6 film noir opening scenes/sequences I love

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The Killers (1946) – two shadows on the ground announce the arrival of the titular killers, stepping out from behind the diner they will enter in just a few seconds. It is one of the most excitingly scary scenes in all of film noir.

T-Men (1947) – Like a tiger lurking in the shadows, T-Men’s opening scene (after the introduction) is as cold and intimidating as it gets and it sets the mood perfectly for the most nerve-wrecking noir ever.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) – cars everywhere – the Homicide Squad – and a voice-over monologue by Joe Gillis (William Holden) make this one of the most exciting opening scenes ever.

The Big Combo (1955) – a boxing match, followed by a woman running away from two men, who finally capture her and tell her that Mr Brown wants her to see the match. Everything you need to know about The Big Combo is in those first 2 or 3 minutes.

Double Indemnity (1944) – A car speeds through Los Angeles, ignoring the STOP sign, in a foreshadowing way. Then Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) walks into his office to tell his story. And we’re off… The narration is fantastic and every detail is on point.

Laura (1944) – That insanely awesome opening line is made even more awesome by the fact that it is spoken by noir’s most eccentric character of all time. He is then introduced to us sitting in the bathtub writing his newspaper column. Genius.

Of course, there are many, many more to choose from, but these are the ones that come to mind right now.

#Noirvember

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DOUBLE BILL #8: 1946 and 1947 (Noir edition)

collage-2017-11-10When it comes to great years for film noir, anything between 1943 and 1955 is gold. 1944 has Double Indemnity and Laura, 1950 has Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place and The Asphalt Jungle, not to mention 1955 and The Big Combo and Kiss me Deadly. So, to be honest with you, I could have chosen anything, but in the end I had to go with 1946 and 1947.

1946, to me, is the most versatile of all years for film noir. We have the hot and steamy Gilda, the electrifying chemistry of Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep, the unshakable love affair that is Notorious, the puzzle-like plot of The Killers, the suburban masterpiece The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and of course, the most brilliantly bizarre noir all of time, Decoy. Not to mention countless others. It was such an exciting year for noir, such an extravaganza of boldness and ground-breaking filmmaking and I never really realized that until I did my top 30 favorite noirs and saw that a lot of them actually come from 1946.

1947, on the other hand, was the year of the sadistic killers. Robert Ryan in Crossfire, Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, and, of course, Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill (God, has there ever been such a despicable pair of humans in any noir?). On top of this, there’s also the twist-filled The Lady from Shanghai, the heavy and hush-hush T-Men, and, of course, the noir of noirs, the masterpiece that is Out of the Past. Oh, who doesn’t love Out of the Past?

You can’t go wrong with either of these. Both of them produced an array of masterpieces, and, personally, I think 1946 might be the greatest year for film noir of all time, closely followed by 1947. But that’s just my personal opinion. Either way, you’ve got a winner.

My Top 30 Favorite Films Noir

Noirvember is finally here and to celebrate, I’m going to share with you my top 30 favorite noirs. I did a top 20 last year and I felt like it wasn’t enough. I left some of my big ones out and it almost killed me, so this year I thought a top 30 was in order.

CRITERIA

  • This is a very personal and very subjective list. I’m not claiming these are the 30 greatest noirs, I’m saying these are MY favorites.
  • Neo-noirs will not be included, because The Old Hollywood Garden focuses on the classic period primarily.
  • Because noir is a very broad genre (why do they have to make this even more difficult?!), I tried to stick to films that most closely resemble and fit into the noir category.
  • I have seen 55 films noir, so you can imagine how hard this was. Feel free to ask me about any noir you didn’t see on the list.
  • Because I haven’t seen every film noir ever made and because tastes and preferences change overtime, this list can be updated in the future.
  • As always, you’re more than welcome to share your personal favorites on the comment section.

Here we go!

30. The Woman in the Window (1944)

      Dir. Fritz Lang

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‘I don’t want to make trouble for anybody. I can, of course, but I don’t want to.’

 

 

 

 

 

29. The Blue Dahlia (1946)

      Dir. George Marshall

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‘Half the cops in LA are looking for you.’

‘Only half?’

 

 

 

 

 

28. Decoy (1946)

      Dir. Jack Bernhard

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‘People who use pretty faces like yours don’t live too long anyway.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

27. Detour (1945)

      Dir. Edgar Ulmer

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‘Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you for no good reason at all.’

