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Film Noir, American Workers, and Postwar Hollywood

Dennis Broe

Publication Year: 2009

Film noir, which flourished in 1940s and 50s, reflected the struggles and sentiments of postwar America. Dennis Broe contends that the genre, with its emphasis on dark subject matter, paralleled the class conflict in labor and union movements that dominated the period.

By following the evolution of film noir during the years following World War II, Broe illustrates how the noir figure represents labor as a whole. In the 1940s, both radicalized union members and protagonists of noir films were hunted and pursued by the law. Later, as labor unions achieve broad acceptance and respectability, the central noir figure shifts from fugitive criminal to law-abiding cop.

Expanding his investigation into the Cold War and post-9/11 America, Broe extends his analysis of the ways film noir is intimately connected to labor history. A brilliant, interdisciplinary examination, this is a work that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

Working in the Americas is a series dedicated to presenting work in labor and working-class studies in the Americas. It publishes both traditional as well as interdisciplinary works that focus on the lives of workers and the transformation of work in the Americas. ...

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Preface: To Foucault or Not To Foucault: The Micropolitics of Fear

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pp. xi-xii

This study began in the Clinton-era 1990s, when the cold war seemed a part of a distant past and the period of its onset could be viewed in a new light, shorn of previous prejudices. The ending of a period of war that had persisted through my entire life ideally made it possible to see how, in the Hollywood of the 1940s and in the country as a whole, the phrase ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Many people are responsible for this book, that is, for the process that brought me to and sustained me in writing it. However, the errors, lapses of judgment, and vague formulations are, of course, all mine. ...

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Introduction: Let a Thousand Fetish Objects Bloom

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pp. xv-xxxv

He sits quietly at the bar nursing a drink and a grudge. Something has gone wrong, something is bothering him, something that the tall frame and those hands, callous, bulbous from the hard work they know will always be their lot, cannot conceal. Those hands slowly wrap themselves around the drink and clasp it as if for dear life. Perhaps he has just been fired, perhaps ...

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1 The Home-front Detectiveas Dissident Lawman (and -woman): Hammett, Chandler, Woolrich, and 1940s Hollywood

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pp. 1-29

The self-employed detective Sam Spade prowling the mean streets of San Francisco in search of a golden bird would not on the surface appear to have much in common with the man or woman on the assembly line working overtime to produce the weapons and devices needed to fight fascism, but this chapter will argue that in their inner life, in the crucial way they characterized ...

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2 Noir Part 1: Socialism in One Genre: Wildcat Strikers, Fugitive Outsiders, and a Savage Lament

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pp. 30-53

As defined in this study, “film noir” denotes the moment in the history of the crime film where ideas of the left dominated and, for a brief moment, dictated the structure of the genre. This left hegemony, in one genre of the culture industry for one short period (1945–50), represented on the screen the coming together of a dominant bloc of ...

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3 Noir Part 2: Fugitive Kinds

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pp. 54-79

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the dominance of left ideas in the film noir is by focusing on the additive quality of the various types of fugitives outside the law. Seven main categories of these figures collectively describe a working- and middle-class bloc aligned against corporatism and constitute various ways of considering the immediate past of the war and the strike period ...

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4 The McCarthyite Crime Film: The Time of the (Quasi-Scientific) Toad (Criminal/ Informer/Vigilante Cops versus Psychotic Fugitives)

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pp. 80-104

The 1950–55 period consisted of an increasingly docile labor movement, now shorn of its radical members, being enlisted as junior partner in U.S. global corporate expansion under the guise of the cold war, where its chief role was to contain or “police” more radical labor movements both in the United States and in the world at large. In Hollywood labor, with the militant ...

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5 The Neo-noirers: Fugitives, Surrealists, and the Return of the Degenerate Detective

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pp. 105-128

The sympathetic film noir fugitive of the cultural front and the stonefaced, scientific working-class cop of the McCarthyite cold war were defined in their respective historically contingent moments, but once defined they then existed as tropes, with each subsequently reinvoked in successive periods of the crime film and television series, ...


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pp. 129-138


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pp. 139-156


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pp. 157-169


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pp. 171-178

E-ISBN-13: 9780813040035
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813033228
Print-ISBN-10: 0813033225

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 746746855
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Film Noir, American Workers, and Postwar Hollywood

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Subject Headings

  • Film noir -- United States -- History and criticism.
  • Crime films -- United States -- History and criticism.
  • Working class in motion pictures.
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