HOLLYWOOD, DEAD LEFT ON VINE*

The film noir of the classic period (1941-59) is normally associated with the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood and its aftermath. In truth, the creative impetus for its most influential literary content dates back a full century.
In April 1841, Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia published the first detective story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe and thus, mystery fiction was born. –
-Lawrence Bassoff, CRIME SCENES

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In my 11/30/16 post titled BOOKS RIGHT DOWN MY ALLEY, I wrote of finding a large cache of old movie books at a local library’s used book sale. One of those books was CRIME SCENES (subtitled Movie Poster Art of the Film Noir), from which the above quote is taken. How could I resist buying such a book, given that Film Noir has long been one of my favorite film genres, which includes such classics as THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), MURDER MY SWEET (1943), DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), LAURA (1944), THE BIG SLEEP (1946), SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950), and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951). The introduction states it “is the first genre retrospective collection of movie poster art on the topic ever published in book form.”

Bassoff writes that in the summer of 1946, ten American films whose French releases had been blocked by WW II (including the first five of the above) arrived in Paris theaters to be viewed by “new product-starved French filmgoers”….films based on American novels the French called “Serie Noire” by such authors as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The term “film noir” (first attributed to Frenchman Nino Frank in 1946) literally means “black film” for the “often low key, black and white visual style of the films themselves.”

And what great films they are! Even after having seen some of these films more than once, I could return to the scene of the crime once again;  no doubt you could too — assuming you’re a film noir buff, which it would be a crime if you’re not. The test? Can you name at least half of the directors and stars of the above films? Answers (directors in CAPS):

THE MALTESE FALCON — JOHN HUSTON (making his directorial debut), Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet
MURDER MY SWEET — EDWARD DYMTRYK, Dick Powell
DOUBLE INDEMNITY — BILLY WILDER, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
LAURA — OTTO PREMINGER, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price
THE BIG SLEEP — HOWARD HAWKS, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
SUNSET BOULEVARD — BILLY WILDER, William Holden, Gloria Swanson
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN — ALFRED HITCHCOCK, Farley Granger, Robert Walker

Moving on: if Basssoff’s book were not confined to Hollywood film noir, no such list would be complete without THE THIRD MAN (1949), a British-made classic directed by Carol Reed, starring Orson Wells and Joseph Cotton. And of course there are many other Hollywood tour de force classics worthy of being kept alive, including such killer-dillers as:

WHITE HEAT is considered by some to be in the gangster film realm rather than film noir, but there’s no law against crossover — in fact, WHITE HEAT is classified as film noir in CRIME SCENES and gangster film in CLASSIC GANGSTER FILMS (the latter being another used book sale find, which I may review in a future post). Meanwhile, I highly recommend the former — as Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) said of the bogus Maltese Falcon: It’s “the stuff dreams are made of.” And nightmares.

*HOLLYWOOD, DEAD LEFT ON VINE is a play on the famous intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. I heard on the grapevine that the site was a ranch, and then a lemon grove, until 1903.

20161005_Hollywood_and_Vine_historical_marker

 

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11 comments on “HOLLYWOOD, DEAD LEFT ON VINE*

  1. linnetmoss says:

    Good fun–I will never forget the creepiness of seeing Fred MacMurray in “Double Indemnity,” after growing up with him in Disney movies like “Son of Flubber”!

    Liked by 3 people

    • mistermuse says:

      Now that you mention it, I recall thinking the same thing the first time I saw “Double Indemnity.” And I can’t think of a better way to characterize these ‘bad’ movies than as “good fun” — seriously!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. arekhill1 says:

    Living la vida noire out here on the Left Coast, Sr. Muse. Did you see that the head of the European Union was going to start advocating for US states to leave the Union in retaliation for Trump promoting the dissolution of the EU? Ohio was specifically mentioned. Hopefully, I won’t need a passport to visit you if I ever get the chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I hadn’t heard (or seen) that, Ricardo, but I think the best place to start would be to advocate for Trump to leave the union….better yet, leave the planet (though I can’t imagine that the inhabitants of any other world would be gullible enough to fall for Trump’s con job).

      Like

  3. BroadBlogs says:

    My mom loves old movies. She’d love this list!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Don Frankel says:

    Great movies of course I’ve seen them all and more than once. They did a remake of Out Of The Past called Against All Odds with Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods. In a bit of smart casting they also had Jane Greer in there.

    But White Heat is one of the all time any type of movie you want to call it and no mention of it would be complete without…

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      These movies had it all: great writing, atmosphere, directors, stars, supporting casts — the works. I’ve only watched WHITE HEAT once or twice, but I’ve seen MALTESE FALCON and THE THIRD MAN at least 5 or 6 times each, DOUBLE INDEMNITY and SUNSET BOULEVARD probably about 3 times.

      Like

  5. Mél@nie says:

    I did watch them all… just like you, I may have seen “Maltese Falcon” 4-5 times! 🙂
    * * *
    @film noir – en français dans le texte, SVP… 🙂 MERCI, Monsieur Muse!

    Liked by 1 person

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