The Essence of Film Noir

The Style and Themes of Cinema’s Dark Genre


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About the Book

American classic films noir, beginning with 1941’s The Maltese Falcon and ending with 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, and the neo-noir films made from the 1970s onward, share certain thematic aspects, stylistic qualities, and cultural contexts. Their concern with politics, their depiction of con artists, and the way their characters are shaped by America’s puritanical religious roots show that these films are examples of a unique American genre, even when the films’ directors are German émigrés with artistic roots in European Expressionism.

The films’ psychological depth is revealed stylistically through complex narratives, with select directors generating visual poetry as they deal with sex, violence and betrayal. Some films are based on popular novels inspired by true crime cases. A unique approach to film noir scholarship, this book discusses the genre’s thematic aspects, cultural contexts and stylistic qualities. For those films based upon novels, in-depth analysis of the fiction is provided alongside the film version, resulting in a fuller, more thorough understanding of the genre.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Diana Royer is a professor of English at Miami University, in Ohio, where she teaches composition, American and British literature and film studies.

Bibliographic Details

Diana Royer
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 233
Bibliographic Info: 18 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8419-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4590-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Preface 1
Introduction 3
One. Lit from Behind: The Genesis and Continuity of Film Noir 9
Two. All the Guys with Eye Patches: Hard Bitten Film Noir 64
Three. Commies, Nazis and Fascists: Politics in Film Noir 84
Four. “Something Further May Follow…”: Con Artists and Scams in Film Noir 129
Five. Double Crosses: Religious Delusion in Film Noir 161
Six. Highways, By-ways and Dislocations: The Self in Neo-Noir 181
Chapter Notes 205
Filmography 211
Bibliography 217
Index 221

Book Reviews & Awards

“A stimulating read”—Pop Culture Shelf