 

 

 

 

26. Touch of Evil (1958)

      Dir. Orson Welles

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‘He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?’

 

 

 

 

25. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

      Dir. Orson Welles

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‘Killing you is killing myself. But you know, I’m pretty tired of both of us.’

 

 

 

 

24. In a Lonely Place (1950)

      Dir. Nicholas Ray

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‘I was born when she kissed me. I died wen she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.’

 

 

 

 

 

23. Scarlet Street (1945)

      Dir. Fritz Lang

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‘Can’t you get those lazy legs off that couch, baby?’

 

 

 

 

 

22. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

      Dir. John Huston

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‘Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one’s all right, he turns legit.’

 

 

 

 

21. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

      Dir. John Huston

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‘I’ll be waiting for you. If then hang you, I’ll always remember you.’

 

 

 

 

 

20. Mildred Pierce (1945)

      Dir. Michael Curtiz

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‘She plays the piano like I shoot pool.’

 

 

 

 

 

19. The Third Man (1949)

       Dir. Carol Reed

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‘Oh Holly, you and I aren’t heroes. The world doesn’t make any heroes outside of your stories.’

 

 

 

18. Raw Deal (1948)

     Dir. Anthony Mann

 

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‘I want to breathe. That’s why I want to get out of this place. So I can take a deep breath again’

 

 

 

 

 

17. Crossfire (1947)

      Dir. Edward Dmytryk

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‘I was in a stinkin’ gin mill, where all he had to do to see me was walk in, sit down at the table and buy me a drink.’

 

 

 

 

16. The Big Sleep (1946)

      Dir. Howard Hawks

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‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘Nothing you can’t fix.’

 

 

 

 

15. The Big Heat (1953)

     Dir. Fritz Lang

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‘You know I’ve been meting your kind now for ten years. Sacred rabbits who never see a thing. You wouldn’t stick your big fat neck out for anybody, would you?’

 

 

 

14. Pickup on South Street (1953)

     Dir. Samuel Fuller

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‘Even in your crummy line of business you gotta draw the line somewhere.’

 

 

 

 

13. Kansas City Confidential (1952)

     Dir. Phil Karlson

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‘I know a sure cure for a nosebleed. A cold knife in the middle of the back.’

 

 

 

 

12. Gilda (1946)

      Dir. Charles Vidor

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‘Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much that I think I’m going to die from it.’

 

 

 

 

11. T-Men (1947)

      Dir. Anthony Mann

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‘They had to know all the answers. Failure to do would mean a bad grade later on in the shape of a bullet or an ice-pick.’

 

 

 

 

 

10. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

     Dir. Lewis Milestone

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‘A sure thing is never a gamble.’

 

 

 

 

9. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

    Dir. Otto Preminger

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‘That’s a fancy way of trying to frame somebody – getting yourself knocked off. A guy’s gotta be outta his head for that. I didn’t know a guy could hate that much. Not even you.’

 

 

 

8. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

    Dir. Alexander MacKendrick

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‘Match me, Sidney.’

 

 

 

7. The Big Combo (1955)

    Dir. Joseph H. Lewis

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‘First is first and second is nobody.’

 

 

 

 

 

6. Notorious (1946)

    Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

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‘Dry your eyes baby, it’s out of character.’

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Killers (1946)

    Dir. Robert Siodmak

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‘If there’s one thing in this world I hate, is a double-crossing dame.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Out of the Past (1947)

    Dir. Jacques Tourneur

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‘And then I saw her – coming out of the sun. And I knew why Whit didn’t care about the forty grand.’

 

 

 

 

3. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

    Dir. Billy Wilder

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‘Alright Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.’

 

 

 

 

2. Laura (1944)

    Dir. Otto Preminger

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‘I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. The silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection.’

 

 

 

Before I reveal my number 1 noir, here are a few honorable mentions: The Hitch-hiker (1953), Kiss me Deadly (1955), Pitfall (1948), Fallen Angel (1945), The Chase (1946), D.O.A (1950)…

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  1. Double Indemnity (1944)

         Dir. Billy Wilder

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‘It sounds crazy, Keyes, but it’s true, so help me. I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.’

 

 

That’s it from me!

Happy Noirvember, everyone!

