My research of ‘Film Noir’

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary ( defines film noir as a “type of crime film featuring cynical malevolent characters in a sleazy setting and an ominous atmosphere that is conveyed by shadowy photography and foreboding background music.”

Film Noir is ‘dark film’. The term was penned by film critic Nino Franklin in 1946.
Westcombe (
provides a basic history about the inception of film noir;
“In the early part of the 1940s France was occupied by the Nazis, making it enemy territory forbidden to receive Hollywood product. By war’s end there was a half a decade backlog of American movies which hit French viewers suddenly in one rush. America’s movies were growing darker in the 1940s – not just visually, but in terms of theme and content. There were numerous reasons for this, springing from changes both in consciousness and practicalities. The world had become a darker place.”


The act of war ensued that people had a broodiness about them. Hardship, death and sadness was ever-present and people were coming to terms with loss and sorrow. Obviously, these emotions (and situations) were mirrored by Hollywood film makers, such as (
– Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Jules Dassin, Edward Dmytryk, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Fritz Lang, Anthony Mann and Orson Welles (It is interesting to note that the infamous movie, Citizen Kane, was Orson Welles; first feature film, which he directed, produced, co-wrote and played the lead role.


The despair and grief of post world war two inadvertently created one of the best (arguably) genres of film making.


Every film noir movie includes a hero or anti-hero (corrupt characters and villians, conflicted hard-boiled detectives or private eyes, cops, gangsters, government agents, a lone wolf, socio-paths or killers, crooks, war veterans, politicians, petty criminals, murderers, or just plain Joe’s, and “thematically showed the dark and inhumane side of human nature with cynicism and doomed love. They emphasized the brutal, unhealthy, seamy, shadowy, dark and sadistic sides” of life (
The storylines were often elliptical, non-linear and twisting (Narratives were frequently complex, maze-like and convoluted, and typically told with a foreboding background music, flashbacks, witty, razor-sharp and acerbic dialogue, and/or reflective and confessional, first-person voice-over narration
and were shot with expressionistic lighting (deep-focus or depth of field camera work, disorienting visual schemes, jarring editing or juxtaposition of elements, ominous shadows, skewed camera angles, circling cigarette smoke, existential sensibilities, and unbalanced or moody compositions

In 2012, the use (and discussion) of recognised film noir elements has constructed specialised film noir studies (, festivals and modern day film noir movies.
Blaser (2008) notes that the topic of modern day film noir “is as vibrant and intriguing now as it was seventy years ago.” Contemporary film noir movies aim to expand on the film noir movie’s of the post war era.


My contemporary film noir list is as follows, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Black Swan, LA Confidential, Blade Runner, Edward Scissor Hands, Seven, Basic Instinct, Minority Report and Madonna’s Vogue.

Although, it is the great and idolatry people that have helped create film noir as we now know it. I give homage to the fantastic;
Humphrey Bogart,
Rita Hayworth,
Marlene Dietrich,
Greta Garbo,
Katharine Hepburn,
Jean Arthur,
Lana Turner,
John Garfield,
Orson Welles,
Lauren Bacall,
Gloria Grahame,
Lee Marvin,
Charleton Heston,
and Janet Leigh.


Blaser, John and Stephanie Blaser. (2008). Film Noir Studies. USA: John J. Blaser and Stephanie Blaser. Retrieved from
Dirks, Tim. (2012). Film Noir: Part 1. New York, USA: American Movie Classics (AMC). Retrieved from (
Hill, Karl and Christina Lui. (2008). Noir Directors. Seattle, USA: Noir. Retrieved from (
Merriam-Webster. (2012). Dictionary. Massachusetts, USA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved from
Rotten Tomatoes. (2012). Citizen Kane (1941). USA: Flixster, Incorporated. Retrieved from
Westcombe, Roger. (2003). What is this thing called Film Noir, anyway? Retrieved from

Published by Julie-Ann Pearl Ellis

Sharing and caring since 1974.

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