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Bindwijze: Paperback. Verkoop door bol. In winkelwagen Op verlanglijstje. Gratis verzending 30 dagen bedenktijd en gratis retourneren Ophalen bij een bol. Anderen bekeken ook. Barry Forshaw Euro Noir 11, Alison Young The Scene of Violence 51, Anita Lam Making Crime Television 54, Nicole Rafter Criminology Goes to the Movies 25, Roberto Curti Italian Crime Filmography, 50, Douglas M. Snauffer Crime Television 90, Jack Shadoian Dreams and Dead Ends 40, Bekijk de hele lijst.

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Series name. Language English Spanish Bilingual. Menu Find a Book. They offer access to places most of us never get to in person, such as drug factories, po- lice interrogation rooms, glamorous nightclubs, and prison cells. Good crime films portray these places in terms so vivid, gripping, and emotionally compelling that we identify with their characters even when we know that the stories are in large part fantasies.

Opening a window on exotica, crime films enable viewers to become voyeurs, secret observers of the personal and even intimate lives of characters very different from themselves. Crime films also offer us the pleasurable opportunity to pursue jus- tice, often at the side of a charismatic and capable hero.

Characters such as Mike Hammer Kiss Me Deadly , Clarice Starling Silence of the Lambs , and William Somerset Seven are de- termined and effective in their tasks, pursuing difficult goals with- out hesitationand with astounding success. Viewers enjoy identi- fying with such protagonists and with the attractive stars who portray them. A key source of crime films' enduring attraction and again, for the moment I am setting aside the recent crop of critical crime films lies in the way they provide a cultural space for the expression of resis- tance to authority.

While most: people support social control of some sort, crime films have carved out a piece of cultural and intellectual territory where it is acceptable to entertain antagonism toward the criminal justice system, the state, and other institutions of power and to feel, for an hour or two, like a heroic rebel. Crime films' anti- authority messages, however, are conveyed through moral, narrative, and cinematic frameworks that constrain or even work against the critique. Thus, while crime films are often subversive, they also pro- mote systems of social control by making these seem normal, un- problematic, or even useful.

Crime films condemn such institutions of power as prisons, but at the same time they reinforce them. As cul- tural theorist bell hooks has noted, a "film may have incredibly rev- olutionary standpoints merged with conservative ones. This min- gling of standpoints is often what makes it hard for audiences to critically 'read' the overall filmic narrative.

Escape from Alcatraz, a film starring Clint Eastwood, pro- vides an example of this double movement. Through various rhetor- ical devices, the movie encourages us to sympathize with the pris- oners and hope that their escape plot succeeds. An evil warden and associate warden reinforce this sympathy on the level of character and narrative, and viewer antagonism toward social control is visu- ally reinforced by camera work that dwells on miles of cells, pipes, and other apparatus of containment.

At the same time, however, Escape from Alcatraz offers no criti- cism of the prison system as a whole. There is nothing extremist here that might offend or incite. The prisoners' pain is blamed on partic- ular, sadistic officials, not incarceration itself. In fact, Escape from Alcatraz includes a couple of "good" officers to show that the system is not all bad.

Nor are there profound problems in race relations at this Alcatraz, where few people of color are imprisoned in any case and the black leader almost immediately bonds with Eastwood's character. The film re- duces racial tensions to banter in which Eastwood and the black man played by Danny Glover call each other "boy"affectionately. Plea- sure here includes escape into a world of simple morality and intense friendship. It also includes the cost-free thrill of identifying with a revolt against authority that frees the good guys, embarrasses the nasty warden, and leaves the status quo undisturbed.

Critical Crime Films and the Alternative Tradition Recently, a few innovative filmmakers have rebelled against crime films' tradition of safe critique and sanitized rebellion, developing a critical alternative of alienated, angry movies that subject viewers to harsh realities and refuse to flatter either their characters or their au- diences. For instance, the same year that Escape from Alcatraz was released, there appeared another prison movie, On the Yard, that flew in the face of prison film tradition.

The most appealing character is killed in the middle of the moviefor a cigarette debtand forgot- ten. Although inmates team up for mutual support, there are no heroic friendships between buddies, and prisoner factions openly war for control of the yard. More recently, American Me , a movie about the Mexican Mafia, also broke with prison film formu- las. Made by Hispanic director Edward James Olmos, American Me paints an unrelievedly bleak picture of Hispanic culture disintegrat- ing under the twin pressures of American mores and the Mexican Mafia's criminal activities.

