In a world where nothing is what it seems and human emotions get tossed aside for the sake of greed, power and money, it’s perhaps not surprising that relationships of any kind hardly ever last. And if love is meaningless is noir world, so is friendship. Private Hell 36 (1954, dir. Don Siegel) is a good example of this. So is The Third Man (1949, dir. Carol Reed). But sometimes, not all is lost and when danger lurks in the shadows, friendship can be the one relief in these people’s lives. Just look at T-Men (1947, dir. Anthony Mann). In it, Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) are Treasury agents who go undercover in order to take down a counterfeit ring. Possibly the most tense of all noirs and arguably Anthony Mann’s best, T-Men‘s claustrophobic nature is counter-balanced by the relationship between the two agents. O’Brien and Genaro’s line of work leads them down a path of secrets, lies and deceit, coming from all sides, and their brief yet genuine friendship is the only thing they have, which makes Genaro’s demise particularly heart-breaking. Similarly, when Moe Williams, played by everyone’s favorite character actress Thelma Ritter in Pickup on South Street (1953, dir. Samuel Fuller) meets her end, it’s an especially sad moment. Moe is a police informant who remains loyal to her fellow petty crooks, including Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark), whom she’s known since he was a child. While their friendship is a long-lasting one, it’s her relationship with Candy (Jean Peters) that makes our list. The two bond over Candy’s shaky relationship with Skip and the subsequent exposing of government secrets, with Moe offering her advice on what to do. Moe’s motherly nature towards Candy is sweet and unusual and, yet again, one that takes the edge off in an otherwise secretive and shadowy world. But the greatest friendship in film noir belongs to perhaps the most iconic of them all. In Double Indemnity (1944, dir. Billy Wilder), Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck)’s may be the central relationship, but it’s Walter’s friendship with Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) that warms our hearts – and that’s something you don’t see in noir every day. Their easy-going banter is a breath of fresh air, Walter’s ‘I love you too’ is aww-inducing at first and heart-breaking in the film’s final reel, and Keyes’ disappointment when all is revealed is palpable. The ending is a truly soul-crushing one, in legendary noir fashion, and Walter and Keyes’ relationship has a great deal to do with it. A cautionary tale, like so many others, and one that offers an especially poignant lesson on one of noir’s most overlooked elements. Friendship can sometimes be the most mourned of relationships, and noir world is no exception. Because noir world is an unforgiving and cruel one, where nothing lasts and bad luck is out to get you. And oftentimes, people hang onto the one true thing they have. More often than not, to no avail.
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