FILM NOIR 1930’S TO 1950’S


Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. It involves shady characters smoking cigarettes, dressed in suit wearing hats and carring a gun and they are involved in some kind of crime and gave birth to the femme fatale .In Hollywood’s classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression. The term film noir, French for “black film”, first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unknown to most American film industry professionals of the classic era. Cinema historians and critics defined the noir canon in retrospect. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic film noirs were referred to as melodramas. The question of whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars. Though film noir is often identified with a visual style, unconventional within a Hollywood context, that emphasizes low-key lighting and unbalanced compositions, films commonly identified as noir evidence a variety of visual approaches, including ones that fit comfortably within the Hollywood mainstream. Film noirs similarly embrace a variety of genres, from the gangster film to the police procedural to the gothic romance to the social problem picture—any example of which from the 1940s and 1950s, now seen as noir’s classic era, was likely to be described as a “melodrama” at the time. While many critics refer to film noir as a genre itself, others argue that it can be no such thing. While noir is often associated with an urban setting, many classic noirs take place in small towns, suburbia, rural areas, or on the open road; so setting cannot be its genre determinant, as with the Western. Similarly, while the private eye and the femme fatale are character types conventionally identified with noir, the majority of film noirs feature neither; so there is no character basis for genre designation as with the gangster film. Nor does film noir rely on anything as evident as the monstrous or supernatural elements of the horror film, the speculative leaps of the science fiction film, or the song-and-dance routines of the musical.


THE MALTESE FALCON (1941): pade and Archer is the name of a San Francisco detective agency. That’s for Sam Spade and Miles Archer. The two men are partners, but Sam doesn’t like Miles much. A knockout, who goes by the name of Miss Wanderly, walks into their office; and by that night everything’s changed. Miles is dead. And so is a man named Floyd Thursby. It seems Miss Wanderly is surrounded by dangerous men. There’s Joel Cairo, who uses gardenia-scented calling cards. There’s Kasper Gutman, with his enormous girth and feigned civility. Her only hope of protection comes from Sam, who is suspected by the police of one or the other murder. More murders are yet to come, and it will all be because of these dangerous men — and their lust for a statuette of a bird: the Maltese Falcon. George Raft was originally cast as Sam Spade. He turned it down because it was “not an important picture,” taking advantage of a clause in his contract that said he did not have to work on remakes. However, according to the author John McCarty, author of The Films of John Huston, in an ICONS Radio interview (10-07-07) the real reason Raft bowed out was because a successful screenwriter, John Huston, was going to direct his first movie. Raft didn’t want to trust his part to this neophyte director. Two “Maltese Falcons” were used for the film because Humphrey Bogart dropped the original during shooting. The original falcon is on display in the movie museum at Warner Bros. studios; its tail feathers are visibly dented from Bogey’s flub sixty years ago. Filming was completed in two months at a cost of less than $300,000. At 357 pounds, 60-year-old British newcomer Sydney Greenstreet was so large that the studio had to specially manufacture his entire wardrobe for the role of Kasper Gutman. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #31 Greatest Movie of All Time. When Warner Brothers saw how successful the film was, the studio decided to produce a sequel. Director John Huston had written the script for the sequel, which was to be titled ‘Three Strangers’. The film was supposed to contain many of the primary characters from The Maltese Falcon, specifically Sam Spade. Before the film reached production; however, Dashiell Hammett informed Warner Brothers that he owned the rights to the characters in The Maltese Falcon and even though the studio had purchased the rights to novel, it did not own the rights to the characters in the novel. The sequel was never made; but, John Huston’s script for Three Strangers was eventually filmed. Although the characters differed from The Maltese Falcon, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet both appeared in the film.




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