Children commit murder, personal rela- tionships founder, and the leader dies ignominiously in his cell. Retrospectively, we can identify the progenitors of this line of crit- ical crime films. They are rooted in the tradition of films noirs, the brooding mysteries and gangster films of the s and s that take corruption for granted, assuming that brutality and criminality are part of the human condition. Lewis's Gun Crazy , a tragic, haunting tale of a very-much-in-love couple who aspire to little more than bourgeois comfort but are brought down by their fixation with firearmsand their willingness to use them.

The critical tradition took shape with the appearance of such films as Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets , an iconoclastic probe of the hardships of criminal life, and Roman Polanski's Chinatown , in which the detective hero stands by helplessly as the bad guy tri- umphantly carries off an incest victim. Director Stephen Frears made another of these dark crime films, The Grifters , a movie that again uses incest as an index of the corruption of the criminal heart.

In one of director Abel Ferrara's contributions to the line, Bad Lieu- tenant , the lead character played by Harvey Keitel is a cop who spirals downward into a filthy world of alcoholism and drug ad- diction; he is even rude to Jesus, who comes down from the cross to save him. Critical crime films have none of the high spirits or good humor we find in more celebrated recent movies such as Goodfellas, Natural Born Killers, Fargo, and Pulp Fiction.

Grim in tone, they are shot through with bitterness. They are not defined by their lack of happy endings, for crime films have always killed off their heroes. Instead, the crucial differences lie in their lack of a traditional, admirable hero and in their hopelessness. The bad lieutenant may be saved by Jesus, but neither he himself nor anyone else can rescue him from deprav- ity. Michael Douglas's D-Fens, the lead character in Falling Down , can never do anything but fall under the weight of his rage against a world in which middle-class, white male earnestness reaps no rewards.

These critical movies comprise but a small minority of all crime films and are likely to remain few in number. However, their refusals to pander to popular taste do pose sharp ideological challenges to crime film traditions. While mainstream crime films continue to offer the pleasure of rebellion within safe constraints, this subgroup insists on the impossibility of heroism and the inevitability of injustice.

This book's chapters are organized around themes and genres that have been pivotal in the history of crime films and have conveyed particular sets of ideas relating to crime and society. It is less concerned with ideology than with how, over time, movies have interacted with the social contexts in which they were produced.

Chapter 2 examines what crime films have to say, sociologi- cally and ideologically, about the causes of crime. It also examines the much debated issue of whether media representations of violence cause crime, arguing that crime films do not lead to crime but rather make available narratives about crime and criminality that viewers then in- corporate into their beliefs about how the world works. The next three chapters deal with specific genres within the crime films category.

Chapter 3 concentrates on cop films, tracing their evo- lution, discussing their obsessive preoccupation with ideal mas- culinity, and examining new directions in which they are heading. Chapter 4, on courtroom dramas, deals with their key characteristics and their central theme of the illusiveness of justice. It goes on to ar- gue that of all crime film genres, this one has been least successful in addressing current concerns, and to suggest why this is the case. Chapter 5 investigates key themes in traditional prison films and dis- cusses the critical prison movies, recent documentaries, and self- reflexive films that are turning the genre in new directions.

Chapter 6 focuses on crime films' tendency to portray criminals as heroes. This chapter asks and proposes answers to questions about why crime films tend to treat criminals as heroes, how they make criminals seem heroic, and how they reconcile their message of crim- inal heroism with cultural assumptions about the wrongness of crime.

The concluding chapter, chapter 7, draws on film history and speculations about the future of American society to predict the future of crime films. Notes 1. The Clarens book has recently been reissued with a new afterword Clarens For an overview as well as an example of this work, see Gamson et al.

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Barak , Bailey and Hale , Surette Allen, Livingstone, and Reiner As their title The Changing Generic Lo- cation of Crime in Film indicates, these authors take an approach that is quite different from mine. A Clockwork Orange is an early example of the trend, noted in chap- ter 7, in which filmmaking is becoming an international enterprise. See, for example, Bergman and Asimow and the essays on films in Bai- ley and Hale In contrast, and for an example of the social construc- tionist approach that I adopt here, see Ruth , a study of the "invention" of the gangster that is "concerned with the meanings rather than the facts of crime" 1.

