Film Noir and Friendship – Noirathon

t-men-alfred-ryder-dennis-o-keefe-1947In 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) areΒ  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.

For more posts on Noirathon, hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, click here.


18 thoughts on “Film Noir and Friendship – Noirathon

  1. Pingback: The Noirathon Begins – Maddy Loves Her Classic Films

  2. maddylovesherclassicfilms

    Great piece, Carol. I too love the friendships in T-Men(so tragic though)and Double Indemnity. It is the characters and their relationships with one another which intrigue me and impact me most in Noir films. As you say, nothing lasts forever in Noir world, so we value these relationships even more than the characters may do because we know there is bound to be tragedy round the corner for them. Thanks so much for joining.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paddy Lee

    Excellent. Much food for thought as we make our way through the world of film-noir.

    T-Men breaks my heart. Looking at another Mann picture, I think we can consider that friendship grows between Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy in Border Incident.

    For a twisted friendship, there’s Lawrence Tierney and Elisha Cook Jr. in Born to Kill (shudders involuntarily). However, from the same movie, the feeling is genuine between Esther Howard and Isabel Jewel.

    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I LOVE Border Incident!
      Haha I had the same reaction as soon as I read your comment about Born to Kill, such a horrifying film! I guess I’ll have to give it another shot!
      Thank you!!


  4. Mike Noonan

    Nice linking friendship with film noir. A nice take on it. I saw T Men and Private Hell 36 based on your recommendation . Will have to check out pickup on south street.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Margot Shelby

    Good job highlighting a different emotion in Noir, other than love/lust. Like true love, which rarely ever gets a chance in Noir, friendship is a rare commodity too.

    Another one I could add to the list is The Asphalt Jungle where the gang of crooks stand by each other to the bitter end.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post! In a world where a man can’t trust his own shadow – literally – these friendships stand out, and their endings really mess up with our emotions. I’m glad you added Moe and Candy in this list, as I loved their relationship in the film.

    Liked by 1 person

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