Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir

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JHU Press, 2005 - Performing Arts - 243 pages
Challenging conventional scholarship, which places the origins of film noir in postwar Hollywood, Sheri Chinen Biesen finds the genre's roots firmly planted in the political, social, and historical conditions of Hollywood during the war. After Pearl Harbor, America and Hollywood experienced a sharp cultural transformation that made horror, shock, and violence not only palatable but preferable. Hard times necessitated cheaper sets, fewer lights, and fresh talent; censors as well as the movie-going public showed a new tolerance for sex and violence; and female producers experienced newfound prominence in the industry. Biesen brings prodigious archival research, accessible prose, and imaginative insights to both the well-known films noir of the wartime period - The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Double Indemnity - and films often overlooked or underrated - Scarlet Street, Ministry of Fear, Phantom Lady, and Stranger on the Third Floor.
 

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Contents

The Elements of Noir Come Together
15
Hollywood in the Aftermath of Pearl Harbor
59
Censorship HardBoiled Fiction and Hollywoods Red Meat Crime Cycle
96
Rosie the Riveter Goes to Hollywood
124
Hyphenates and HardBoiled Crime
156
Black Film Red Meat
189
Notes
221
Index
237
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Page 9 - ... had crept into the American cinema. The darkening stain was most evident in routine crime thrillers, but was also apparent in prestigious melodramas. The French cineastes soon realized they had seen only the tip of the iceberg: as the years went by, Hollywood lighting grew darker, characters more corrupt, themes more fatalistic and the tone more hopeless.
Page 3 - Twenties) and, were it not for the War, film noir would have been at full steam by the early Forties. The need to produce Allied propaganda abroad and promote patriotism at home blunted the fledgling moves toward a dark cinema, and the film noir thrashed about in the studio system, not quite able to come into full prominence. During the War the first uniquely film noir appeared...
Page 5 - For the past fifty years the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant, and the bloodthirsty.

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