Adam Rehrig
Mr. Gardner
TV 151
Term Paper

Film Noir

It is world of dark rooms with light slicing through venetian blinds, alleys cluttered with garbage, abandoned warehouses where dust hangs in the air, rain-slickened streets with water still running in the gutters, dark detective officers overlooking busy streets. These are the qualities that makes film noir a perfect blend of form and content, where the desperation and hopelessness of situations is reflected in the visual style, which drenches the world in shadows and has only a few occasional bursts of sunlight. Film noir, occasionally acerbic, usually cynical, often enthralling, gives us characters trying to elude some kind of mysterious past that continues to haunt them, hunting them down with a fatalism that taunts and teases before delivering a final, definitive blow.
Unlike other forms of cinema, the film noir has no paraphernalia that it can truly call its own. Unlike the western, with cattle drives, lonely towns on the prairie, homesteading farmers, Winchester rifles, and Colt 45s, the film noir borrows its paraphernalia from other forms, usually from the crime and detective genres, but often overlapping into thrillers, horror, and even science fiction. An example of science fiction would be the box from Kiss Me Deadly. The visual style echoes German expressionism, painting shafts of light that temporarily illuminate small chucks of an ominous and overbearing universe that limits a person's chances to slim and none. As Paul Schrader said in his essay ?Notes of Film Noir?, ?No character can speak authoritatively from a space which is continually being cut into ribbons of light.?
Film noir first appeared in the early ?40s in the movies such as Stranger on the Third Floor and This Gun For Hire. While soldiers went to war, film noir exposed a darker side of life, balancing the optimism of Hollywood musicals and comedies by supplying seedy, two-bit criminals and doom-laden atmospheres. While Hollywood strove to help keep public morale high, film noir gave us a peek into the alleys and backrooms of a world filled with corruption. And film noir remained an important form in Hollywood until the ?50s.
The first film to be considered film noir is John Huston's The Maltese Falcon. Huston wrote the screenplay from Dashiell Hammet's novel for this his directorial debut. In the film Humphrey Bogart plays Sam Spade, a private detective that is partners in an agency with Miles Archer, played by Jerome Cowan. Miss Wonderly, betrayed by Mary Astor hires the two to a shadow her business associate Floyd Thursby, who is never shown on camera. Later that same night Miles is killed and Sam is determined to find the murder. Near the end of the film Sam reasons, ?When a man's partner is killed he's suppose to do something about it.? Miss Wonderly, the femme fatale of the picture, confesses that her real name is Brigid O' Shaughnessy and informs him that her life is in danger and implores him to help her. He agrees to keep her name out of the case, her beauty and money having something to do with it.
Spade is visited Joel Cairo, played by Peter Lorre, who offers him $5,000 to find a black statue of a falcon. Sam reports the offer to Brigid, who asks for a meeting with Cairo.
Here Sam learns of a third person, Casper Gutman, played by Sydney Greenstreet who is also interested in the falcon. Sam is taken to Gutman and professes to know the falcon's whereabouts. Gutman refuses to reveal any information about the black bird, and Sam storms out.

Other examples of film noir are Out of the Past, which is one of the archetypal noirs, giving us a protagonist who has tried to escape from his past but fate won't let him. In the movie he betrayed his buy running away with his girlfriend. He inhabits a world that constantly pulls people back into morass of existence that is bound to suffocate them. Jeff, played by Robert Mitchum is a seemingly good guy, but one bad turn has made his life a living hell that he can never escape completely escape. Kirk Douglas plays a racketeer who needs to use Jeff and he does so by planting one of the greatest femme fatales, Jane Greer, within Jeff's easy reach. And she