films

Postby JackFavell » Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:43 pm

The hero’s self-inquisition and nightmare seems more like belated expressionism than film noir; compare this with Michael Redgrave’s putting himself on trial in Secret Beyond the Door (1947), where a similar idea seems less directly a product of German expressionist angst.


So what's the difference? How is Secret Beyond the Door less expressionistic?
User avatar
JackFavell
 
Posts: 11935
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:43 am

Re: Noir Films

Postby CineMaven » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:43 am

RedRiver wrote:..."Movies are about faces. Not scenery." This is no more evident than in Lewis Milestone's RAIN, with Joan Crawford. My thoughts on that visual poem are on another thread!

I saw your comments there on the film, Red. ( Scroll all the way down, folks for Red's comments. )

I added my own two cents to your comments on "RAIN." ( Those two cents might be only worth a half a cent after we jump off that financial cliff Congress must decide on. Well I'll gladly jump off in service of my country... )

Head on over to the Walter Huston thread for my half-cent post, from my half a brain. :shock: Geronimooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhh!
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com
User avatar
CineMaven
 
Posts: 3799
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:43 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York

Re: Noir Films

Postby kingrat » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:43 pm

It’s fascinating to watch the 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon (dir. Roy Del Ruth), which lacks the perfection of John Huston’s classic version, but is an enjoyable film in its own right with many points of interest. The 1931 version is both somewhat abbreviated and not quite so well paced. Ricardo Cortez is more of a ladies’ man than Bogart, and the anonymous dame who adjusts her stocking as she exits his office will help you like the way this film opens. Una Merkel is a doll as Effie, Sam Spade’s secretary, smart and sassy, and he’s a dolt for not seeing that she’s the one for him. Thelma Todd is sexier than Gladys George as Iva Archer, and you have to love her line “What’s that dame doing in my kimono?” The way Bebe Daniels takes off the robe and throws it aside is pretty funny, too. No doubts in this pre-Code version that Spade is having an affair with her. Bebe Daniels is prettier and sexier than Mary Astor as Miss Wonderly, but Huston’s version develops the character much more, and Mary Astor gives a marvelous performance. 1931 may have Bebe in the bathtub, but it omits all mention of Brigid O’Shaugnessy.

If you’re wondering how any supporting cast could compete with Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr.—for once, the word “iconic” seems justified--the answer is that the 1931 actors are pretty darn good. Dudley Digges lacks the girth of Greenstreet, but otherwise he’s just right as Gutman. Dwight Frye doesn’t have much screen time as Wilmer, but he’s perfectly cast. His eyes show that the soul within is deeply disturbed. Spade doesn’t taunt Wilmer in this version, but it’s abundantly clear that Gutman and Wilmer are having a sexual relationship. When Gutman says, “I love him like a son,” this is obviously, and amusingly, not the case. Otto Matieson is a fine Joel Cairo, and his appearance in Spade’s office is the scene least changed in Huston’s film. Here Miss Wonderly doesn’t taunt Cairo about the boy in Istanbul, but he’s rather obviously gay. Three gay villains, and none of them exactly stereotyped.

Bogart’s Sam Spade seems less amoral than Cortez but more hard-bitten, a nastier customer but one we care about more. Huston is the better director, but Del Ruth has many nice touches, like Miss Wonderly cheating at solitaire as they wait for the falcon to be delivered.
kingrat
Moderator
 
Posts: 2147
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:43 pm

Re: Noir Films

Postby Western Guy » Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:43 am

I find Dudley Digges a lot more "creepy" that Greenstreet, especially in that scene where he gives Ricardo Cortez the drugged drink. Where Greenstreet comes across almost avuncular, Digges is just slimy. I totally agree about Dwight Frye. Perfect as Wilmer. Another of those parts (along with Renfield and Fritz) that he was born to play.
Western Guy
 
Posts: 1609
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:43 pm
Location: Winnipeg, Canada

