Film Noir


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Joan Crawford In Possessed

Monday, August 12th, 2013

In this 1947 Warner Brothers film noir, Joan Crawford plays Louise Howell Graham, an unstable woman with an obsession for ex-lover David Sutton, played by Van Heflin, and her resulting madness.

The film begins with Crawford’s character, Louise, dazed and walking the streets of Los Angeles looking for “David.” She enters a diner where she collapses and is taken to the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital. In an effort to understand the nature of her problem, Dr. Harvey Willard coaxes Louise to relate her story. How did she end up this way, and what pushed her over the edge?

In the state of Washington, Louise had been working as a nurse caring for the wife of Dean Graham, played by Raymond Massey. Engineer David Sutton, who is both a neighbor and friend of Dean shares a casual relationship with Louise. Casual, that is, to David. However, Louise is completely intoxicated with David and believes herself so in love with him that she feels she will burst if she does not express these feelings along with her desire to marry him. Louise is certain that David must feel the same about her.

He does not. Not only is David not in love with Louise, he is angered by her smothering possessiveness. The rejection shocks Louise who demands that they stop seeing one another for good. Dean has been unaware of the affair between his wife’s nurse and his friend and neighbor. One day David comes over to talk with Dean to ask him for a recommendation as David has an opportunity for a great job in Canada. Louise, unable to control her obsessive feelings toward David, overhears the conversation and begs David to take her with him to Canada. He refuses and leaves without her.

Shortly after, tragedy strikes the Graham family. Mrs. Graham drowns while Louise is away at the local village. Already distraut over David’s leaving, Louise is now racked by guilt over the death of Mrs. Graham. Had she only not gone to the village, the death would never have occurred.

That evening, Dean Graham’s daughter Carol confronts Louise accusing her of having an affair with her father that drove her mother to drown herself. Louise denys the false accusation, but the denial does not satisfy Carol’s suspicions.

Louise’s emotional stability is being pushed to the limit. With David gone, the death of Mrs. Graham, and Carol’s accusation, Louise slips closer and closer to the edge.

As Louise tries to remove David from her life he returns from Canada. His reappearance and actions now seem as though he is taunting her love for him and constantly reminding her that she will never be able to have him in the way that she wants.

Unexpectedly, Dean Graham proposes marriage to Louise. Though she does not love Dean, Carol accepts the proposal believing that this will enrage and make David jealous. David crashes their marriage ceremony and when introduced to the grown up Carol immediately begins to take an keen interest in her. Louise’s plan has backfired. Not only does David not show any jealousy she herself becomes jealous of David’s interest in Carol.

Once the relationship becomes serious between David and Carol, Louise starts to have delusions and hallucinations about the reality that is around her, and often times cannot discern between what is real and unreal.

A final confrontation between David and Louise can only lead to tragedy.

The story of Possessed reveals the agonizing and torturous experience of a scorned lover who is torn apart by the unrequited love of someone who toys with the rejection.

This 1947 film noir was one of Joan Crawford’s finest screen performances earning her an academy award nomination for best actress.

 

Great Film Noir Directors of the 1940’s

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Directors ChairFor fans of Film Noir, including myself, there is little doubt that the 1940’s produced a wealth of Noir directed by many of the greatest Film Noir directors in its history. It was these early efforts that would take Noir well into the 1950’s.

The success of the following directors is not in any way limited to the 1940’s, or to Film Noir exclusively. Many started earlier, and/or continued with their directorial success for decades to come in numerous film genres.

They are listed alphabetically and I’m sure you will find some of your own favorites. The list includes those who were chosen for their directorial genius, and those who directed films that have become Noir legend.

Here are my favorites:

Jules Dassin – Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Connecticut, Dassin went to Hollywood in 1940 where he found work as an apprentice to Alfred Hitchcock and Garson Kanin. Dassin’s first chance at directing came in 1941 for MGM.

  •  Brute Force – 1947
  •  The Naked City – 1948
  •  Thieves Highway – 1949

Edward Dmytryk – From studio messenger, to top director, to university professor, Dmytryk directed two of the more classic Film Noir titles of the 40’s. However, there was a black side to the directors career as he was one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals during the McCarthy era.

  •  Murder My Sweet – 1944
  •  Crossfire – 1947
  •  Cornered – 1945

Alfred Hitchcock – A London import whose name and films are familiar to everyone. A master of psychological thrillers, many of which are arguably Film Noir. Hitchcock had a career that spanned over five decades earning him the distinction of being considered one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.

  •  Suspicion – 1941
  •  Shadow of a Doubt – 1943
  •  Spellbound – 1945

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Film Femme Fatale – The Role of the Hollywood Femme Fatale

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The definition of the “Femme Fatale” archetype is derived from the french phrase that translates in English to mean “deadly woman.” A classical example of a film femme fatale is a woman who uses her charms to engage men into an overpowering desire for her that could only lead to dangerous, compromising, and even fatal situations.

Additional adjectives associated with the description of the femme fatale are seductress, vamp, sultry, demon, witch, black widow, and even heroine. The enchanting and hypnotizing effect of the femme fatale lies in her ability to be villainous while seeming vulnerable in nature, yet beautiful, alluring and virtually irresistible to the opposite sex. These are the qualities that bring her power of manipulation up to a nearly supernatural level.  

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Elements of Film Noir

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Film Noir, derived from the French term meaning ‘black film,’ is a style and approach to the production of many classic black and white Hollywood crime movies. While opinions differ on its definition, there are a foundation of elements that are common to film noir.

Hollywood movies of the film noir genre are typically dark, suspense-filled, thrilling mystery films. Here are some additional elements that help identify true film noir.

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