When 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.