Film noir double indemnity essay

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. An analogous case is that of the screwball comedy , widely accepted by film historians as constituting a "genre": the screwball is defined not by a fundamental attribute, but by a general disposition and a group of elements, some—but rarely and perhaps never all—of which are found in each of the genre's films.

The aesthetics of film noir are influenced by German Expressionism , an artistic movement of the s and s that involved theater, photography, painting, sculpture and architecture, as well as cinema. The opportunities offered by the booming Hollywood film industry and then the threat of Nazism , led to the emigration of many film artists working in Germany who had been involved in the Expressionist movement or studied with its practitioners.

By , Curtiz had already been in Hollywood for half a decade, making as many as six films a year. Movies of his such as 20, Years in Sing Sing and Private Detective 62 are among the early Hollywood sound films arguably classifiable as noir—scholar Marc Vernet offers the latter as evidence that dating the initiation of film noir to or any other year is "arbitrary".

Edeson later photographed The Maltese Falcon , widely regarded as the first major film noir of the classic era. Josef von Sternberg was directing in Hollywood during the same period. Films of his such as Shanghai Express and The Devil Is a Woman , with their hothouse eroticism and baroque visual style, anticipated central elements of classic noir. The commercial and critical success of Sternberg's silent Underworld was largely responsible for spurring a trend of Hollywood gangster films.

Its visual intricacy and complex, voiceover narrative structure are echoed in dozens of classic film noirs. Italian neorealism of the s, with its emphasis on quasi-documentary authenticity, was an acknowledged influence on trends that emerged in American noir.

The Lost Weekend , directed by Billy Wilder , another Vienna-born, Berlin-trained American auteur , tells the story of an alcoholic in a manner evocative of neorealism. This semidocumentary approach characterized a substantial number of noirs in the late s and early s. Along with neorealism, the style had an American precedent cited by Dassin, in director Henry Hathaway 's The House on 92nd Street , which demonstrated the parallel influence of the cinematic newsreel. The primary literary influence on film noir was the hardboiled school of American detective and crime fiction , led in its early years by such writers as Dashiell Hammett whose first novel, Red Harvest , was published in and James M.

A decade before the classic era, a story by Hammett was the source for the gangster melodrama City Streets , directed by Rouben Mamoulian and photographed by Lee Garmes , who worked regularly with Sternberg. Released the month before Lang's M , City Streets has a claim to being the first major film noir; both its style and story had many noir characteristics. Raymond Chandler , who debuted as a novelist with The Big Sleep in , soon became the most famous author of the hardboiled school. Where Chandler, like Hammett, centered most of his novels and stories on the character of the private eye, Cain featured less heroic protagonists and focused more on psychological exposition than on crime solving; [37] the Cain approach has come to be identified with a subset of the hardboiled genre dubbed " noir fiction ".

For much of the s, one of the most prolific and successful authors of this often downbeat brand of suspense tale was Cornell Woolrich sometimes under the pseudonym George Hopley or William Irish. No writer's published work provided the basis for more film noirs of the classic period than Woolrich's: thirteen in all, including Black Angel , Deadline at Dawn , and Fear in the Night Another crucial literary source for film noir was W. Burnett , whose first novel to be published was Little Caesar , in It was turned into a hit for Warner Bros.

At least one important reference work identifies the latter as a film noir despite its early date. During the classic era, his work, either as author or screenwriter, was the basis for seven films now widely regarded as film noirs, including three of the most famous: High Sierra , This Gun for Hire , and The Asphalt Jungle While City Streets and other pre-WWII crime melodramas such as Fury and You Only Live Once , both directed by Fritz Lang, are categorized as full-fledged noir in Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward's film noir encyclopedia, other critics tend to describe them as "proto-noir" or in similar terms.

1. Introduction

The film now most commonly cited as the first "true" film noir is Stranger on the Third Floor , directed by Latvian-born, Soviet-trained Boris Ingster. He later played secondary roles in several other formative American noirs. It's a film too arty for average audiences, and too humdrum for others. Donald Marshman, Life August 25, [45]. Most film noirs of the classic period were similarly low- and modestly-budgeted features without major stars—B movies either literally or in spirit.

