The popularity of crime novels during the 20's and 30's was big I tell ya. Real big!
As a result hardened pulp fiction writers like Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon), James M. Cain (Double Indemnity), and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) all had successful careers. Because of their success it was inevitable that filmmakers would direct their lens toward this befitting merger – crime fiction and psychological thriller story lines were well coupled with the moody aesthetic elements gaining popularity in cinema. Bright direct light and intense shadow, unusual camera angles, and crooked compositions to emphasize spooky or sordid storylines meant to thrill and intrigue, were perfectly suited for a thrilling suspenseful style of storytelling.
Film Noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime
dramas of the 40s and 50s, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. This was no easy task at first the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 was enacted to ensure films didn’t endorse immoral behavior. As a result, noir films of the 1940s portray the seedier sides of life while notably excluding graphic violence, lustful kissing, or even showing men and women sleeping in the same bed. Murders are shot suggestively rather than explicitly.
Pressured by television culture and successful foreign films with more lenient standards, the code’s puritanical grip on Hollywood began to loosen in the 1950s when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that film is protected under the First Amendment, and in 1968, the Production Code was thrown out in lieu of the MPAA film rating system.
Although the public's hunger for hard drinking private eyes and smoky eyed femme fatales waned with the turbulent 60s and beyond, there is no question that film noir has left an indelible mark on the silver screen, and its compelling characteristics will continue to influence cinema well into the future.
Transistor TV has more than a few film noir gems in our library. Stay tuned.
If you've got the guts