27 March 2018

High Contrast, Low Key: Film Noir


Images of Film Noir

by Paul D. Marks

I didn't know I was doing film noir, I thought
they were detective stories with low lighting!

                                                                      --Marie Windsor, noir icon

Murder, My Sweet


I thought I’d do something a little different for my post this week. Instead of writing about this or that I thought I’d make it visual. Images from film noir. Images that inspire much, though not all of my work. And I don’t think I’m alone. I think a lot of us have been inspired one way or another by film noir and much of noir is its visual look.

The film noir aesthetic is full of iconic images – some might call them tropes. Either way, they’re striking, they affect us, and they hit us on a subconscious level. Iconic images of shadows, rain, fog, neon, darkness and night, dark streets and alleys, Venetian blinds, oblique angles and reflections, low key lighting, guys with gats, femme fatales and plenty of cigarettes, smoke and smoking. They’re mostly urban, though one of the best, Out of the Past, is largely rural. And, of course, pretty much all are in striking black and white.

I’ve broken the images up into various categories. Of course, one pic might fit into several categories and pretty much all have low key lighting, so there’s no category for that.

It’s hard to narrow down all the great images to a reasonable number for a blog, and I’m sure I’ve left out some good ones. But here goes. And feel free to add your own choices in the comments. I don’t think you can put pictures in but you can tell us about them and the movies they’re from.


Oblique Angles and Striking Images


D.O.A.
Fear in the Night
Born to Kill
The Big Heat
Sunset Boulevard
Strangers on a Train
Sunset Boulevard
D.O.A.
Fear in the Night
Phantom Lady
Fear in the Night
The Lady from Shanghai
He Walked by Night
The Lady from Shanghai
The Maltese Falcon
Nightmare Alley
Black Angel
Dark Passage
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Third Man
The Third Man

Touch of Evil

Shadows, Reflections and Venetian Blinds


The Killers
Crack-Up
Double Indemnity
Fear in the Night
He Walked by Night
The Maltese Falcon
The Narrow Margin
The Narrow Margin
Pitfall
Somewhere in the Night
The Crooked Way
The Woman in the Window

Fog and Rain


The Big Combo
Follow Me Quietly
The Narrow Margin
Scarlet Street
The Blue Dahlia

Smoking


The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Maltese Falcon
Out of the Past
Out of the Past
Pitfall

Streets, Alleys and Neon


Act of Violence
Act of Violence
Act of Violence
The Blue Dahlia
Born to Kill
Criss Cross
The Crooked Way
Cry Danger
Cry Danger
Dark Passage
Dark Passage
D.O.A.
Kiss Me, Deadly
The Lady from Shanghai

People, Femme Fatales and Guys with Gats


Gun Crazy
Crack-Up
Scarlet Street
The Big Sleep
Born to Kill
D.O.A.
Dead Reckoning
Detour
D.O.A.
Double Indemnity
Double Indemnity
The Postman Always Rings Twice
I Walk Alone
The Blue Dahlia
Laura
The Big Sleep
Out of the Past
Out of the Past
Out of the Past
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
The Crooked Way
Too Late for Tears
In a Lonely Place and Detour

Lobby Cards, Title Cards, Posters


***

The author as a boy with gat, lucky rabbit's foot and the
shadow of noir over him.

###

And now for the usual BSP:

Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com


20 comments:

janice law said...

Noir hasn't been the same since technicolor!
Great stills!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Janice. And I agree with your re: Technicolor. Color noirs and neo-noirs just don't have the same feel, same ambience.

Art Taylor said...

Love this gallery of images! And the films represented too, of course--so many great ones. But that picture of you as a boy--that's the cream of the crop, Paul! :-)

Eve Fisher said...

There really was nothing like B&W for tension, noir, suspense.

GBPool said...

The shadows, the contrast, the edge. They tell a story on their own. Great pictures. If I added one it would be Claire Trevor in Murder, My Sweet wearing that black and white blouse telling Marlow his gun leaves a bruise. God, do I love those movies.

lisajohnljc123@gmail.com said...

Killer post, Paul!
All of these shots are great, but Strangers on a Train speaks to me... I've got a drowning scene I'm changing up that was in a pool but is now a lake, and this shot reflecting off the water's got my wheels spinning!

lisajohnljc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Ross said...

Fantastic gallery of images! Thank you for sharing!

David Edgerley Gates said...

Thanks for this!

Just a mention, that the cinematographer John Alton (as I'm sure you know) was responsible for the look in a lot of these pictures, working on a number of movies with Anthony Mann - and he shot both HE WALKED BY NIGHT and THE BIG COMBO.

There's an overlooked noir called THE DARK CORNER, directed by Henry Hathaway (whose track record is up-and-down), but it has some good New York location footage - before that was easy to do. Lucille Ball (!) is the star, as a Gal Friday to a private dick. She's terrific, he's awful (Mark Stevens). Also with with Clifton Webb, not long after LAURA, and a very good William Bendix doing a heavy. Shot by the legendary Joseph MacDonald.

lisajohnljc said...

Paul...
all linked up here! https://www.facebook.com/lisajohnljc

Post's the bomb!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Art. Glad you enjoyed it. And as you can see, I had the shadow of noir since forever.

Definitely, Eve. The black and white, plus the low key lighting. That really added to the tension and suspense.

It was hard to narrow it down, Gayle. And Murder, My Sweet is one of my faves.

Thanks, Lisa. Glad you like the post and that it got your wheels spinning :-) . And I love Strangers on a Train, too. One of the ultimate high concepts.

Thanks, Stephen.

Thanks, David. I love The Dark Corner and there’s a couple pix from it in the images. It is funny to see Lucy in a straight role. But she’s good. And John Alton is, of course, one of the great cinematographers!

Thanks for linking, Lisa!

lisajohnljc said...

DAVID...
did you say Lucille Ball was in a noir flick?? WHOA, hold the horses! Can't picture it, but will definitely check it out!

Paul D. Marks said...

Lisa, Lucy's in The Dark Corner, a really good film noir. There's a couple pix of it in this post.

O'Neil De Noux said...

Great pictures triggered nice memories of those movies. Thanks for putting this up.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, O'Neil.

Ellen Byron said...

Paul, we have to talk about Nightmare Alley! I'm obsessed with it. I have a first edition somewhere. I wanted to do a stage adaptation. I tried to get the rights 35 years ago, but couldn't. A few years ago, I saw a musical version at the Geffen. It was disappointing. I would have done a much better job. Just saying...

BTW, you know they tacked on a happy ending to the movie, don't you?

Paul D. Marks said...

Ellen, I'd love to talk to you about Nightmare Alley. I really like it too, though probably not as much as you. I didn't see the musical version, but I wouldn't think it would translate to a musical very well, though who knows...

And re: the movie, I guess they tacked on a "Hollywood ending" to make it more palatable for the audience. It's still pretty freaky though. Do you dislike the movie ending?

Maggie King said...

Such great visuals. Several new-to-me films to see (always a good thing). I would add The Stranger with Orson Welles. Great shadows and contrast.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Maggie. I like The Stranger too and it seems to be playing a lot on various satellite channels lately.

Dara Carr said...

What an impressive catalog of images. Love the shots from The Third Man and Strangers on a Train. Might be interesting to try them as writing prompts!