In this production context, writers, directors, cinematographers, and other craftsmen were relatively free from typical big-picture constraints. There was more visual experimentation than in Hollywood filmmaking as a whole: the Expressionism now closely associated with noir and the semi-documentary style that later emerged represent two very different tendencies.

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Narrative structures sometimes involved convoluted flashbacks uncommon in non-noir commercial productions. Thematically, film noirs were most exceptional for the relative frequency with which they centered on women of questionable virtue—a focus that had become rare in Hollywood films after the mids and the end of the pre-Code era. The signal film in this vein was Double Indemnity , directed by Billy Wilder; setting the mold was Barbara Stanwyck 's unforgettable femme fatale , Phyllis Dietrichson—an apparent nod to Marlene Dietrich , who had built her extraordinary career playing such characters for Sternberg.

An A-level feature all the way, the film's commercial success and seven Oscar nominations made it probably the most influential of the early noirs. The prevalence of the private eye as a lead character declined in film noir of the s, a period during which several critics describe the form as becoming more focused on extreme psychologies and more exaggerated in general.

As described by Paul Schrader , " Robert Aldrich 's teasing direction carries noir to its sleaziest and most perversely erotic. Hammer overturns the underworld in search of the 'great whatsit' [which] turns out to be—joke of jokes—an exploding atomic bomb. They regard true film noir as belonging to a temporally and geographically limited cycle or period, treating subsequent films that evoke the classics as fundamentally different due to general shifts in filmmaking style and latter-day awareness of noir as a historical source for allusion.

While the inceptive noir, Stranger on the Third Floor , was a B picture directed by a virtual unknown, many of the film noirs still remembered were A-list productions by well-known film makers. Opinion is divided on the noir status of several Alfred Hitchcock thrillers from the era; at least four qualify by consensus: Shadow of a Doubt , Notorious , Strangers on a Train and The Wrong Man In a Lonely Place was Nicholas Ray 's breakthrough; his other noirs include his debut, They Live by Night and On Dangerous Ground , noted for their unusually sympathetic treatment of characters alienated from the social mainstream.

Orson Welles had notorious problems with financing but his three film noirs were well budgeted: The Lady from Shanghai received top-level, "prestige" backing, while The Stranger , his most conventional film and Touch of Evil , an unmistakably personal work, were funded at levels lower but still commensurate with headlining releases. Lang's follow-up, Scarlet Street , was one of the few classic noirs to be officially censored: filled with erotic innuendo, it was temporarily banned in Milwaukee, Atlanta and New York State.

Most of the Hollywood films considered to be classic noirs fall into the category of the " B movie ". Jacques Tourneur had made over thirty Hollywood Bs a few now highly regarded, most forgotten before directing the A-level Out of the Past , described by scholar Robert Ottoson as "the ne plus ultra of forties film noir". Monogram created Allied Artists in the late s to focus on this sort of production.

Robert Wise Born to Kill [], The Set-Up [] and Anthony Mann T-Men [] and Raw Deal [] each made a series of impressive intermediates, many of them noirs, before graduating to steady work on big-budget productions. Mann did some of his most celebrated work with cinematographer John Alton , a specialist in what James Naremore called "hypnotic moments of light-in-darkness".

It was released, like other Mann-Alton noirs, by the small Eagle-Lion company; it was the inspiration for the Dragnet series, which debuted on radio in and television in The former—whose screenplay was written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo , disguised by a front—features a bank hold-up sequence shown in an unbroken take of over three minutes that was influential.

Analysis Paper On Movie Double Indemnity (1944) Essay

Edgar G. Ulmer spent most of his Hollywood career working at B studios and once in a while on projects that achieved intermediate status; for the most part, on unmistakable Bs. In , while at PRC, he directed a noir cult classic, Detour. A number of low- and modestly-budgeted noirs were made by independent, often actor-owned, companies contracting with larger studios for distribution.

Serving as producer, writer, director and top-billed performer, Hugo Haas made films like Pickup and The Other Woman It was in this way that accomplished noir actress Ida Lupino established herself as the sole female director in Hollywood during the late s and much of the s. She does not appear in the best-known film she directed, The Hitch-Hiker , developed by her company, The Filmakers, with support and distribution by RKO. Of the others, one was a small-studio release: Detour.