Re: Noir Films

Postby RedRiver » Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:43 pm

I agree with most of what's been said. Del Ruth's film is a good one. Far superior to the fluffy SATAN MET A LADY! Cortez makes a good hard-ass protagonist. Digges a threatening villain. But Huston's film is perfect in almost every way. Bogart is the better Spade. Greenstreet the more menacing Gutman. And nobody does gunsel like Elisha Cook! If anything, this is my favorite character. The earlier entry is fine. But THE...Maltese Falcon is one of the great movies!
RedRiver
 
Posts: 4003
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:43 am

Re: Noir Films

Postby CineMaven » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:43 am

________________________________________________

:shock: THIS MOVIE DON'T MAKE NO KINDA SENSE!!! :shock:

...But I love it so. :oops:

I’m no psychiatrist, but you’d have to be blind not to see it makes no sense to fall in love, or in lust, at first sight with a psychopathic paranoiac narcissist. ( Mammy might say: “It ain’t fittin’, it just ain’t fittin’!” ) But fall for him she does in “BORN TO KILL.” The SHE is the great CLAIRE TREVOR and the HE is irascible curmudgeon LAWRENCE TIERNEY.

Image
Helen Brent was going in the right direction; she should have kept walking...

Tierney is Sam Wild; his name says it all. He’s dangerous. He’s trouble. From the brim of his fedora to the soles of his wing-tipped shoes...he’s nuts. Yet he’s catnip to the ladies. That is, if you’re a lady with a couple of screws loose. Go figure!

I'm not saying Claire is nutty in that dreamily loopy kind of way the gal is in “KISS ME DEADLY.”

Image

“...The liar’s kiss that says ‘ I love you. ’ ” ( ChiO, I loved your quote from Friday in this movie! )

But in that Bette Davis way

Image

that says: “With all my heart, I STILL love the man I killed!”

Claire plays Helen Brent. She's obsessive in that, might as well face it she's addicted to love, kind of way. Only it’s not love.

Lawrence Tierney plays the Abby Normal hothead who shoots first and asks question laa--

Naaaah, he just shoots first. He shoots first if he thinks you're cutting in on his girl. He shoots first if he thinks you’re cutting him out of a deal. He shoots first if he thinks you stole the bologna sandwich from the refrigerator. His first impulse is to shoot first. I actually think of him as Frankenstein’s monster. But I don’t know WHO made him. He has a very very fragile ego.

Claire Trevor's actions in this picture, I never understood. And I don't wanna.

I just want to marvel in how she gets herself enmeshed, embroiled, entangled deeper and deeper in this situation; it's a hot mess! AND with a man she hardly knows. Then on a dime, he dumps her and is after her sister. ( Well...many dimes, the girl is RICH! ) If Claire thinks she's looking through the netted veil of her hat, I’m hear to tell her...nope: "You're thinking through the cobwebs in your brains, Helen. Step away from the testosterone girlfriend!" Helen's and Sam's ids are dangerously out of whack. They've got the same type of symbiotic relationship Peggy Cummins and John Dall had in “GUN CRAZY.” Actually both couples’ relationship were more parasitical; the weaker of the two got hurt: ( Dall & Trevor. ) Ev'ryone in "Born to Kill" suffers from the same malady of putting themselves in ridiculous predicaments and leaping to illllllogical courses of action. There's a lot of moviespeak in the writing; you know, the stuff you only accept in a 1940's black 'n white movie.

“Born To Kill” also stars Elisha Cook, Jr. ( Marty ) - the Weasel of all Slime, Esther Howard ( Mrs. Craft ) - character actress extraordinaire and Gladys George surrogate, Audrey Long ( Georgia ) - the sweet young thing caught up in some crazy batcrap shenanigans. Or perhaps not so sweet according to Jack Favell long ago:

JackFavell - 7/11/10 wrote:I was trying to think of other nice girls in noir films, but in most noir films, even the nice girls turn out to be not quite so...The victims aren't exactly sweet and lovely either - in Born to Kill .... Isabel Jewell and the wonderful Esther Howard are about as nice as ...well...you fill in the blank. The sister in BTK, played by Audrey Long, is supposed to be sweet and rich, but she comes off a little worse for being in contact with all the sleazy people she is around. I feel the same way about Jeanne Crain in Leave Her to Heaven. Something seems not quite right about her, no matter how good and kind she is supposed to be. They are all tainted by the milieu....


