As a cycle or even a genre of American film, the film noir is commonly considered to have had its genesis in the early 1940s, although scattered precursors have been identified as far back as the 1920s and the silent film era. First coined by French cineastes in response to a flood of crime films that saw their first exhibitions in France in the immediate wake of World War Two, the term film noir - literally, "black film" - has acquired a host of expansive meanings in the ensuing years.

raven (75K)Perhaps one of the more evocative definitions of the noir style is that given by Francis Nevins, the biographer of one of film noir's literary godfathers, Cornell Woolrich. The noir style, Nevins wrote, is a kind of "bleak, disillusioned study in the poetry of terror," characterized by elements such as "fear, guilt and loneliness, breakdown and despair, sexual obsession and social corruption, a sense that the world is controlled by malignant forces preying on us, a rejection of happy endings, and a preference for resolutions heavy with dooom, but always redeemed by a breathtakingly vivid poetry of image."

There were numerous films of this type through the first half of the 1940s, some of them hallmarks of the cycle such as The Maltese Falcon (1941), This Gun for Hire (1942), Murder, My Sweet and Double Indemnity, both from 1944, and Mildred Pierce (1945).

But beginning in 1946, productions of this type of crime film began mushrooming. A hunger for product examining the dark underbelly of society became common across all major Hollywood studios, even though some, like RKO and Columbia, were more renowned for their noir films than others.

What accounted for this relatively sudden explosion of popularity for the film noir? It's probably impossible to account for all of the factors behind film noir's rise in the immediate post-war era, although several main influences immediately spring to mind:

  1. The end of World War Two and wartime censorship and rationing
  2. Changes in American society and viewer preferences
  3. Noir films made money


This site begins with the examination of four key film noirs released in 1946: The Blue Dahlia, The Chase, Somewhere In The Night, and The Stranger. As time permits, it is hoped that the list of detailed treatments can be gradually expanded, so that all of these lost films will receive the renewed attention they so richly deserve.





The Big Sleep Howard Hawks Warner Brothers
Black Angel Roy William Neill Universal
The Blue Dahlia George Marshall Paramount
The Chase Arthur Ripley United Artists
Crack-Up Irving Reis RKO
The Dark Corner Henry Hathaway 20th Century Fox
The Dark Mirror Robert Siodmak Universal
Deadline At Dawn Harold Clurman RKO
Decoy Jack Bernhard Monogram
Fallen Angel Otto Preminger 20th Century Fox
Fear Alfred Zeisler Monogram
Gilda Charles Vidor Columbia
The Killers Robert Siodmak Universal
Night Editor Henry Levin Columbia
Nobody Lives Forever Jean Negulesco Warner Brothers
Nocturne Edwin L. Marin RKO
Notorious Alfred Hitchcock RKO
The Postman Always Rings Twice Tay Garnett MGM
So Dark The Night Joseph H. Lewis Columbia
Somewhere In The Night Joseph L. Mankiewicz 20th Century Fox
The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers Lewis Milestone Paramount
The Stranger Orson Welles RKO
Suspense Frank Tuttle Monogram
Undercurrent Vincente Minelli MGM