New to the genre (or is it a style)? Lets look into what a Film Noir is and what makes a film a Noir. I'm sure I will not do it full justice. I've posted the dictionary definition above. However, there is so much more to the genre. It's not a coincidence that this dark, pessimistic, shady view of crime happened during World War II. People had dark things on the mind.
Another aspect of Noir is, thanks to the Hays Movie Code (Motion Picture Production Code), the bad guys and gals always had to get "what was coming to them. Take a look at their list of "Don't and Be Carefuls." Filmmakers of the period had to work around this and often tried to push the boundaries to see what they could get away with (another quality of these films that I love). Noir is right on the edge of the code, it's very subject matter could be tricky when you had to deal with such guidelines.
One of my favorite personal aspects of Film Noir was the "bad girl" or Femme Fatale. She was often a lure for the protagonist in the film (and the audience!) and this would sometimes lead to his demise. This wasn't always true, in my Noirvember pick of the month -- Phantom Lady (1947), the actress Ella Raines as Kansas subverts these tropes by being the wrongfully convicted man's redemption. It could get really interesting. Anyway, lets get to my top 3 Film Noirs and I'll link you to some further reading if you're still interested in the topic!
1. Laura (1944), directed by Otto Preminger:
This was the Noir that got me into Film Noir. A beautiful working girl is murdered and in a strange twist of fate, later becomes a suspect herself (trying to be vague to avoid spoilers, but trust me). It also stars Dana Andrews -- who slowly falls in love with the dead Gene Tierney through her portrait -- and a young Vincent Price. I just love the character of Laura; she's working and making her way through the ranks in her career, breaking hearts along the way.
This one is interesting because it's based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway (of which the opening scene is very faithful), and then expands it into a full crime thriller. The femme fatale in question is the beautiful Ava Gardner in her breakthrough role: A girl named Kitty Collins.* There's lust, betrayal, a heist, and a murder-mystery. Everything you could want in a Noir.
*I recently named my new kitten Ava in reference to Ava Gardner after watching this film and reading her biography. I like the irony of having a "Kitty" named Ava.
3. The Woman in the Window (1944), directed by Fritz Lang.
I like this one very much, but I do wish they had stuck with their original ending (which was very different from what it was replaced with later). A middle aged man becomes entranced with a woman in a portrait (yes, men falling in love with portraits again). This time, as he admires the beauty of the portrait in the window -- she appears behind him! The woman in question is Alice Reed played by Joan Bennett. The old men is then thrown into all kinds of precarious situations he never dreamed he'd be in. If you do watch this one, please read up on the original ending.
Leave Her To Heaven (1945) -- Think the '40s answer to Gone Girl (also this one is in color!).
This Gun for Hire (1942) -- This one is in our catalog! You know you wanna hear Veronica Lake sing and do magic tricks!
Phantom Lady (1945) -- Ella Raines is fantastic in this and she subtly subverts the femme fatale trope in a very interesting way. My pick of the month at the library. We own this one!
Scarlet Street (1945) -- Also starring Joan Bennett and by the same director of The Woman in the Window.
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
I Wake Up Screaming (1941) - I have a soft spot for Carole Landis.
Here are some other helpful Noir links for the fan, or fans-to-be:
The Film Noir Foundation
The Noirvember Facebook Page, join in on Noirvember's November celebrations!
What is Film Noir?
Let me know what you think of my list, and tell me what your favorite is! Keep in mind we do not have every one of these movies in our collection, I've tried to mark which we do. Never be afraid to utilize our interlibrary loan system and see if you can order one if it peaks your interest. - Linda