One was an independent distributed by MGM , the industry leader: Force of Evil , directed by Abraham Polonsky and starring John Garfield , both of whom were blacklisted in the s. Perhaps no director better displayed that spirit than the German-born Robert Siodmak , who had already made a score of films before his arrival in Hollywood. Working mostly on A features, he made eight films now regarded as classic-era film noirs a figure matched only by Lang and Mann.

Criss Cross , with Lancaster again the lead, exemplifies how Siodmak brought the virtues of the B-movie to the A noir. In addition to the relatively looser constraints on character and message at lower budgets, the nature of B production lent itself to the noir style for economic reasons: dim lighting saved on electricity and helped cloak cheap sets mist and smoke also served the cause ; night shooting was often compelled by hurried production schedules; plots with obscure motivations and intriguingly elliptical transitions were sometimes the consequence of hastily written scripts, of which there was not always enough time or money to shoot every scene.

Notes on film: Double Indemnity

In Criss Cross , Siodmak achieved these effects with purpose, wrapping them around Yvonne De Carlo , playing the most understandable of femme fatales; Dan Duryea , in one of his many charismatic villain roles; and Lancaster as an ordinary laborer turned armed robber, doomed by a romantic obsession. Some critics regard classic film noir as a cycle exclusive to the United States; Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, for example, argue, "With the Western, film noir shares the distinction of being an indigenous American form During the classic period, there were many films produced in Europe, particularly in France, that share elements of style, theme, and sensibility with American film noirs and may themselves be included in the genre's canon.


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In certain cases, the interrelationship with Hollywood noir is obvious: American-born director Jules Dassin moved to France in the early s as a result of the Hollywood blacklist , and made one of the most famous French film noirs, Rififi Scholar Andrew Spicer argues that British film noir evidences a greater debt to French poetic realism than to the expressionistic American mode of noir.

Blackout ; Before leaving for France, Jules Dassin had been obliged by political pressure to shoot his last English-language film of the classic noir period in Great Britain: Night and the City Though it was conceived in the United States and was not only directed by an American but also stars two American actors— Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney —it is technically a UK production, financed by 20th Century-Fox 's British subsidiary.

Elsewhere, Italian director Luchino Visconti adapted Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice as Ossessione , regarded both as one of the great noirs and a seminal film in the development of neorealism. Others simply share narrative elements and a version of the hardboiled sensibility associated with classic noir, such as Castle of Sand ; Japan , Insomnia ; Norway , Croupier ; UK , and Blind Shaft ; China.

The neo-noir film genre developed mid-way into the Cold War. This cinematological trend reflected much of the cynicism and the possibility of nuclear annihilation of the era. This new genre introduced innovations that were not available with the earlier noir films. The violence was also more potent. While it is hard to draw a line between some of the noir films of the early s such as Blast of Silence and Cape Fear and the noirs of the late s, new trends emerged in the post-classic era. The Manchurian Candidate , directed by John Frankenheimer , Shock Corridor , directed by Samuel Fuller , and Brainstorm , directed by experienced noir character actor William Conrad , all treat the theme of mental dispossession within stylistic and tonal frameworks derived from classic film noir.

Incidents that occurred during the war as well as those post-war, functioned as an inspiration for a "Cold War Noir" subgenre. In a different vein, films began to appear that self-consciously acknowledged the conventions of classic film noir as historical archetypes to be revived, rejected, or reimagined.

Double Indemnity by Richard Schickel

These efforts typify what came to be known as neo-noir. Pakula 's Klute directed films that knowingly related themselves to the original film noirs, inviting audiences in on the game. A manifest affiliation with noir traditions—which, by its nature, allows different sorts of commentary on them to be inferred—can also provide the basis for explicit critiques of those traditions. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, it features one of Bogart's most famous characters, but in iconoclastic fashion: Philip Marlowe, the prototypical hardboiled detective, is replayed as a hapless misfit, almost laughably out of touch with contemporary mores and morality.

The " blaxploitation " film Shaft , wherein Richard Roundtree plays the titular African-American private eye, John Shaft , takes conventions from classic noir.