Lana Turner – The Bad and the Beautiful

 

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Not Lana Turner, but the ravishing Rita Hayworth in her memorable film, GILDA

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Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in GILDA. This film blew me away.

 

My idea of a perfect Saturday evening at home is homemade pizza, a decent bottle of red, and a great film noir, watched alone or with friends. (I’m a simple girl at heart, really I am!) Back in 1946, the French film critic Nino Frank came up with the term “film noir” (translation: “black cinema”) to describe Hollywood films with dark themes.

On this early Saturday evening in Paris, raining and cool, I’m totally chilled. This is the first of a series of long weekends throughout the month of May. I’ve cracked open a bottle of Saumur-Champigny and my pizza pie is about to go into the oven. I just got off the phone with my godson in Lille who rang to thank me for the birthday card and candies I mailed him on Thursday (well, his father rang.) I have a date with a 6 year old next weekend.

“Tata Juliet,” he said, “When are we going to see Pierre Lapin?”

Très bientôt!” I replied. (Very soon.) I had promised to take him to see the new Peter Rabbit movie. I had purchased my train tickets for this weekend, but can you believe it? The SNCF is on strike this weekend … and other weekends throughout May and June.

So, back to films noirs. What I love are the tough femme fatale women, the terse dialogue, the highly stylized black and white imagery (with shadowy lighting effects) and the cynicism. In the opening scene, there’s usually a car careening down a city street (or a desert road) and it’s raining and at night

The darkness of these films reflected the disenchantment of the times. Pessimism and disillusionment became increasingly present in the American psyche during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the world war that followed. After the war, factors such as an unstable peacetime economy, McCarthyism, and the looming threat of atomic warfare manifested themselves in a collective sense of uncertainty. The corrupt and claustrophobic world of film noir embodied these fears.

Below is a superlative opening scene of a young Cloris Leachman running barefoot down a darkened desert road in KISS ME DEADLY (1955).

Have a great weekend!

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There’s a flu virus circulating around Paris and many people from my office – including me – are at home in bed because of it.  So between naps, mugs of hot tea-honey-lemon and aspirin-paracetamol tablets every 6 hours, I’m snuggled up in bed – just me and my laptop – watching one of my favourite movie genres, “film noir”.  (below are links to three of them plus recommendations.)  And quite frankly, I can’t think of anything nicer to do on a gray, cold, dismal January day.

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Where did the term “film noir” come from?

In general, the genre’s hallmarks are a cynical private detective as the protagonist, a femme fatale, multiple flashbacks with voiceover narration, dramatically shadowed photography, and a fatalistic mood leavened with provocative banter.

The term film noir, French for “dark film” is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black and white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography

Many of the stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

In the opening scenes there’s often a car careening down a city street (or a desert road) and it’s usually raining and at night.

Yesterday I watched Crime of Passion (1957) featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr.

And Phone Call from a Stranger (1952) with Shelley Winters, Bette Davis and Gary Merrill.  Winters was superb.

Today I watched Gilda (1946).  Wow.  The sexual tension between bombshell Rita Hayworth and pretty boy Glenn Ford is so thick you could cut it with a knife. “I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a minute.  She was in the air I breathed, in the food I ate.”

I also recommend Mildred Pierce (1945) with Joan Crawford

Laura (1944) with Gene Tierney

Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck

In a Lonely Place (1950) with Humphrey Bogart

Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum

The Big Sleep (1946) with Bogart and Bacall

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews