One of the most popular features at the Classic Film and TV Cafe is the site’s “A to Z” list. Awhile back, the Cafe tackled film noir–a daunting task because there so many good ones. For example, for “D”, I could have gone with any of the following: The Dark Corner, Dark City, Detour, The Desperate Hours, or Drive a Crooked Road. So, if I’ve omitted one of your favorites, please leave a comment!
A – The Asphalt Jungle (1944) A sense of doom permeates John Huston’s taut suspense film in which a “perfect caper” goes awry.
B –The Big Heat (19530. A homicide detective (Glenn Ford) takes on a crime syndicate when his wife is murdered. Favorite line is when Gloria Grahame tells the hero: “You’re about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs.”
C – Cornered (1945). Dick Powell tracks post-World War II Nazis to Argentina to avenge the murder of his French Resistance wife. Powell is terrific, Walter Slezak slimy, and the ending brutal.
E – Edge of Doom (1950). Following the death of his mother, a mentally unbalanced young man (Farley Granger), with a grudge against the church, murders a priest in this grim noir.
F – Force of Evil (1948). “If you need a broken man to love, break your husband,” says John Garfield’s tough-talking lawyer to Marie Windsor’s femme fatale in this poetic picture. Director Abraham Polonsky was subsequently blacklisted and wouldn’t direct again for over 20 years.
G – Gun Crazy (1950). Peggy Cummins and John Dalllove love guns…and each other. Unfortunately, she loves money, too, and leads them on a lethal crime spree.
H – Human Desire (1954). Gloria Grahame sizzles as a sexpot with an abusive husband who lures Glenn Ford into a torrid affair. Now, if she only get rid of her husband (Broderick Crawford)…. French director Jean Renoir earlier adapted the same Emile Zola novel, The Human Beast, to great effect.
I – In a Lonely Place (1950). Noir favorite Gloria Grahame plays a starlet and Humphrey Bogart a screenwriter suspected of murder in this dark tale set against cynical Hollywood.
J – Johnny O’Clock (1947). A casino provides an interesting backdrop for the typical plot about a basically good guy (Dick Powell) who gets mixed up with murder and crooked cops. With Evelyn Keyes and Lee J. Cobb.
K – Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) pummels bad guys, gets beat up a lot, and looks for the “great whatsit” in Robert Aldrich’s one-of-a-kind cult noir.
L – Laura (1944). Clifton Webb created one of the great characters in American cinema with his portrayal of Waldo Lydecker. Of course, the rest of the film ain’t bad either, with Otto Preminger’s stylish direction, David Raksin’s haunting music, and the stunning Gene Tierney.
M – The Maltese Falcon (1941). John Huston’s classic is “the stuff that dreams are made of.” You knew that as soon as you saw that opening shot of the office windows with the letters reversed, right?
N – Nightmare Alley (1947). Tyrone Power gives perhaps his finest performance as a seedy carnival hustler who hits the big time–briefly–with a mind-reading act.
O – Out of the Past (1947). With its contrasts of bright lights and dark shadows, Out of the Past is a visual feast. It’s also a compelling tale of a man (Robert Mitchum) pulled back into the shadows of his past–no matter how hard he tries to escape them. Perhaps, my favorite film noir.
P – Pickup on South Street (1953). A pickpocket steals a woman’s wallet. What neither of them know is that it contains microfilm with government secrets coveted by her communist spy ex-boyfriend.
Q – Quicksand (1950). A petty crime snowballs into a heap of trouble for garage mechanic Mickey Rooney. It doesn’t help that Peter Lorre is on hand as the shady owner of a penny arcade.
R –Raw Deal (1948). An unexpected love triangle highlights Anthony Mann’s sharp tale of an escaped convict trying to elude the police and a crime boss trying to kill him.
S – Sunset Blvd (1950). Are you ready for your close-up? Of course, you are!
T – The Third Man (1949). There’s this guy named Harry Lime in post-World War II Vienna….
U – Underworld U.S.A. (1961) A youth grows into a vicious criminal so that he avenge his father’s death at the hands of mobsters. A relentless look at corruption by Pickup on South Street director Samuel Fuller.
W – The Web (1947). After a memorable supporting turn in Laura, Vincent Price plays a smooth villain in this seldom-shown noir co-starring Edmund O’Brien (who would later star in an even better noir, D.O.A.).
X – The Amazing Mr. X (1948)(well, this one is a bit of a cheat). Also known as The Spiritualist, this “B” film shares similarities with the bigger-budgeted Nightmare Alley. In this one, Turhan Bey plays a con artist who becomes an unwilling accomplice in a murder plot.
Y – You Only Live Once (1937). Fritz Lang’s 1937 classic is considered an early noir, largely due to its bleak outlook in telling the story of an ex-con (Henry Fonda) who seems unable to escape his tragic fate.
Z – The Zither music in The Third Man (1949).
Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!