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
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 &
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
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
Leave Her To Heaven
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.
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
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
Direction and production: Otto
Preminger (1952) with Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum
Angel Face - an underrated masterpiece of sensuos
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.
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
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
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
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