Film Noir – One Dame’s Growing Obsession

My love of film noir took root about four or five years ago. Newly divorced and in an existential mood, I gravitated to them and quickly became hooked. To date, I’ve seen 75 film noir flicks. I know this because I keep a master list of all I’ve viewed (because I’m a nerd), with my favorites starred. I studied film in college and have always been an enthusiast, but film noir particularly resonates with me. The tone, the mood, the look, the “everyman wronged out for revenge” plots. A great film noir flick leaves you feeling wrung out, like you’ve been through an ordeal, like you’ve been sucker-punched, worked over, for every red nickel you own. Some are campy and hammy, some are a slow burn while yet others are tinged with sadness. I love ’em all but especially like my noir gritty and dark, smart and edgy, with the one-liners a’flying.

One of my favorites, "Odd Man Out," featuring the incomparable James Mason.
One of my favorites, “Odd Man Out,” featuring the incomparable James Mason.

So here it is, my own…

Recipe for a Film Noir

One Wise-Crackin’ Joe – with jutting chin and lined face
One Ex-Champion Boxer – down on his luck
One Gangster – set up by his gangster pal
One Detective – hard-boiled
One Moll – extra hard
One Femme Fatale – In perpetual soft focus
One Pack of Cigarettes
Thick Fog
Trench Coats – it’s never summer in a noir
Guns – that occasionally run out of ammo during a shoot-out
Docks or a Wharf
Squealing Tires
One Hapless, Simpering Stool Pigeon – to be rubbed out
Fedoras
Scarves – Good for strangling molls
One Prison – with curiously lax security
Urban City – either New York, L.A. or London, in shadows
One Clock – always chiming midnight
Cops – some good, some bad
Whiskey – for one to have a belt, then hurl glass across the room
Alleyways – lined with boxes/garbage cans, good for shoving into someone chasing you
Rain-Slicked Rooftops
Train or Boat – always with horn sounding to signal its imminent departure
One Good Guy Framed
One Good Girl Mixed up with the Wrong Guy
One Clubhouse/Shack – easily accessible, to hide out in when the heat is on

Throw them all into a dark, shadowy, smoke-filled pot one night, stir them up, let simmer. Serves millions.

The brilliant "Hangover Square."
The brilliant “Hangover Square.”
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3 thoughts on “Film Noir – One Dame’s Growing Obsession

  1. You know I hadn’t really thought of Odd Man Out as a noir, but you’re right. It fits. I also got to know and love them via film school. I try also to be cognizant of their continuity with German Expressionism.

    You didn’t link to your list, but my own favorites include Robert Siodmak’s films (Phantom Lady, The Spiral Staircase, The Killers, Criss Cross), Nicholas Ray’s (They Live by Night, On Dangerous Ground) and of course Welles’ Citizen Kane, Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil. Before you mentioned Odd Man Out, my touchstones for British noir would have been Brighton Rock and Night and the City.

    If I don’t know anything else about an unfamiliar picture, I’ll take RKO over any other studio. Noir’s kind of antithetical to MGM sensibilities, Paramount’s look too smooth, and Warners’ were energetic, but not as dark or gritty. Some of the best noirs were cheaply produced by lesser studios, a decision I always like to champion. Those include Ulmer’s Detour, and Joe Lewis’ Gun Crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For the record, here’s my list. There are some here that can be considered simply classic films but from what I’ve read, can also be considered noir…

    1. The Woman in the Window*
    2. Scarlet Street*
    3. Detour
    4. The Naked City*
    5. The Big Combo*
    6. Let’s Make it Legalr
    7. The Killing
    8. Where the Sidewalk Ends
    9. Rain*
    1o. The Big Night
    11. The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit
    12. Beat the Devil
    13. Call Northside 777
    14. Night and the City
    15. Dial M for Murder
    16. I Wake Up Screaming
    17. Odd Man Out*
    18. Dear Murderer
    19. The Stranger*
    2o. No Man of Her Own*
    21. Laura*
    22. The Lady of Shanghai
    23. The Big Sleep*
    24. I’m No Angel
    25. Don’t Bother to Knock
    26. Imitation of Life
    27. Gilda*
    28. To Have and Have Not
    29. Dead End
    3o. Hangover Square*
    31. The Blue Gardenia
    32. You Only Live Once
    33. The Damned Don’t Cry
    34. The Naked Kiss
    35. I’m a Fugitive From a Chain Gang*
    36. Possessed
    37. Murder, My Sweet
    38. The Spiral Staircase
    39. The Big Heat*
    4o. Key Largo*
    41. Sudden Fear
    42. The Maltese Falcon
    43. The Third Man
    44. Algiers*
    45. Crimes of Passion
    46. Cry, Danger
    47. 99 River Street*
    48. They Made Me a Fugitive
    49. The House Across the Bay
    5o. The Big Knife
    51. Crime Against Joe
    52. From the Terrace
    53. She Done Him Wrong
    54. The Clairvoyant
    55. The Lady Eve
    56. The Other Love
    57. Witness for the Prosecution
    58. The Big Caper
    59. Gentleman’s Agreement
    6o. Impact
    61. I Walk Alone
    62. The Fake
    63. The Postman Always Rings Twice
    64. Sunset Boulevard*
    65. Mildred Pierce
    66. The Letter
    67. Gaslight*
    68. Asphalt Jungle
    69. Rebecca
    7o. Suspicion
    71. High Sierra
    72. Niagara
    73. The October Man*
    74. Raw Deal*

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