Marcia, Marcia, Marcia — Film noir

I love old movies. Really old movies. Not the ones from the 1970s I went to when they were new. Movies in black and white. Movies with glitz, glamour and grit. I love ‘Film Noir.’

Film Noir is kind of a movie genre, and should not be confused with a vegetable dish, like the famous French Salad Nicoise (ne-swaaz). You have probably seen one of these movies at some point; maybe out of desperation with nothing else to watch on television. Turner Classic Movies runs them and I try to catch them all. I even own some.

Favorites include a mystery of some sort … a murder, or theft of a priceless object. Solving the crime is a sometimes suave, always tough talking, and often sarcastic gum-shoe. Fedoras abound as do lavish evening gowns and well-attended dinner parties rife with suspects.

It’s dark. Picture a wet street at night, lit only by the reflection of street lamps. One car pulls up … its window comes down slightly … you see a quick flash of light; a puff of smoke emerges (probably from a Camel non-filter). A stakeout is in progress. There are plenty of shadows from which to emerge. There are stoops to hide behind and the occasional passersby.

Looking past a rainy windshield, our gum-shoe notices a lamp in a second floor flat has come on. The shadowy figure of a woman moves across the light and out of sight. Perhaps to answer the door. Within seconds she is grabbed from behind. An arm rises up; a knife can be seen … she drops to the ground out of sight and darkness returns to the second floor.

Who was she? Whose knife-wielding arm was it? Could this murder be linked to the disappearance of an Egyptian artifact or a scheme to inherit a family fortune? Might it be a love triangle or rage born out?

This love of Film Noir started when I discovered (years ago) one of my favorite books, “Rebecca,” had been made into a movie. The 1940 masterpiece, directed by newbie Alfred Hitchcock, won an Academy Award. Hitchcock, with help from Joan Fontaine, Sir Lawrence Olivier and the super creepy Dame Judith Anderson, let just enough light into the darkness that was Rebecca. Read the book if you haven’t, Daphne du Maurier is the author. Then … visit the characters via this film of the noir variety. You won’t be disappointed.

Other films you may want to check out, if you haven’t already, are “The Maltese Falcon,” “Double Indemnity,” “Strangers on a Train,” “The Glass Key,” “The Big Sleep,” “Dead Reckoning” or “The Thin Man.” So many choices.

Don’t be afraid to dip a toe into the swirling, inky waters of mystery … these movies have richness to them only black and white cinematography can impart. They all beg an answer to the question, “Who done it?” as they take you on a journey into the 1930s and 40s. Watch one and enjoy the ride in a 1940 Buick Super style. Be sure your windshield wipers work and you have your trench coat for back up. Bring a flashlight because it’s sure to be dark in the world of Film Noir.




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