Category Archives: Film Noir

Trumbo, Red scares & the art of writing in the bath

Trumbo bath tubI’ve been eagerly awaiting the Australian release of Jay Roach’s Trumbo, the biopic of the late Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo. It touches on two interests of mine: post-war US film history, particularly the events around the Hollywood blacklist, and the process of writing.

Based on Dalton Trumbo, a biography by Bruce Cook, the film is roughly split into two parts. The first deals with the events leading up to and around the House of Un-American Activities Committee hearings into communist influence in Hollywood. Trumbo, played well enough by Bryan Cranston, is a novelist turned screenwriter and one of many high profile members of the Hollywood movie community swept up in the hysteria around the hearings. A former Communist Party member and fellow traveler, he is also unashamedly rich as a result of his writing, the ‘swimming pool socialist’ as he is referred to at one point in the film. Trumbo’s politics are interesting in the light of claims I have read that the film, which took eight years to make, was a hard sell because its main subject was too left wing. Called to testify before Committee he resisted considerable pressure to name other fellow travelers and, as result, was black listed from working in Hollywood and given an eleven-month jail sentence for contempt of Congress.… Read more

The Big Nowhere #5: Shield For Murder

Shield for Murder (1954)

The latest in my series on the 4:3 site on the best film noir you’ve never of is live, Howard W Koch’s wonderful 1954 bad cop noir, Shield For Murder, starring actor Edmond O’Brien. Not a great film production wise, but as bad cop films go, it’s as dark and twisted as they come. You can read the piece in full on the 4:3 site here.

The Big Nowhere #4: Naked Alibi

Naked Alibi poster 2The Big Nowhere is a series of columns I’ve been doing for the 4:3 site, in which I look at the best film noir you’ve never heard of. Number 4 in the series is Jerry Hopper’s 1954 B-noir, Naked Alibi. A tale of desperate men, a femme fatale, jealously, obsession, set in a seedy small town, just your average film noir cocktail. What makes this otherwise average film worth seeing is the presence of Sterling Hayden as the disgraced cop and Gloria Grahame as the singer, two of the most interesting actors who worked in film noir in the late ’40s and ’50s.

You can read the piece in full here on the 4:3 site.

Not so black & white: the exhibition of classical film noir in Melbourne

Today I’m celebrating Noirvember with a terrific guest post by my friend Dean Brandum, film scholar and the man behind the wonderful site, Technicolour Yawn: Melbourne cinemas of the happening years: 1960 – 84. Dean looks at the myths and realities around the exhibition of classical film noir in forties and fifties Melbourne. Film noir is often seen as mainly comprising B-movies that would never have graced the screens of reputable Melbourne cinemas. But, as Dean makes clear, for the most part this was not the case.

Gun Crazy“You could always find me in the theatre round the corner. People like me liked our pictures dark and mysterious. Most were B-movies made on the cheap, others were classy models with A-talent, but they all had one thing in common, they lived on the edge. They told stories about life on the streets, shady characters, crooked cops, twisted love and bad luck. The French invented a name for these pictures – Film Noir.”

Richard Widmark narrating The American Cinema’s episode ‘Film Noir’

Whilst this TV overview of film noir was an excellent production and was immeasurably aided by the gravitas of the (then otherwise retired) voice of Richard Widmark’s narration, his opening introduction has always rankled with me, for it perpetuates a myth about film noir, one which has been developed to be shoe-horned into a narrative – that film noir was not a mainstream commodity.… Read more

The Big Nowhere #3: Plunder Road

Plunder Road lobby

The Big Nowhere is a series of columns I’ve been doing for the 4:3 site, in which I look at the best film noir you’ve never heard of. This week, it’s Hubert Cornfield’s obscure 1957 heist noir, PLUNDER ROAD. Clocking in at just 72 minutes, this cheaply made little heist story achieves an atmosphere of suspense and level of thrills not seen in many films twice its length.

You can read the piece in full here on the 4:3 site.