She was also the nice girl to Ella Raines' tomboy in "Tall In the Saddle." Isabel Jewell ( Laurie ), who looks very becoming in this movie, and kind of like Carole Landis, has the "heart of gold," and Walter Slezak ( Arnett ) - the philosophizing opportunist, who doesn’t care who he puts the squeeze on. But hey...that’s the American way.

* * *

Image

“You can’t go around killing people when it suits you. It just ain’t feasible.”

Sage advice that goes unheeded. Aahhh, this duo make strange bedfellows. Sam is all impulse, a hothead. Marty is the brains of the operation. Cold and dispassionate. He’ll kill for you if it’s expedient. I can only imagine they served in the same Army unit. You know, over there...over there.

* * *

Image

Two's company. Three's a triumvirate of psychological dysfunction.

Well we definitely know who the alpha male is in this group. Alphas always wear pinstripes. Helen is attracted to cruel Sam. What’s she getting out of all this? In fact, what is Marty gettin’ out of all this? Maybe the same thing as Helen. Sam fills the need in people to be destructive. Is there a gene for that? I love Marty's protectiveness though.

* * *

Image

Bargaining with the Devil.

I think Mrs. Craft has lost a step or two from her speakeasy days ( "HELLO SUCKERS!!" ) but she'll get more than just bathtub gin bargaining with the Devil's mistress. Still...I give her an "A" for effort in wishing to find out who killed her good friend Laurie Palmer. Be careful what you wish for.

* * *

Image

When nice is not enough.

This is a nice but boring duo. Audrey Long plays the good nice ( rich ) sister. And Philip Terry...well, the Leech Woman didn’t want him, Joan Crawford didn’t want him and Ray Milland didn’t want his help either. Your standard issue nondescript leading man. Escorts were scarce during the war years.

CINEMAVEN: “Escorts were scarce during the war years.”
T-MAVE: “This is 1947.”
CINEMAVEN: “Nevermind.”


No wonder Claire ran into the arms of a turnip.

* * *

Image

“Hello glamor girl.”

Uh-oh.

Girls, didn’t your mother ever tell you NOT to talk to strange men? I don’t mean to be judgmental, but why would you even LISTEN to Elisha Cook, Jr.? If your cab ever drops you off at a sand dune...don’t get out! I was shocked that Mrs. Craft escaped by the skin of her teeth. And she didn't lose her little hat, either. Oh Elisha, Elisha. No good deed goes unpunished.

* * *

Image

“I bet you can’t remember all the women who’ve been mad about you!”

Ohhhhhhkay. Now here’s a girl who likes to play with fire. Sam’s not even charming. He doesn’t even try to make nice. What do Helen and Georgia see in this big galoot. I’m trying to scratch and sniff the pheromones off my monitor, but...no dice.

* * *

Image

Cornered. As usual, realization comes too late.

Never tell the bad guy your plans! That’s Damsel In Distress 101. These heroines never listen. Feign like you have to go shopping for lipstick; then skedaddle outta there. Helen was misguided to begin with. And now Fate demands she’s got to pay the piper.

* * *

Image

“You’re the coldest iceberg of a woman I ever saw...I wouldn’t trade places with you if they sliced me into little pieces.”

A lovely assessment of Helen by Mrs. Craft.

