High Heels and Fedoras: Exploring Film Noir
Film noir conjures up images of detectives, criminals, dangerous men and women, all in shades of black and white. While possessing a very definite cinematic style, movies identified as film noir presented a darker vision of American life. This vision contrasted sharply with the Norman Rockwell worldview Hollywood was also grinding out during the height of World War II. But it was during the war years that the genre was at its peak.
The term film noir is French for “black film.” Nino Frank, a French film critic, is believed to have labeled these darker American films. In the states, they were labeled as melodramas; there was no preconceived formula from which directors and writers were working. But World War II did change America and the world. Filmmakers were exploring themes and situations that wouldn’t have been considered a decade earlier. Criminals and villains became heroes and the femme fatale—deadly woman—also came into prominence. In film noir, the lines between good and evil are blurred, but in many ways represent a more realistic view of the world. The noir vision still influences filmmakers today.
Explore film noir by discovering (or rediscovering) some of the established classics of the genre. Tickets per film are $5 for general admission or $3 for seniors and students. You can always purchase tickets at the door. If you’d like to purchase tickets online for one or all six films in advance, click here.
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March 12 Double Indemnity (1944) Based on the novel by James M. Cain (Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice) and nominated for seven Academy Awards, this movie set the standard from which other film noirs are judged. Directed by the legendary Billy Wilder, and starring screen legends Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson, and Barbara Stanwyck.
April 9 Murder My Sweet (1945) Dick Powell stars as private investigator Philip Marlowe in this noir classic based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe is hired by Moose Malone, an ex-con trying to track down his old girlfriend, who he lost track of while he was in prison. With each lead, Marlowe is pulled into a web of deceit, intrigue and murder.
July 9 Out of the Past (1947) Considered by many to be the best film noir drama of all time, it also solidified the career of Robert Mitchum as a tough-guy leading man. Mitchum plays Jeff Bailey currently on the straight and narrow until his past catches up with him. Jane Greer costars as the ultimate femme fatale who brings Jeff to ruin. Costarring future-stars-in-the-making, Kirk Douglas and Rhonda Fleming. This film’s reputation continues to grow in stature with each passing year.