Classic Film : Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?



I would think yes. Yes, and the events leading up to the war as well,–rise of Hitler in Germany and of fascism in general, refugees from Nazi persecution finding work in Hollywood–these and other factors were I'd say key elements in the rise of Noir. That the more or less first or (if you must) canonical noir picture, Stranger On The Third Floor, was released in 1940, is significant. That one of the leading players in that film, Peter Lorre, had played the child killer who was the focus of the manhunt in Fritz Lang's M, released eight years earlier, is worth mentioning, too.

Certainly many of the lead character in Noir movies were veterans, which figures since they were able bodied, younger men of action. Often there is a script reference to their service. It seems to me that an element of French existentialism is woven into the plots of Noir movies, perhaps unconsciously by the writer(s). That seems only right considering the impact of the war on so many. Then there is the movie "I Wake Up Screaming", 1941 and pre Pearl Harbor. Whether this crime drama can be rightfully considered Noir is debatable. I see it as a precursor.

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Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?





Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

Most of my all-time faves in that lot!
Bogie and Bacall - slow burn together. Really sexy without any sex!
The Killing - Racetrack heist. Brilliant
Laura- mystery, with timeless theme tune.
Blue Velvet- David Lynch at his best. Brutal and touching story.
Sin City - A touch of Tarantino. Crazy ,good cast.
Third Man - Enough said!
Memento - Short term memory loss makes for a disturbing film.
Dark city - sort of sci-fi horror, but much more than that.
Maltese Falcon - outstanding detective drama, with Sam Spade - Bogie
Chinatown - Polanski makes another winner
Kiss me Deadly - from Mickey Spillane who-dun-it. Really cool.
L.A. Confidential - Corrupt cops, 1950's LA. Adapted from James Ellroy novel. Brilliant casting.

Still got a lot to get through!

edit: How could I forget Bladerunner? And the tears in rain scene!

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Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

It was ok, but, as usual with second comings, something was missing. The element of surprise, perhaps? Don't know - But I did enjoy it.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

Some people consider Noir a genre and some (myself included) consider it more a style. But I'm going to ignore that difference right now and just suggest a few films that are great ones and that are generally in one way or another considered to be Noir films. You cannot go wrong with these, all classics, and, frankly, they really are must-sees:

Double Indemnity (1944)- starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray

Out of the Past (1947) - starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer

The Maltese Falcon (1941) - starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor

Laura (1944) - starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

I'd say yes. You mentioned I Waked Up Screaming, which doesn't reference the war (but then Noir seldom did), feels somehow a product of that era. Same with the also even more pre-Pearl Harbor Stranger On The Third Floor.

The war-Noir relationship strikes me as roughly comparable to the Depression-horror one. There appears to be a connection and yet it isn't stated. Like Noir, horror continued well after the era that spawned it, so to speak.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

The war-Noir relationship strikes me as roughly comparable to the Depression-horror one. There appears to be a connection and yet it isn't stated. Like Noir, horror continued well after the era that spawned it, so to speak.

Love this, telegonus. But as to the OP's question, I guess it all depends upon the impossible question: how to define noir. Do I think there's a connection between WW2 and noir? Yes. But I'd probably also make the assertion that there's a connection between noir and the Depression, too. Again, are we discussing style, or genre? If it's genre only, then I think it's possible to consider the war as a generating influence. If not, I think there's much more to explore.

My two cents on a subject that is likely not to be resolved for a long time, if at all.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

If not, I think there's much more to explore.

Do go on.

Your thoughts are sarkic & you are a hylic.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

Thanks, handmale, but I can't continue at the moment. Have to sign off now. I'll come back tomorrow and see what more I can offer.

In the meantime, I'd really love to know your views on the subject. It is a provocative topic. Thanks.

EDITED TO ADD: You might want to check out my post to the OP. It will give you some idea of my thoughts.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

I started this thread but i am kinda out of touch with this subject. Yes do continue whenever you feel like it!

Your thoughts are sarkic & you are a hylic.

Oh, you changed your name!

Glad to know.

But I really do have to sign off now. Glad to know you're around, and I really do think you have a lot to say that's very interesting - and telegonus is very smart and obviously he thinks so, too. I'll check in tomorrow when I can and maybe we can have a back-and-forth about this most interesting topic - the one without a definitive answer, I fear. But you are certainly in the majority in your thinking - it seems anyway.

Adios for now.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

Really appreciate your thoughts on this, fakerouge. If one considers American noir only as a genre, I think you have a lot of ground to stand on with your proposition - though I confess I do think there are also significant noir elements in many Depression era films - foreign and American, among them: Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), Renoir's Pépé le Moko (1937) and La Bête Humaine (1932), Marcel Carné's Port of Shadows (1938), Hawk's Scarface (1932), Lang's Fury(1936) and You Only Live Once (1937, and LeRoy's I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932), among others.

