East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Learn about the films you like, and those are film noir

Today I was talking to a friend about learning the basics of film language in order to write reviews that do not suck. She’s a very serious, thorough person, and so she was looking for a basic primer on film language.
This made me think about a long time ago, the late ’80s, when I started reading books about movies, and those books were about film noir.

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Forbidden Hollywood

Having mentioned the Hays Code in my previous post(*), I thought I’ll suggest you a book on the subject – because we talk about books in this place, right?
And because I like old movies, and I like reading about old movies.

Sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and published by Running Press, Mark A. Vieira’s Forbidden Hollywood is a wide and deep survey of the pre-Code era productions – when Tinseltown was reckless and shameless… or something like that.

As you can see from the cover (don’t get distracted by Harlow’s charms), the book covers the 1931-1934 period, and as you can imagine because of Harlow’s charms on the cover, it’s illustrated with dozens of beautiful black and white photographs. It also has tons of period documents, to give you a nice overview of what was happening, and how it influenced the development of the medium.

This is a great read for lovers of classic movies, and while it’s certainly a great book to have in hard-copy, it can be bought real cheap as an ebook.

Vieira also edited a big selection on film noir, Into the Dark, that is a fun read but is not as good – and the omission of two of my favorite noirs really really baffled me. But it’s a fun read, and it features some stunning stills – once again, it can be bought real cheap as an ebook, and it’s a good, if biased, starting point for anyone interested in learning more about noir movies.

I still love a good black and white movie, and while I wait for them to come up on my streaming services, reading about them is almost as fun.

(*) Well, not, actually – it’s in my NEXT post.
What happened was, the post scheduled for this afternoon was postponed to tomorrow morning because of the sudden death of Diana Rigg taking precedence.
But because my memory is like a sieve, I forgot to reschedule this post.
So here you have it – part two before part one.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Pulp fairies

Cenerentola_ARI have just mailed my publisher a 10.000 words story called Away with the Fairies, a hard boiled, noirish retelling of The Three Fairies, a rather gruesome version of the old Cinderella tale from the 17th century.

In the original story, a girl meets an ogre, travels to the underworld and meets three fairies. They reward her for her kindness. When her evil stepmother tries to befriend the fairies and get herself and her ugly daughter a reward she is punished.
The girl then meets a prince,m and they fall in love, but the evil stepmother interferes again, and the prince is about to marry the ugly stepsister.
But a fairy cat intervenes, and in the end stepmother and stepsister die a very ugly death, and everybody else lives happily ever after. Continue reading


Pat Novak for Hire

jack webb 4A few days back I posted a silly infographic about being in a film noir.
In the comments, Bill Ziegler suggested I check out Pat Novak for Hire, a radio show from the ’40s I knew nothing about.

I checked it out. And it’s a great show.
The stories are tight and off-beat, the tone is ironic in the way old hard boiled detectives were ironic.
Lots of great one-liners.
The stars Jack Webb in the titular role, and we all know Jack Webb from Dragnet.
Pat Novak is a man for hire, an unlicensed detective, in the same vein of Travis McGee.
The sort of character that I like very much.

So, here’s a sample.

Two separate series were done – one in ’46/’47, and a later series in ’49 (with higher production values but basically the same cast). The scripts were by Richard L. Breen, that would go on to win an Oscar as the screenwriter of 1953’s Titanic.
If you’re interested, you can legally download a fair chunk of the series through the Internet Archive.

And a big thank you to Bill, for pointing me in the direction of this great show.