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Street with No Name

A History of the Classic American Film Noir

Andrew Dickos

Publication Year: 2002

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title Flourishing in the United States during the 1940s and 50s, the bleak, violent genre of filmmaking known as film noir reflected the attitudes of writers and auteur directors influenced by the events of the turbulent mid-twentieth century. Films such as Force of Evil , Night and the City , Double Indemnity , Laura , The Big Heat , The Killers , Kiss Me Deadly and, more recently, Chinatown and The Grifters are indelibly American. Yet the sources of this genre were found in Germany and France and imported to Hollywood by emigré filmmakers, who developed them and allowed a vibrant genre to flourish. Andrew Dickos’s Street with No Name traces the film noir genre back to its roots in German Expressionist cinema and the French cinema of the interwar years. Dickos describes the development of the film noir in America from 1941 through the 1970s and examines how this development expresses a modern cinema. Dickos examines notable directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, John Huston, Nicholas Ray, Robert Aldrich, Samuel Fuller, Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak, Abraham Polonsky, Jules Dassin, Anthony Mann and others. He also charts the genre’s influence on such celebrated postwar French filmmakers as Jean-Pierre Melville, François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard. Addressing the aesthetic, cultural, political, and social concerns depicted in the genre, Street with No Name demonstrates how the film noir generates a highly expressive, raw, and violent mood as it exposes the ambiguities of modern postwar society.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

Attempting to write a history of the film noir provokes two questions. First, what does one mean by chronicling a loose number of films considered films noirs; that is, What is the film noir? What makes a film noir? And which films best serve to illustrate film noir? ...

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pp. 1-59

The persistent questions in most theoretical discussions of the film noir are what makes a film a film noir and whether such films can be considered to constitute a genre, an entity that possesses a language of iconography and conventions, or whether they instead merely display a certain cinematic style, intergeneric ...

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pp. 60-95

It is perhaps most useful to consider the development of the film noir as the confluence of cinematic changes that, in themselves, are found in other kinds of films without the specific resonances and appeals that in play with one another establish the coherent mythology that we recognize as noir cinema. ...

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pp. 96-155

From the early 1920s and continuing throughout the war years, the hardboiled fiction of the pulp magazines and booklets, published cheaply and selling briskly, attracted a readership all too familiar with the emotions, crimes, and violence that would find expression in the film noir. This literature as a body ...

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pp. 156-171

Sexual power is defined most clearly in the context of gender conflict, and noir cinema illustrates this in all its creative tension and tragic consequences as few other film genres do. Bracketing the treatment of women in noir cinema is a dubious and faintly rewarding exercise, for women are an essential part of the noir world; ...

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pp. 172-221

The films noirs produced in Hollywood were not identified as such, and even well into the fifties they did not receive generic definition by the industry. They were very much a part of the melodrama/thriller films, often of B-movie status, financed by the studios. The stylistics of these movies, discussed in ...

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pp. 222-234

The French romance with American culture extends back to the tum of the previous century and before, but the appeal of American popular art stems from the interwar and immediate postwar attraction to products elusively appealing in their liberating vulgarity. What do we find valuable, even ennobling, in Bogart and Wayne, ...

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Epilogue: Comments on the Classic Film Noir and the Neo-Noir

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pp. 235-244

Like errant children, films noirs have changed, subsumed by their history and turning into self-referential creatures not always beholden to their parents. What is it that makes one film made in the nineties a great noir (The Grifters), whereas another made almost twenty years ago (Body Heat) is a decided offshoot ...

Appendix: Credits of Selected Films Noirs

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pp. 245-270


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pp. 271-282


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pp. 283-290


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pp. 291-307

E-ISBN-13: 9780813170336
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813122434

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2002