My Top 10 Film Noir Favourites 1944 - 1954 - The Golden era of film history

This my top list has changed somewhat during the years depending on which film i've re-watched recently, but mostly
the list has stayed more or less intact for the latest 20-25 years. I've seen these films on old VHS copies, on DVD and
lately on Blu-ray but also on TV (mostly as a child then when Swedish Television cared to show film classics) and in
rare 35 mm showings at the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm .... and, on Youtube in streaming video.
I don't list Orson Welles Touch of Evil as this great film is made after the "real" film noir golden era (but it's debatable),
nor either more modern Neo-Noir's or films produced outside of the US, as Carol Reed's great Odd Man Out or The
Third Man. No, the films on this list were made in Hollywood, USA, and produced by A- or B-studios. Dark tales
from a disillusioned post-war USA, about human hunters in the city jungle, about money, sex, corruption and betrayal.
Note: There are still some genre classics i haven't seen (maybe on TV as a kid) so don't get upset if i've missed your
favourite Film Noir movie. To be on this list a film should have a black tint to it, desperation, doomed love and a Pulse.
Please read more about the films on my Film Noir & Pulp Fiction page


OK, Let's Go ....

No. 1 - and my favourite Film Noir of all time

Gun Crazy

US Warner Brothers DVD

Direction: Joseph H. Lewis (1949) with Peggy Cummins and John Dall

B studio masterpiece and one of the most romantic films ever made. A precursor to the 1967 Bonnie & Clyde
by Arthur Penn and even better. Peggy Cummins and John Dall are fantastic in their roles, just perfection, as a
couple of sharpshooters, first working at a Carnival and then free-lancing with bankrobbery and murder.
A genius and groundbreaking bankrobbery scene is filmed in real time and with a camera mounted in the back-
seat of their car, amazing and daring stuff in 1949. Great cinematography and the script by Dalton Trumbo


No. 2

Detour

German Koch Media DVD

Direction: Edgar G. Ulmer (1945) with Tom Neal & Ann Savage

More angst, desperation and hopelessness per celluloid frame than any other film in the genre. A Pitch-black and
claustrophobia inducing viewing experience that you will never, Never, NEVER forget, i promise. A Powerty Row
studio lowbudget production about the Most Miserable Man alive. Poor looser Tom Neal and the Hitch-Hiker from
hell, the magnificent Ann Savage makes this film unforgettable, and let's not forget the great director Edgar G. Ulmer

 


No. 3

Leave Her To Heaven

US DVD

Direction: John M. Stahl (1945) with Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde

Lush and delightfully high-strung Film Noir Melodrama with a SENSATIONAL performance from the GODDESS
Gene Tierney as the mentally very unstable Ellen Berent. A gorgeous young rich girl searching for a substitute to her
deceased father and a lover. And Ellen always gets what she wants ....
Filmed in glorious Technicolor by expert color cinematographer Leon Shamroy and the results are otherworldly, his
work just takes your breath away, Film Noir in Color, and he much deservedly was awarded an Oscar for his work.
The Cult status of this film grows and it's one of the favourites of the great film lover (and director) Martin Scorsese.
No one that has seen Gene Tierney in this film can ever forget her performance, and the drowning scene belongs to
the most Nasty and Frightening in Cinema History.

Aaaah, i saw this on a restorated 35 mm print in Paris at/in the beginning of the 1980's .... those prepositions are
killing me, at or in, i've absolutely no idea, sorry. Well anyway, i was blown away by the colors and the hypnotic
but Evil Allure of Gene Tierney.
This 20th Century Fox DVD edition looked great, but had ONE defect and a big warning are issued here to all
lovers of Film Noir and Gene Tierney - The Commentary Track by the VERY unlikeable and even hatable Darryl
Hickman, who played the obnoxious kid in the film. The Worst commentary track EVER on a DVD ?
Leave Her To Heaven was a smash hit and the biggest 20th Century Fox success of the 1940's.

 

 


No. 4

Laura

US DVD

Direction: Otto Preminger (1944) with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb

The Most elegant and stylish murder mystery, and possible Film Noir, of All Time, and yet again with the beyond
gorgeous Gene Tierney as the enigmatic Laura in the main role. In 1944 and 1945 she appeared in 2 of the greatest
Film Noir movies ever made, and both Laura and Leave Her to Heaven were big budgeted prestige productions
by Darryl F. Zanuck and 20th Century Fox and both were Smash Hits among the audiences in USA and the world.
Even though Laura was a troubled production with constant changes in the cast & crew, nothing was spared to make
this film look good, and genius producer and director Otto Preminger made it look not just good but PERFECT.