7 things I love about Some Like It Hot (1959)

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Ah, Some Like It Hot. Who doesn’t love Some Like It Hot? In fact, I’d go as far as to say that very few movies are as universally beloved as this. And why not? It’s simply perfect, in my opinion. It’s my 5th favorite film of all time and it has remained firmly in the top 5 since the first time I watched it. And while I love absolutely everything about it, I thought I’d share with you 7 of my most favorite things.

– The song ‘Runnin’ Wild’. I love, love, love that song! In fact, I love all the songs in it (‘Down Among The Sheltering Palms’ is just beyond lovely), but Runnin’ Wild is upbeat, crazy and fun, like the film itself.

– The chemistry between Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. One of the greatest trios in movies history. They feed off each other brilliantly and all three of them are at the top of their game.

– The name Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators. I mean, how great is that?

– The ‘party’ on the train. It is so wacky, you just want to join in!

– Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown doing the tango. Always cracks me up!

– The scenes on the yacht. Hot and adorable, at the same time.

– The fact that when it’s over, you want to watch it again. It’s such a feel-good movie! It’s one of the movies that you can watch over and over again and never tire of it. It just makes you feel so happy and cosy!

 

Here’s to Some Like It Hot, the ultimate desert island movie!

 

DOUBLE BILL #7: Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956)

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John Ford and John Wayne. One of cinema’s greatest and most celebrated director-actor partnerships. They made dozens of films together and they were one helluva team. For this Double Bill, I’ve decided to talk about their first major film together, Stagecoach (1939), and the one that’s usually considered to be their best, The Searchers (1956).

Stagecoach follows the troubled journey of a group of people on their way to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Alcoholic doctor Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell in an Oscar-winning performance), prostitute Dallas (Claire Trevor), prim and proper Mrs Mallory (Louise Platt), gambler Hatfield (John Carradine), alcohol salesman Mr Peacock (Donald Meek), and their stagecoach drivers Buck (Andy Devine) and Curly (George Bancroft) leave their town of Tonto and head towards Lordsburg, knowing they will most definitely encounter the Geronimo gang. Somewhere along the way, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne in his breakthrough role) makes their acquaintance – in one of cinema’s most spectacular entrances – and jumps on board. Off they go…

Here we have this group of people who probably wouldn’t have met or bonded otherwise, bound together through necessity and in a very confined place, no less, and we get to watch them slowly opening up to each other. Doc and Dallas, in particular, also share a bond because of the fact that they were kicked out of town due to prejudice and intrigue, instigated by the town’s women. I love that. I love the fact that Stagecoach is about the relationships. That’s what’s so interesting to watch. A group of outcasts forced to leave town forming unlikely relationships with each other. Think of it as Grand Hotel (1932) meets Street Scene (1931) on horseback.

Seventeen years later, we have The Searchers. It starts off with – you know what’s coming – one of the most iconic shots ever. I know it’s been talked about endlessly, but you can’t deny it, it’s just majestic. As the door opens, we welcome our hero. Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) is back. But not for long. Soon after he returns home, a raid takes place while he led away from his house. He comes back to find his family has been killed and his nieces Debbie (Natalie Wood) and Lucy (Pippa Scott) have been kidnapped. Ethan, Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr) and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) set out to find them, no matter what it takes. Our journey begins along with theirs…

The Searchers is emotional. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s compelling. We care about the characters. We recognize their flaws and we understand their actions and emotions. We’re with them throughout, and we’re rooting for them the whole time. And despite the emotional roller-coaster it puts you through, the ending is entirely satisfying, albeit bittersweet. And it will make you cry, believe me.

I like a Western with a heart and a conscience. Stagecoach and The Searchers have them in spades. Both of them could fit into the category of ‘Western for people who don’t like Westerns’ and that’s ok. It’s not a cliche, it’s true. And when you’re talking about John Ford and John Wayne, you know you’re in good hands.

Giving films a second chance…

Lately, I’ve been re-watching movies I didn’t particularly like when I first saw them, because I like to give movies a second chance. I don’t like it when I don’t like a movie. I know it’s weird, but I just feel bad about it. And because Noirvember is coming, this month I will be re-watching noirs I didn’t particularly like for whatever reason, as well as noirs I DID like and want to watch again. I watched Detour (1945) two nights ago, because it had been about six years since I last saw it and I didn’t particularly love it then, but having watched it again, it’s grown on me. It’s got some of the best lines in noir history (in particular, the last line) and Vera (Ann Savage) is a fantastic villain and, to use an expression I despise, ahead of her time.  She’s just great. It’s quite na impressive film and I can’t believe I didn’t think much of it when I first saw it. What was I thinking? See, this is what I’m talking about. These things get to me on a personal level.