For more on the ideological meanings of Thelma and Louise, see Spelman and Minow Kaplan For earlier approximations, see, for example, Richard Roundtree's popular Shaft films Shaft [], Shaft's Big Score [], Shaft in Africa [] , about the adventures of a black private eye. Koltnow In fact, what I call the alternative tradition of critical crime films is close to what J. Telotte, in Voices in the Dark , calls "the noir" spirit 3 , not- ing that "the film noir can designate a field of deviation that mirrors the prob- lems of modern America in particular and modern man in general" Telotte contrasts the dark voice of noir with "the classical film narrative" or "conventional voice," "characterized by a seemingly objective point of view, adherence to a cause-effect logic, use of goal-oriented characters to direct our attention and elicit our sympathies, and a progression toward narrative clo- sure" 3.

I use the terms Hollywood movies and traditional films to indicate the body of work that critical crime films react against. A contrast similar to the one 1 am drawing here can also be found in Robert Altman's film The Player , which revolves around the tension between "happy endings" and "reality. I always wanted to use the Mafia as a metaphor for America. Francis Ford Coppola. Crime films feed our apparently insatiable hunger for stories about crimes, investigations, trials, and punishment.

From almost the first moment of moviemaking, film writers and directors realized that nothing pleases audiences more than deception, mayhem, and un- derdog characters who refuse to be trampled by institutions and laws. The plots of crime films may draw on actual historical events, reproducing celebrated cases while simultaneously fashioning out of the past new heroes for the present.

More frequently, crime film plots are fictions that draw on general attitudes toward crime, victims, law, and punishment prevalent at the time of their making. Whatever the basis of their stories, crime films reflect the power relations of the context in which they are madeattitudes toward gender, ethnicity, race, and class relations, opinions about fairness and justice, and be- liefs about the optimal relationship of state to individual. Examining the history of crime films helps explain why different types of crime films flourish at different points in time.

By locating movies at some distance, in the sociohistorical contexts in which they were produced, film history enables us to see more clearly movies' underlying ideo- logical assumptions about American society. This chapter provides an overview of the origins and evolution of crime films, focusing on their thematic history. Its goal is twofold: to establish a chronology of major crime films and genre developments and to show how crime film history reflects more fundamental social and cultural currents.

This emphasis on the sociohistorical contexts in which crime films evolved will lay a foundation for a deeper ex- amination of the ideological functions of crime films in later chapters. Later chapters also develop the distinction, emphasized in the in- troduction, between mainstream and critical crime films. The chap- ter proceeds chronologically, first discussing crime films of the silent film era the late nineteenth century until the late s and then the. Next it covers the development during and after World War II of film noir, the movie style that for a while became almost synonymous with crime films.

The late s and most of the s constituted a fallow period for crime films. A section on this period explores reasons for its relative barrenness, while a section on the following fertile period, , shows how new themes emerged and older genres revived. The chapter closes with remarks on recent changes in crime films. The Silent Film Era, ca. The earliest movies lasted but a few minutes; they were too brief to develop characters or complex plots, but they delighted audiences with their ability to re-create events and conjure up magical illusions.

Some of the first movies were shown in vaudeville theaters, between live entertainment acts; by the early twentieth century, movies were more likely to be shown on their own in nickelodeons, theaters where patrons paid a nickel to see them. Would they depict real-life events? How would movies relate to the newspapers, theater, vaudeville, and the visual arts?

Under what cir- cumstances would people view them? Who would comprise their primary audience? Such questions were askedand at least partially answeredduring the silent film period. In the United States, movies emerged during the so-called Pro- gressive Era roughly , a time of intense social reform, though one in which middle-class reformers felt there was a great deal of work to do. One major concern was social unrest and street crime.

Cities were expanding rapidly and filling with immigrants and the poor, some of whom formed criminal gangs. The Progressive period drew to a close with the enactment of the anti-alcohol Eighteenth Amendment. This act backfired, however, by encouraging bootlegging and organized crime, new causes for alarm.

The silent film era, then, was one dur- ing which Americans became seriously worried about the manifesta- tions of crime.

Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films & Society

For the first time, large numbers of ordinary citizens began to think about both the sources of criminality and ways to im- prove social control. Few early movies have survived. Porter's The Great Train Robbery may have been the first crime film. Although today it is often classified as a Western, early-twentieth-century viewers may well have considered The Great Train Robbery a movie about crime, an argument with which Richard Maltby concurs in his work on genre recognition: "Contemporary audiences recognized The Great Train Robbery as a melodramatic example of one or more of the 'chase film,' the 'rail- way genre,' and the 'crime film.