Well, is Laura a Film Noir then ? Are there to much style and elegance in it to be considered a genre classic ?
The Answer is NO, there's enough of desperate and obsessive love and murder in it to qualify as a Film Noir, and
Clifton Webb steals the film as the effeminate snob Waldo Lydecker ... and the beautiful music, the Laura Theme by
David Raksin lulls you into a dreamlike mood. All the astral constellations were in the right positions to make things
work out perfect during this initially troublesome film production - Laura is a certified and beloved Masterpiece

 


No. 5

Double Indemnity

Swedish DVD

Direction: Billy Wilder (1944) with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray

Here it is, the film that had a snowball effect and kick-started the best film genre in cinematic history - Film Noir.
But with some precursors then maybe as I Wake Up Screaming (1941) which the genre expert Eddie Muller
consider to be the first Film Noir. And then there's the moody French 1930's films that also is called Noir.
Double Indemnity with Barbara Stanwyck as the alluring but intriguing and evil femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson
became the archetypical Femme Fatale of the genre, and Fred MacMurray the ditto male looser of the genre.
The dialogue is whipped out and assaults you like the rattle of a machine gun. Aaaah, it's so great, I Love It.
The Film is based upon the pulp fiction novel by James M. Cain

 


No. 6

Angel Face

US DVD

Direction and production: Otto Preminger (1952) with Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum

Angel Face - an underrated masterpiece of sensuos film-making.
A Brilliant, beautiful, pensive and unique film noir drama from the by then (1952) film Genius Otto Preminger,
with a fantastic Jean Simmons and a very good (as always) Robert Mitchum. A piece of glorious Feel Bad.
Almost an artmovie about the young rich girl Diane Tremayne plotting to get her hands on the handsome
ambulance guy Frank Jessup .... and on her stepmother's fortune. Jean Simmons is Mindblowing.
Film Noir expert Eddie Muller puts it just right when he, full of awe, says - Otto, You Genius You.

 

 


No. 7

Out of the Past

Direction: Jaques Tourneur (1947) with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer

Like Double Indemnity another film that's the quintessence of Film Noir and with Robert Mitchum and Jane
Greer as the doomed desperado couple. The virile Mitchum is great as a weak genre looser and Greer has
become the archetype for the psychotic Femme Fatale

 


No. 8

Scarlet Street

Direction: Fritz Lang (1945) with Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea

Edward G. is great and deeply gripping in the role as a middle-age and mild mannered penpusher with secret
ambitions of being an artist, a great painter. He's also henpecked at home by his hateful wife and then he meets
and falls for the Bad to the Bone prostitute played by Joan Bennett. Her pimp boyfriend is played by the great
Weasel of Film Noir, the charismatic Dan Duryea and he's always great.
Delightful Misery and Full Throttle Feel Bad film noir melodrama in a fine Kino Video DVD edition

 


No. 9

The Big Heat

Direction: Fritz Lang (1953) with Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin

Another Top 10 entry from the great Fritz Lang, and this time a hardboiled noir thriller based on the Pulp
Fiction novel by genre master William P. McGivern (read more about him in my Pulp Fiction section).
Glenn Ford plays a harder than hard cop out for revenge on the gangsters that killed his family and Lee
Marvin excels as a psychopatic bad guy. But the one that steals the show and eats the celluloid frames
with her sensational performance, that's Gloria Grahame as the unhappy gangster-bitch. Unforgettable

 

 


No. 10

The Long Night

Direction: Anatole Litvak (1947) with Henry Fonda

An obscure, forgotten and rarely seen Film Noir drama classic and US remake of a French 1930's classic by
Marcel Carné. The French 1930's film noir that preceded the "real" US 1940's-1950's Film Noir.
In atmospheric The Long Night the main roles are played by 1. The inhuman industrial horror of a city,
2. the magnificent cinematography of the angst-ridden night and it's shadows creating an almost claustrophobic
sense of dread, and 3. the sad and gripping figure of Henry Fondas desperate man, what a great actor he was
and this must surely be one of the best performances Never seen.
The quality of the Kino Video DVD edition could've been better though


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