* * *

Oh I like this movie. I like it a lot. A psychiatrist might say I have a commensal relationship with movies in general. But then again...there's room on that couch for all of us.
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com
User avatar
CineMaven
 
Posts: 3799
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:43 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York

Re: Noir Films

Postby Rita Hayworth » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:43 pm

kingrat wrote:It’s fascinating to watch the 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon (dir. Roy Del Ruth), which lacks the perfection of John Huston’s classic version, but is an enjoyable film in its own right with many points of interest. The 1931 version is both somewhat abbreviated and not quite so well paced. Ricardo Cortez is more of a ladies’ man than Bogart, and the anonymous dame who adjusts her stocking as she exits his office will help you like the way this film opens. Una Merkel is a doll as Effie, Sam Spade’s secretary, smart and sassy, and he’s a dolt for not seeing that she’s the one for him. Thelma Todd is sexier than Gladys George as Iva Archer, and you have to love her line “What’s that dame doing in my kimono?” The way Bebe Daniels takes off the robe and throws it aside is pretty funny, too. No doubts in this pre-Code version that Spade is having an affair with her. Bebe Daniels is prettier and sexier than Mary Astor as Miss Wonderly, but Huston’s version develops the character much more, and Mary Astor gives a marvelous performance. 1931 may have Bebe in the bathtub, but it omits all mention of Brigid O’Shaugnessy.

If you’re wondering how any supporting cast could compete with Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr.—for once, the word “iconic” seems justified--the answer is that the 1931 actors are pretty darn good. Dudley Digges lacks the girth of Greenstreet, but otherwise he’s just right as Gutman. Dwight Frye doesn’t have much screen time as Wilmer, but he’s perfectly cast. His eyes show that the soul within is deeply disturbed. Spade doesn’t taunt Wilmer in this version, but it’s abundantly clear that Gutman and Wilmer are having a sexual relationship. When Gutman says, “I love him like a son,” this is obviously, and amusingly, not the case. Otto Matieson is a fine Joel Cairo, and his appearance in Spade’s office is the scene least changed in Huston’s film. Here Miss Wonderly doesn’t taunt Cairo about the boy in Istanbul, but he’s rather obviously gay. Three gay villains, and none of them exactly stereotyped.

Bogart’s Sam Spade seems less amoral than Cortez but more hard-bitten, a nastier customer but one we care about more. Huston is the better director, but Del Ruth has many nice touches, like Miss Wonderly cheating at solitaire as they wait for the falcon to be delivered.



BRAVO! ... KIngrat ... I love your write-up of the 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon here in your post earlier in this thread.
Avatar: All Dressed Up for Halloween - Picture taken in 1935.

I have only two words to describe Rita Hayworth“Dreamlike Gorgeousness”

Erik
User avatar
Rita Hayworth
 
Posts: 8016
Joined: Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:43 pm
Location: Emerald City, WA

Re: Noir Films

Postby RedRiver » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:43 pm

Lawrence Tierney is a mean person. Yet, in a vague way, he reminds me of Leon Ames. Ames sometimes played nice persons!

"Master of the house....Keeper of the inn."
RedRiver
 
Posts: 4003
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:43 am

Re: Noir Films

Postby kingrat » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:43 pm

Thank you, kingme and Red, for your kind comments re the first Maltese Falcon. Maven, I love your writing about Born To Kill. I absolutely love this twisted film and wonder if this is Robert Wise's very best (and I like a lot of Robert Wise films). Maybe it has something to do with Esther Howard, who is incredibly good as a dame who's been around a lot but still insists on trying to bring the killer of her friend to justice. Falling for bad boys tends not to work out, but we all probably know people who have done this, if not quite on the scale of Born to Kill.
kingrat
Moderator
 
Posts: 2147
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:43 pm

Re: Noir Films

Postby CineMaven » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:43 pm

thank you kingrat. as i watching "btk" it really hit me how psychology unsound the characters are written. (but that doesn't stop me from loving it. ) esther does as good a job as thelma ritter does in "pickup on south street." i'm still shocked that esther got OUT of her predicament. that old lady tussling on the dunes with elisha cook, jr. ( "laurie, i failed you." - heart breaking. ) a friend of mine watched 1931's "maltese falcon" and was praising it; reading your post puts the nail in my coffin...that i missed it. pre-code, i should've known. :roll:

falling for bad boys? :shock: i uh...plead the fifth.
:oops:
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com
User avatar
CineMaven
 
Posts: 3799
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:43 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York

PreviousNext

Return to Film Noir and Crime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest