What started as a handful of American crime movies celebrated by French critics after World War II has grown to become the most resonant and enigmatic of all film categories. Since film noir is not a clear-cut, predefined genre like the western or musical, the term has always been open to confusion and dispute. For decades the cultural influence of noir has been expanding. There are now over a hundred books on the subject, numerous guides and reference works. But nothing in print is comprehensive or even close to inclusive of all classic films that deserve to be called noir.
The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition is the most far-reaching and definitive reference to classic noir ever produced. The book includes the following: documentation of nearly 1600 films from 30 countries ~ the most complete listing of American noirs in print ~ the most complete, definitive listing of British noirs ~ the most complete listing of French noirs anywhere ~ the most complete listing of classic noirs from other countries around the world ~ American canon of 250 films, plus identification of the top masterworks from America, Britain and France ~ montage of the history of film noir literature ~ 250 still images from the films, most never before seen in print.
This unique, unprecedented work distills a lifetime of study and research by film historian Spencer Selby, whose first book on the subject played a significant role in establishing the baseline parameters of American film noir 30 years ago.
“Just when it might have seemed that nothing more could be said about film noir, Spencer Selby, a filmographer of prodigious energy and skill, directs attention in his new book to an international array of films with the potential to reshape our understanding of film noir as a global phenomenon. Scholars will debate his selection criteria, yet few will deny that Selby has intrepidly pursued the tracks of film noir in multiple national cinemas, vastly expanded the size of its corpus, and laid the foundation for rethinking its history and definition. His book is the first significant film noir reference work of the twenty-first century, as indispensable as a Zagat Guide and just as much fun to read.”
—Edward Dimendberg, author of Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity
“Spencer Selby, one of our more galvanizing writers about film noir, provides a fascinating, expanded road map into what we now know to be a multi-layered international canon. If you think American noir is the alpha and omega of this phenomenon, prepare to have your world rocked. Armed with Selby’s new guide to the international film noir tradition, readers will have the tools to discover its astonishing depth and breadth. It’s a noir world after all.” —Don Malcolm, Editor, Noir City; author of the forthcoming Noir In The Sixties
“The best way to define film noir has always been ostensively, by making a list. Spencer Selby, a recognized authority on noir, has made what as far as I know is the biggest list of them all. This makes his book especially valuable as a reference and resource.”
—James Naremore, author of More than Night: Film Noir and Its Contexts
“Before computers, cellphones, blogs, or internet databases, there was Spencer Selby, alone in a darkened theater, assembling on a pad and paper the quintessential reference on film noir. The resulting volume, Dark City: The Film Noir, is today a tattered, well-worn book on my film reference shelf that has endured more use than any other.”
—Kevin Johnson, bookseller and author of The Dark Page
From the 1970s into the 1990s, academic books and mainstream journalism inaccurately described film noir as a distinctly American phenomenon or an indigenous American form. Since the millennium there has been an increasing awareness that film noir was produced in many other countries, and that it often happened at the same time as the classic period of U.S. fim noir. What has been missing is a comprehensive reference work about international film noir. Spencer Selby has filled in the gap, and magisterially so. For film noir aficionados, The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition is a landmark event.
—Dan Hodges, http://www.filmnoirfile.com/
“Spencer Selby’s first reference book on film noir, Dark City: The Film Noir, has been my constant companion, on my journey of noir discovery, for over 25 years. If you are after a concise guide to the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s, then look no further. Mr. Selby’s passion and knowledge for the subject is palpable. His thoughtful essays (and detailed plot synopses) on 25 films noirs are essential reading as is his informative annotated filmography of 490 films (the largest ever compiled at the time). From a personal point of view, Dark City: The Film Noir was also a major influence on my modest noir pages at They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? Now comes The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition, which promises to be the most definitive reference to film noir ever published, embracing noir-related cinema from all corners of the globe.”
—Bill Georgaris, http://www.theyshootpictures.com/
“The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition is a much needed compendium of film noir in all its international glory, with US noirs taking a central role. Short synopses for each film will allow the devotee to search out hidden territory. All supplemented by a very judicious use of photos that exhibit the noir style.”
—Robert Ottoson, author of A Reference Guide to the American Film Noir, 1940-1958
In Dark City: The Film Noir, Spencer Selby assembled perhaps the largest reference source of what has come to be called dark cinema–those films of the forties and fifties comprising the detective film, post-war melodrama, psychological thriller, and crime suspense story. Now, as film historians and other scholars and writers have turned to examine the emergence of this hybridized genre in countries other than the U.S., Selby has written The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition, the most comprehensive compilation extant of dark cinema. Like others such as Andrew Spicer, Janice Morgan and Dudley Andrew, Selby finds precursors to film noir as well as fully developed versions on a transnational scale, identifying noir films from some thirty countries as well as American, British, and French noir masterpieces, replete with illustrative stills. Written in clear, non-technical prose, Selby’s book will be essential reading for fans, film buffs, and newcomers to film noir as well as seasoned professionals.
—Steven Sanders, author of “Film Noir and the Meaning of Life” and “Noir et Blanc in Color,” Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Bridgewater StateUniversity.
So, in 1972 I lived a block away from the Orson Welles Theater on Mass Ave. in Cambridge. I worked in a flower shop in Central Square that fronted for a bookie joint. Some afternoons, after selling flowers to Stan Vanderbeek or chatting up the cops, I’d wander into the movies, startled to see on a large screen the fare I vaguely remembered from a childhood spent mesmerized by Million Dollar Movies on TV. It turned out I’d been watching film noir all my life. And who can resist? The more one considers how Fred McMurray could go from being Walter Neff to a TV Dad, the more one felt these films knew things, mid-century American things, about all of us, things rarely acknowledged. But it turns out that film noir knew things about other places too—like the British versions, which could never be as violent or as open-ended as those made in the US; the limitations of an island with an established Church. Or the Argentinian police procedurals that made sense of the excesses of Peron and Evita and foreshadowed dictatorship. Or how Korean noir returns obsessively to the war and national partition just as Japanese postwar crime films hint at the devastating fallout, not only from atomic weapons, transforming its social fabric. Spencer Selby’s compendium lets us understand how supple film noir is; how wide-ranging and capacious its tightly enclosed paranoia can be. …So many afternoons ahead. —Paula Rabinowitz, author of Black and White and Noir
THE WORLDWIDE FILM NOIR TRADITION
Copyright © Spencer Selby 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the
publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews.
Cover and book design by Spencer Selby
Setup by Carl Prater
Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication data
The worldwide film noir tradition / Spencer Selby.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
illustrated case binding: 55# alkaline paper
1. Film noir. 2. Film noir –History and Criticism. 3. Film noir –Encyclopedias.
4. Motion pictures–Plots, themes, etc. I. Title.
PN1995.9.F54 S67 2013
791.43/655 –dc 232013905255
720 Kellogg Avenue
Ames, IA 50010
Selection of Images in the Book
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Poet, artist and film historian, Spencer Selby was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and studied Political Science at The University of Iowa. In San Francisco he published SINK magazine, coordinated The Canessa Park Reading Series and created Selby’s List of Experimental Poetry/Art Magazines. Selby has performed his work in many North American cities and in Europe. He is the author of nine poetry books, five compilations of visual work and a previous study of film noir. He currently lives in Ames, Iowa.