Innocents are shot by the criminals and one man is viciously bludgeoned to death with a rock and then thrown off the moving train. From the very beginning, then, the crime film promised its viewers explicit violence. The first enduring type of crime film was the gangster movie, and one of the most innovative of the early gangster films was director D. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley A one-reeler of less than fifteen minutes, The Musketeers tells the story of an impoverished but virtuous young woman played by Lillian Gish hounded by the Snapper Kid, a mobster and seducer.


Outdoor scenes were shot in the gangland territory of New York's Lower East Side, and the "extras" were said to include actual gang members. The Musketeers establishes early precedents for the gangster genre by focusing on urban prob- lems, portraying them naturalistically, and featuring dapper thugs, corrupt policemen, helpless female victims, and gang violence. His decision to concentrate on a character who combines good with bad struck a chord with viewers, who may have become bored by predictable tales of villainy and virtue. In his essay "The Gang- ster as Tragic Hero," Robert Warshow discusses this responsiveness in slightly different terms: "The real city.

With Prohibition in place, speakeasies numerous, and organized crime flourishing, Hollywood churned out gangster films during the s. American crime films in fact largely evolved out of the gang- ster genre, whose grimy cities and themes of corruption anticipated the bleak moral universe of the detective noirs of the s.

European films of the silent movie period differed radically from those of Hollywood, featuring the serial killers and convoluted psy- chotics that help define crime films as we know them today. More gothic in style and tone, more philosophical, aberrant, and psycho- logical in their interests, European silent films reflected postWorld War I continental culture. Still recovering from the divisive war, Europeans tended to create darker and more plaintive art.

Of equal importance, Freudian analysis was taking root in European culture, which had long been receptive to notions of inborn and acquired psychopathology. Europeans were readier than Americans to accept the notion that a "villain" resides in each of us and that dysfunction often inheres in families and other social structures. In addition, Europe had long been fertile ground for gothic, even morbid, narrative and art. Paintings, music, and literature from Grimm's Fairy Tales, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil to works by Pieter Brueghel, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and, in his later years, Beethoven reflected this fascination with the perverse and disturbed.

The gothic and symbolist traditions encouraged Eu- ropean filmmakers to explore mental pathologies and murderous im- pulses. Directors such as Robert Wiene, F. Murnau, and Fritz Lang made pictures featuring mad criminals and monstrous crimes. Caligari , for instance, a magician uses hypnosis to commit his heinous crimes. Murnau's silent classic Sunrise deals with a city woman who disrupts a quiet, rural community and persuades a farmer to kill his sweet wife. Although made in America, Sunrise was an anomaly when it opened in , displaying a psychological and moral cynicism unusual in American art and entertainment of the pe- riod.

Not surprisingly, the German-born Murnau had arrived in Hol- lywood only the year before he made Sunrise. After making several important silent crime films for example, Dr. Mabuse [] and before his later classics such as the noirish Fury [] and Scarlet Street [] , Fritz Lang directed his grisly M In it Peter Lorre plays a pedophiliac serial killer who lures children with candy in order to violate and eventually murder them. In the end we understand that M is helpless and sick, unable to con- trol his lust to kill. This film was a very early talkie, but it proceeds much like a silent movie, an effect heightened for Americans by sub- titles translating the German original.

With one foot in the silent film era and the other in the new world of sound movies, M bridges one of the great divides in film history.


The s Sound movies made their debut in , an event that inaugurated the richest decade in crime film history, one in which two classic gen- res, the gangster film and the prison film, came of age. Hollywood switched completely to talkies. In silent filmmaking was the standard; a mere five years later Hollywood produced only films with sound.

The speed of the transition surprised almost everyone. Within thirty-six months, formerly perplexing technical problems were resolved. While sound intensified the demand for movies of all types, crime itself helped make the s a golden decade for the crime film. Criminals and officials alike stimulated a public appetite for movies about crime and punishment. The three most vivid of the early gangster filmsLittle Caesar , Public Enemy , and Scarface appeared at the start of the decade, setting the pattern for the many imitations that followed.

