You may recognize aspects of a Film Noir classic with or without knowing the formal definition of this genre. One source defines Film Noir as “a style of film-making developed in the 1940s, with a plot involving suspense, mystery, crime, and corruption, and a bleak, often shadowy, setting, or a film in this style. Film noir begins as the French appreciation of an American genre: the thriller or mystery film with a disillusioned or neurotic hero afraid of the world, the city, the night, and femmes fatales. ” (Allen). Both films discussed in this post, as well as other Film Noir classics, are available at the UNT Media Library collection.
Click image for Laura TCM trailer page
Femme fatales and cynics are common characters in Film Noir. Enter Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker, the eloquent cynic with a dark side, in Laura (1944). Webb may steal scenes but never truly gets the girl. The dark humor and self –absorption of Webb’s characters understandably frustrates others. Cool Detective Mark McPherson, played by Dana Andrews, immerses himself in Laura’s case both professionally and personally. Gene Tierney is believably cast as multi-talented Laura, who captivates almost every one.
Click image for Dark Corner TCM trailer page.
The Dark Corner (1946), is more obscure than Laura (1944). The pleasant surprise for me was the female lead played by Lucille Ball. She is not a femme fatale, but a partner. The lead, Bradford Galt, played by Mark Stevens, is another cynic but when you learn more about his past, you get it. Clifton Webb appears yet again, this time as Hardy Cathcart. It is not a risky choice because it is pretty much typecasting. As in Laura, he wants to add the women he admires to his collection of valuables, but he seems more vulnerable because his betrayal is less perceived and more real. In Film Noir, you may find characters who are seemingly devoid of morals faced off with prominent characters who may share the cynicism but not to the point of unapologetic violence. ‘“There goes my last lead. I feel all dead inside. I’m backed up in a dark corner and I don’t know who’s hitting me.” (qtd. in Nowlan).
There are other parallels and topics to explore with this series, but I will stop there. I am not a film expert, just a fan. I do find many of these films to be a fascinating glimpse into America’s cultural past. I often happen upon one of these “classics” by accident or references in film history books.You can film many film books in the library as well. If you are interested in browsing for similar films at the Media Library, you can do a Subject Search in the UNT Media Library Catalog for Film Noir The trailers and the film profile pages give you a generous overview of the plot. If you check out these films, I do hope you find them worth your time.
~ Lilly Ramin (@lillylibrarian)
- Film Noir. (2007). In R. Allen (Ed.), The penguin English Dictionary. London, United Kingdom: Penguin. Retrieved from https://libproxy.library.unt.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/penguineng/film_noir/0
- Despair and desperation. (2013). In R. Nowlan & G. Nowlan, Film quotations: 11,000 lines spoken on screen, arranged by subject, and indexed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Retrieved from https://libproxy.library.unt.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/mcffilm/despair_and_desperation/0
- Preminger, O., Dratler, J., Hoffenstein, S., Reinhardt, B., Tierney, G., Andrews, D., Price, V., … Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (2005). Laura. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
UNT Media Library DVD 9636 Series: Fox film noir; 1
- Hathaway, H., Dratler, J., Schoenfeld, B. C., Kohlmar, F., Ball, L., Webb, C., Bendix, W., … Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc.,. (2005). The dark corner. UNT Media Library DVD 14533 Series: Fox film noir; 10
- Laura (1944), The Dark Corner (1946) and Clifton Webb profiles. Turner Classic Movie Database (TCMdb) at: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/