The Birth of Noir

It’s like you’re talking about the birth of cool. Except, of course, cool was born before noir, depending on where you’re looking. Which is actually what this post is about, come ot think of it.

I’ve just posted an item on the Rap Sheet about Stranger on the Third Floor from 1940 and the roots of film noir. I didn’t want to duplicate what I’d done there, but in case you’re not a regular Rap Sheet reader, and you’re interested in this film stuff, my post is here.
So that’s a conversation that needs to be had, right? What makes this the first film noir? And, if not this, then what? The term was coined by French film critics “who noticed the trend of how ‘dark,’ downbeat and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France following the war, such as The Maltese Falcon (1941), Murder, My Sweet (1944), Double Indemnity (1944), and Laura (1944).”

This according to FilmSite.Org. The explanation is marred by the fact that, if their reasoning is right, their timeline is wrong: the war didn’t end until 1945. And if it’s not the end of the war that altered the spirit, what was it? Arguably (Again! Because all of this is arguable. That’s what makes it fun.) the intense oppression the American film industry was under at that point forced filmmakers with something to say to take their message underground, to use metaphor and innuendo to tell the real stories, because anything approaching real human emotion and sexuality would be censored out.

And, recently, I’ve posted on this blog about vintage film here and here and also here.


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