In that pattern, an ambitious, ruthless criminal rises to the top only to die violently. He and his cronies sport double-breasted suits, fedoras, and tommy guns; they talk tough, scorn dames, and are infinitely more interesting than the bland G-men who gun them down. Two of the three stars of these vehiclesEdward G. Paul Muni, the lead in Scarface, went on to more varied roles. To deflect charges that they were sympathetic to criminals, the big- three gangster films of the s tried to fashion an anticrime image.

Scarface begins with a text announcing, "This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the govern- ment to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. And the purpose of this picture is to demand of the gov- ernment: 'What are you going to do about it? They portray gangsters as desperate men in a desperate hour, victims of a society that stresses wealth and status while failing to provide working-class men with the means to achieve these ends.

Despite their proclamations of anticrim- inal intent, s gangster films turned criminals into heroes. No matter how violent and unlawful the movie gangsters, many Americans identified with them, sharing their economic disadvan- tages and dreams of wealth during hard times. The stock market crashed in , shortly before the big-three gangster films appeared.

The History of Crime Films These movies echoed the financial predicaments of many ordinary Americans during the Great Depression and, in so doing, influenced the genre thereafter. They connected criminality with economic hard- ship and portrayed gangsters as underdogs. Walking a populist tight- rope, these films spoke to Americans struggling to make ends meet while simultaneously attacking crime and the government's ability to control it.

Public Enemy, organized around chapters in the life of gangster Tom Powers, opens with his childhood in a working-class immigrant family. Tom is uninterested in a life of virtuous poverty. Watching his family work strenuous hours just to break even, he concludes that crime does indeed pay. Although Tom grows into a tough-talking, barbaric character, seemingly meant to be hated, it is difficult not to root for him. He is far more appealing than his tepid, straight-as-an- arrow brother, and his lines are smart, honest, and authentic. What he lacks in charm and Tom is the character who rubs a grapefruit in Mae Clark's face is counterbalanced by his chutzpah and determi- nation to succeed.

Even after we have seen him destroy everything in his path, Tom can disarm us with his modesty: Gunned down, stumbling in a gutter, he mutters, "I guess I'm not that tough after all. Like the gangster genre, prison movies had roots in silent film, and they too became popular in the s. Even more so than gang- ster movies, prison films left viewers cheering for the "wrong" side.

These movies naturally emphasize the most dramatic aspects of prison life: inmates' deprivations, the electric chair just down the hall, and intricate plans for escape. Due to this perspective we rarely see prison life from the warden's angle , the viewer has little choice but to recognize the good in convicts and rally behind their against- all-odds escape efforts.

The past is seldom mentioned, and when it does come up, we learn that the convicts were framed. This pattern was established early, beginning with The Big House , and it has remained integral to the prison genre ever since. Few prison films fail to indict the state and its authorities, casting them as brutal oppressors. Much as we learn to sympathize with the convicts, we learn to despise the officials who torment them. This an- tistate perspective is best exemplified by the melodramatic expose I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang l Becoming spiteful and bitter, Allen berates the crim- inal justice system for jailing the wrong man: "The state's promise didn't mean anything.

It was all lies! Why, their crimes are worse than mine! Worse than anybody here! They're the ones that should be in chains, not we! Hissing "I steal! Few subsequent prison films blame the state so ex- plicitly for inducing criminality, but most at least hint at this theme. In the s, Warner Bros. Into the s this same studio continued to make important crime films. To compete with the other majors, it upgraded production levels, hiring a fleet of talented young directors Michael Curtiz, Howard Hawks, John Hus- ton, and William Wyler, among others , many of whom specialized in "A" noirs and crime pictures Mildred Pierce [], Casablanca [], The Big Sleep [], The Maltese Falcon [], and so on.

In spite of Warner Bros. Although murder mysteries abounded during this pe- riod, few if any subscribed to the psychoanalytical themes and bizarre characterizations of European films. Some American-made movies featured antiheroes, and others, such as John Ford's The In- former and Fritz Lang's Fury, were unusually cynical, psycho- logical, and stylistically sophisticated, anticipating film noir. On the whole, however, there were few signs that crime films were on the cusp of radical change.

About the gangster film entered a period of relative dor- mancy.

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For the next two decades, mobsters appeared mainly in bit parts or as desperate, aging representatives of a dying breed. In Raoul Walsh's High Sierra , for instance, Humphrey Bogart stars as a middle-aged gangster trying to do one last job before retiring to an honest life. His last stand in the mountains, outnumbered and outgunned, is thus emblematic not only of the traditional gangster's decline but also of the gangster film's.