Anyway, can’t wait for Noirvember!

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

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Joseph L. Mankiewicz was more than a film director. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was one of the greatest storytellers of all time. And if All About Eve (1950) guarantees him a place amongst Hollywood’s greatest, then A Letter to Three Wives (1949) is the cherry on top of it.

Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain), Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) and Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern) are on their way to a children’s picnic when they receive a letter saying that their friend Addie Ross (voiced by Celeste Holm) has run off with one of their husbands. But which one?

Masterfully told in flashback, A Letter to Three Wives has everything you’d expect in a Joseph L. Mankiewicz picture: a ridiculously fantastic screenplay, strong female leads that don’t feel like caricatures, a great ensemble cast (which includes Kirk Douglas and Thelma Ritter), true-to-life depictions of marriage and friendship and a touch of class that has hardly ever been matched. Oh, and have I mentioned how witty it is?

Not only is this a great movie in itself, but also one of the all-time great suburban movies. I’ve always been fascinated by suburbia, because, as a writer, there is so much you can do with it, so many stories and characters, and A Letter to Three Wives is an excellent example of how to get it absolutely right.

Winner of Best Screenplay and Best Director Oscars (both Mankiewicz), A Letter to Three Wives is pure class.

 

Noirvember is coming!

You know how most people look forward to Halloween or Christmas or something like that when September comes? Well for me, the most exciting part of this time of year is always Noirvember. And this year, I’ve got two big posts in mind that I simply cannot wait to share with you guys. EXCITIIING! Alright Carol, collect yourself, it’s only September.

DOUBLE BILL #6: Gilda (1946) and Notorious (1946)

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I know what you’re thinking. These two films don’t have a lot in common, apart from the year they were released and arguably the genre they belong to. But something else they have in common is the love-hate relationship element, and that’s the main thing that always comes to mind when I think about them.

Love-hate relationships are hot. They’re intense, emotional, sexy, dramatic, sometimes funny and more often than not, fantastic plot devices. Notorious and Gilda are probably my favorite examples of this.

In Gilda (dir. Charles Vidor), Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is hired by casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) to be his right-hand man. Little does he know that Macready is married to Gilda (Rita Hayworth), a woman he once loved…

The entire film is a power struggle between Gilda and Johnny, fuelled by their intense love and subsequent hate for each other. Gilda tries to make Johnny jealous whenever she can, and Johnny tries to pretend none of it bothers him. That’s pointless, of course, since it’s pretty obvious he’s still in love with her. He tries to lie to himself and to her, but she can see right through him. His emotional turmoil and her constant teasing are the perfect combination and their scenes together are electric. Particularly the ‘I hate you too, Johnny’ scene, which is, in my opinion, possibly the hottest scene ever. It’s just so full of love, hate, lies and desire and it culminates beautifully with the two of them finally giving in. But it doesn’t stop there. Gilda and Johnny’s relationship suffers yet another set-back after that. Of course it does. They wouldn’t let you off the hook that easy!

Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, on the other hand, is a lot darker. Party-girl Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is asked by T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to spy on her dead father’s former friends, who he suspects are Nazis operating in South America. Eventually, she realizes she’ll have to marry Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), the leader of the group, in order to get information. Problem is, Alicia and Dev fall in love…

Throughout the movie, both of them struggle with their feelings for each other as well as their own demons. Dev can’t deal with the fact that he’s in love with a woman who he thinks would never be able to commit, and Alicia tries to prove him wrong. She tries to seduce him once she realizes that he’s in love with her, but he keeps trying to resist, even though he knows it’s useless. Before they know it, they’re sharing a kiss on the balcony in what is probably one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes ever filmed. You know what I’m talking about. That scene. The one everybody loves. It is so sweet, so carefully restrained, so intimate, it’s almost intrusive. I almost feel bad for watching it. It is their moment… After that, things take a turn for the worse and their relationship is yet again put to the test.

Gilda is hot. Notorious is sweet. Gilda and Johnny are fire. Alicia and Devlin are melting ice. Obviously, there is a lot more to these movies than just that, but for me personally, this is my absolute favorite thing about them. Ooh, the sparks!