So I'm not sure I can fully ascribe to your theory, but then again I am prone to view noir more as style than simply genre, style that can and often does encompass several genres. It's a very interesting topic, however, always ripe for discussion, and your thoughts are intriguing and well-thought out.

I will ponder them, I assure you.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

So I'm not sure I can fully ascribe to your theory, but then again I am prone to view noir more as style than simply genre, style that can and often does encompass several genres. It's a very interesting topic, however, always ripe for discussion, and your thoughts are intriguing and well-thought out.

Riveting insight into this style. Thanks.

Your thoughts are sarkic & you are a hylic.

Re: Would you say Noir genre evolved because of WW2?

Handmale, please read my latest post to Telegonus. I can't add much more than that right now. I really have to think about how to approach the subject in that context at this point. But I said I would come back to post, and so I did - a day late, but still here.

Waking Up & Detours

I Wake Up Screaming is an odd one. Canonically, it's generally regarded as the second Noir after Stranger On The Third Floor; and yet it's a crime picture, a mystery, a romance and in part a police procedural (admittedly distasteful procedures, but there you have it). There's also,–and I'm really not all that keen on this subject but when it's there you've gotta deal with it–some gay subtext in the film.

Some of it comes from the mere presence of the massive, elephantine and yet curiously refined character Laird Cregar plays, his stalking of Victor Mature as much as Carole Landis, the way he turns up in Mature's bedroom, watching him sleep! There's a twisted sex thing in the movie, odd for a picture from 1941; and while it's mostly unstated, it's there for all to see. It's there, too, in the same year's Maltese Falcon, featuring Elisha Cook, Jr., a veteran of the first two Noirs as well, and Peter Lorre, who was only in the first. That most films feature a fat man who gives off gay vibes (and in the second is gay) provides a link of sorts.

Yet as the Noir style evolved during the war and immediate postwar era some of the dandyishness of early efforts in that style began to take a back seat; and the sexuality got straighter if not always "normal". The sexually "ambiguous" types still popped up now and then but less prominently; and overall the tone of these more pure examples of the Noir style feel much more American than earlier films made in the Noir manner. I think of Edgar Ulmer's Detour, from the end of the war era, veering into madness, raising such questions as "is Al Roberts telling the truth or is he mad?" and "Did he kill Haskell?" (the guy who died from an apparent heart condition) and "is the entire story the dream of a madman in a lunatic asylum?".

There's no way of answering to anyone's full satisfaction these and other questions regarding the plot and characters of Detour. The mere raising of such matters shows how far Noir had traveled in less than five years, from the city to the highway, "somebodies" to "nobodies"; and to leading actors who looked perpetually in need of a shave. Noir would continue to be a mostly urban, however like Detour it had migrated from the east coast to the west, and it would become as much an L.A. type of film as a New York one, as cars, trucks, trains, highways and roadhouses became fixtures in what we now call Noir. Even the east coast 1946 The Killers moves from New Jersey to Philadelphia, then back to Jersey, then all the way to Pittsburgh.

Re: Waking Up and Detours

What a great post, telegonus! I know you and I have discussed my proclivity for noir as a style elsewhere, but I have to say that your comments here, with noir as primarily a genre, are fascinating, scintillating, and very nearly make me want to acquiesce to the notion of it being only a genre. Not sure I can, even though I know that's how it's held by the film community at large, and it would make things so much easier to keep it within those confines.

And it would help, of course, if I'd seen Detour, which I regret to say I haven't. But I did see I Wake Up Screaming, one of my favorites in the "genre" format. And your comments about it are so provocative that they give me a lot to think about. Thank you for that.

I believe you should consider writing a book, if you're not already doing so. Your intelligence and literary skills would bode you well, I know. And I think people would be very interested in what you have to say.

Thanks

Thanks so much for the kind words, Spiderwort. 🌞 It's difficult for me to know what to do for an "encore". I've never seriously thought of writing a book about film,–there are so damn many of them!–and for the classic era, well, between them, Agee, Farber and Otis Ferguson kind of nailed it. Not that they're the last word, or words, on the subject. More like the studio years have been "covered", and such detail, the mind boggles, or my mind does, when thinking of coming up with something new to say.

Writing a book

You're welcome, Telegonus. And I guess you may be right about the book thing. I have no doubt you could do it, but maybe it's already been done. I stopped reading film books so long ago I don't even know what's out there anymore. I think I stopped somewhere around Pauline Kael and/or Andrew Sarris. (Love that you mentioned Agee; so many don't know that he was a critic before he was a screenwriter, let alone after he was a novelist.)

Anyway, just wanted to thank you for the great read and compliment you on the beautiful words you used to express your fascinating ideas.
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