The genre remained largely moribund un- til revived by The Godfather in the early s. Film Noir, ca. Noir was not a genre but rather what Spencer Selby calls "a historical, stylistic and the- matic trend. They are working on it still. The term literally, "black" or "dark" film refers to the mood of these productions as well as to the black-and-white film stocks with which they were made.

As James Naremore points out in his history of the idea of film noir, the term has become a metaphor for these movies' preoccupation with nocturnal settings, the underworld, eroticized violence, existential misery, exotic nonwhite characters, death, and nightmarish irra- tionality. Many aspects of American cinema were reshaped by noir, but none more than crime films, which noir entirely reconstructed.

Of the sources that fed the development of film noir, one of the most influential was American filmmakers' growing interest in Euro- pean techniques and styles. Importation of European approaches such as German expressionism accelerated with the arrival in Holly- wood of foreign directors Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Alfred Hitch- cock, among others. Moreover, a new generation of American direc- tors, including Orson Welles and William Wyler, began using innovative techniques such as deep focus and long camera takes.

Open to stylistic experimentation, these filmmakers welcomed the artistic approaches of European directors. Their attention to style revolutionized the industry. These authors produced fluent and original screenplays about crime. Noir's dark characters and complicated subplots re- placed the simple narrative structures that had hitherto been syn- onymous with American filmmaking.

Criminals now blended with the innocents, confusing the moral order. Previously linear, chrono- logical plots became labyrinthine, at times chaotic. Criminal motives, limited in the s gangster movies to money or power, became in- creasingly cryptic and pathological, reflecting a cynical, almost hope- less disillusionment with society. New gender relationships also contributed to the development of noir and came to characterize it. Although strong women had achieved star status in the s, they had been all but excluded from crime films.

In the s the barriers began to erode, a reflection of the changing roles of women in the larger society. As World War II siphoned men out of the labor market and into the armed forces, women moved into jobs traditionally held by men. But as soon as the war ended, women were sent back into the home, a sign of Ameri- cans' uneasiness about women's temporary emancipation. Film noir echoed this uneasiness. While it created a niche for womensome- times very powerful womenfor the most part it portrayed them dis- paragingly, as vamps and psychotics. Adapted from semi- nal mystery novelsthe former by Dashiell Hammett and the latter by Raymond Chandlerthese films introduce the "private dick" deftly played in both cases by Humphrey Bogart, the male icon of noir : sardonic, nocturnal, and corruptible, a glass of scotch in one hand and a married woman in the other.

He lives in an ethical limbo, working both sides of the law, navigating between the justice system and the underworld. Not all noirs revolve around a private investi- gator, but film noir quickly became famous for its hard-boiled, tough- guy male leads, particularly the detectives Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Spade to his doom. The main female character in The Big Sleep, played by Lauren Bacall, is more lovable and indeed had to be, as Bogart and Bacall were already one of America's most famous couples.

However, she, too, is a powerful character who plays hardball in a traditionally male game. Most femmes fatales originate from the mystery pulp fic- tion made popular in the late s and the s by the likes of James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler.

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In Farewell, My Lovely, for instance, private dick Marlowe describes his ideal woman in typical noir terms: "I like smooth shiny girls, hard- boiled and loaded with sin. She's so thoroughly mercenary, so frankly greedy, that there's nothing disagreeable about it. In some cases the couple battle to the death with elab- orate strategies and merciless determination.

In Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity , starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, the heartless femme fatale arranges to eliminate her newest lover with whom she killed her second husband for his insurance policy ; discovering her scheme, he responds with a chess move of his own, arriving at her house armed. Bullets fly, she dies, and he stumbles out of her house mortally wounded.

When not at each other's throats, however, noir's male and female leads are usually in each other's beds. Sexual relations, while not explicitly shown, are implied more strongly than ever in these noir thrillers, defying the censors' in- junctions against big-screen sex. Noir injected a bleakness into American cinema, a desolate qual- ity that distinguishes it from the optimistic Hollywood productions of the s, with their flat lighting, tidy narratives, and satisfying conclusions.

This changing visual world. Hollywood's noir films docu- mented the growing disillusionment with certain traditional American values in the face of complex and often contradictory social, political, sci- entific, and economic developments.