Wise Guys in the Film Noir World

Film Noir

It's always nighttime & raining

It’s always nighttime & raining

It is a dreary, crime fiction world filled with down-and-out heroes, cynicism and vice.

For all the curious ones who want to take a look, just follow me. First, go watch Lita’s film noir video, then come right back.

Take a Walk

In films noir, it is always nighttime and raining. Trench coats with collars turned up, hats pulled low, and big black umbrellas hide the sometimes unshaven handsome men and always drop-dead gorgeous women. Glistening retro cars prowl the streets and splash unfortunate passersby with dirty rainwater. Noir takes place in a 1940’s urban setting, with Chicago, LA, San Francisco, or New York as favorites. The city is a gritty maze of seedy establishments, shady dealings, and the rumble of trains. Police sirens echo in garbage-strewn alleyways. Neon signs fizzle with burnt-out bulbs.

Film Noir Bar

Cigarettes & liquor in film noir

Get Out of the Rain

When the characters move inside, they land in bars, lounges, nightclubs, and gambling dens. The sexy sound of slow, classic jazz mingles with the odor of liquor and cigarette smoke. Glasses clink. Desperate laughter punches the murmur of dimly lit interiors. The men, and women, wear their hats.

If you go to the hero’s office, it is stark and filled with moody shadows. His name is on the door’s frosted glass. The reporter/private detective/cop’s secretary has gone for the day, or is gone, period. The hero’s client, and the bad guys, always find a way past the locked door. He has a gun in the desk drawer, along with a half empty liquor bottle. The window blinds throw bars of harsh light-and-shadows across his desk. He has a phone, typewriter, and overflowing ashtray within easy reach.

Femme fatale

Femme fatale

Hardboiled Isn’t Just for Eggs

Films noir have a flawed hero. He is often bitter, a fall guy, hardboiled, and pessimistic. His wife has run off with another man, or she was the victim of an unsolved murder.

The hero wears a suit, trench coat, and fedora. If down on his luck, the hero’s attire has grown shabby. The hero has a reporter friend at the Gazette, or an unsullied cop contact back at the precinct.

The private eye and the femme fatale are typical film noir people. Others are corrupt policemen, stool pigeons, jealous husbands, gangsters, determined reporters, and destitute writers. Cigarette smoking is rampant, along with alcohol consumption. The women dress to the nines. If she is down on her luck, her hosiery has holes and she wears dark tattered clothes. Her high heels and clothing accent her curves. The dollys, molls, and dames always wear flawless makeup.

Stool pigeons and fall guys, take a seat

Stool pigeons and fall guys, take a seat

Get Your Boots on Your Brainchild

Murder, gangsters, robbery, and cops on the take, are the usual goings on. The new mayor threatened to clean up the city, and the seedy underworld responded with a killing and robbery spree. The hero’s client is a desperate, lovely woman who will do anything to clear her name. He falls for the dame, despite his hardened heart.

The climaxes of films noir sometimes take place in industrial locations like refineries, abandoned warehouses, train yards, and power plants. There is a fist fight and gun play, surrounded by the deafening groan of greasy machines and the rattle of the catwalk. Steam clouds hide the bad guys. Naked light bulbs swing on suspended power cords and throw wild shadows on the walls.

Film noir people, surroundings, and story lines are gritty and crammed with naughty style. It is a dark and exciting place, and the foundation for another fantasy world, Steampunk London.

5 thoughts on “Film Noir

  1. Pingback: Film Noir for Writers | Lita Burke

  2. Pingback: Steampunk London | Lita Burke

  3. Pingback: 3 Naughty Ladies of Fantasy Fiction | Lita Burke

  4. Theresa H Hall

    Just the kinds of detective stories I have always been drawn to. Black and white films with strong men and a damsel in distress. Some of my favorites were The Thin Man, the old gangster flicks and Charlie Chan.



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