Drive A Crooked Road (1954)

Drive a Crooked Road (1954) is a sap-for-a-sucker lonely guy motor car film noir starring Mickey Rooney as a jingle-brained mark who is beguiled into driving the getaway car in a heist.

Mechanic and race car driver Eddie Shannon is the sap in question, played by Mickey Rooney. He's great with cars, and can think about little else, and is a proficient driver — although in top-drawer film noir fashion, he lives his lonely life on a single bed, next to a chest of drawers covered in trophies, the only one of which we can read being inscribed with the award of having come Second Place.

At work Eddie is bullied, both for his height — this is Mickey Rooney after all, and everyone in the film, even his super-attractive girlfriend played by Diane Foster, is taller than him.

Larceny (1948)

Larceny (1948) is a con-man swindler romance drama film noir starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, Shelley Winters and Dan Duryea.

Directed by George Sherman, this high period noir is a lot of fun — if it's not Dan Duryea's paranoia about his gal Tory being around the other members of his all male gang — and if it's not Tory's own fast-cracking dangerous barbed wire one liners — or John Payne's noir-like descent from hangdog swindler to deadbeat romantic lover, unable to fulfil any heroic role at all, either as good guy or villain — neither suit this bird.

The sacrifice of trust is at the heart of the con, as is the false identity of a man whom it appears does not even know who he is to begin with — who he loves — or even which side he might be on. The essence of film noir perhaps lies within in the short journey there is between dreams and disillusionment. 

Tarantula (1955)

Tarantula (1955) is a Cold War red scare science fiction giant bug monster movie directed by Jack Arnold and starring John Agar, Mara Corday and Leo G. Carroll.

To be fair to it, there is less about the metaphorical possibilities of giant spiders in Tarantula (1955) than may be commonly imagined.

It's not exactly a nuclear threat movie, and nor in earnest is it a movie about any communist threat.

If anything Tarantula is a fable about our reliance on science to both get us into messes but also to fix those messes up.

Unlike virtually every other monster and giant monster film of the time, the monsters of Tarantula are born of a benign scientists goofy positive plan to create food for all mankind by simply enlarging domestic animals.

Them! (1954)

Them! (1954) is a science-fiction nuclear monster red scare big bug monster film, which was a huge and surprise hit in its day.

The film is based on an original story treatment by George Worthing Yates, which was then developed into a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and adaptation by Russell Hughes.

Directed by Gordon Douglas, and starring James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, and James Arness, Them! (1954) was one of the first of the 1950s nuclear monster films, and the first big bug feature film to use insects as the monster.

A small girl is found wandering alone in the New Mexican desert, the only survivor of an unknown calamity that befell her family. When roused from her catatonia, she can only scream: "Theeeem!"

The Underworld Story (1950)

The Underworld Story (1950) is a journalism and media murder family intrigue race relations noir starring Dan Duryea, and directed by Cy Endfield.

Also starring Herbert Marshall, Gale Storm, Howard Da Silva and Michael O'Shea with Da Silva playing the loud-mouthed gangster Carl Durham, one of his last roles before becoming blacklisted.

The newspaperman played by Duryea in The Underworld Story is similar in attitude to that played by Kirk Douglas in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951) —  a reporter that does anything for publicity for himself regardless of ethics.

The Underworld Story is a strange name for a film that is largely about newspaper ethics, and which features little about the underworld, which albeit forms an occasional backdrop for the action.

Bullets or Ballots (1936)

Bullets or Ballots (1935) is a Warner Bros. corporate crime police detective gang infiltration classic from the pre-film noir years.

Starring the star of the show Edward G. Robinson, star of many Warner Bros. and other gangster films over three decades, perfectly paired with Humphrey Bogart, very much the rising star, in the first of five films the pair made together over the next twelve years.

That film noir charts multiple social, criminal, political, psychological trends in American society is one of its fascinations and why we're here.

Cloak and Dagger (1946)

Cloak and Dagger (1946) is a Nazi nuclear secrets behind enemy lines espionage thriller made partially in the film noir style by Fritz Lang, starring Gary Cooper and Lilli Palmer.

One of a handful of major Hollywood stars of the Golden Age who remained a virtual stranger to film noir, Gary Cooper plays a bachelor nuclear physicist named Alvah Jesper who is working in the United States on the Manhattan Project to build a nuclear bomb. 

Recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) his mission is to make contact with a Hungarian nuclear physicist, Katerin Lodor, who has been working on the German project to make a nuclear bomb and has escaped into neutral Switzerland. 

Hollow Triumph (1948)

Hollow Triumph (1948), which is also known as The Scar, and sometimes also by its working title The Man Who Murdered Himself, is a full on fantastical and fun full-fat film noir classic crime film directed by Steve Sekely starring Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett and Leslie Brooks. 

It was released by Eagle-Lion Films, based on the 1946 novel of the same title written by Murray Forbes.

It's everything high noir should be — a story of hardened criminality, deceit, weird and fantastical problems and situations, ambiguity, pursuit, fate, twists and doomed and destructive love affairs — it's incredible what can be packed into this 83 minute ride.

Detective Story (1951)

Detective Story (1951) is a classic stage play brought top screen film noir psychological police drama directed by William Wyler and starring Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker, among many more.

It's not the most obvious film noir but makes up for that in a mighty cast, with a mighty punch, based on a play by Sidney Kingsley. This picture also brings up the tricky subject of police brutality — something that should have been against the Production Code of the time — and yet which still forms the central moral aspect of this piece.

Detetcive Story is a brilliant cop-on-the-edge narrative, a form familiar to film noir. Kirk Douglas is that cop, every bit as tense and nervous as Robert Ryan in On Dangerous Ground (1951); or maybe Sterling Hayden in Crime Wave (1953).

The Brasher Doubloon (1947)

The Brasher Doubloon (1947) is a typically complex Philip Marlowe family crime film noir mystery directed by John Brahm, starring George Montgomery and Nancy Guild, based on the 1942 novel The High Window by Raymond Chandler.

Although not the best loved nor even the best known of the period adaptations of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels, The Brasher Doubloon (1947) does remain highly faithful to type in that it squeezes in the many well known and oft tread tropes, types and topics familiar to readers of that series.

Following the success of the Chandler adaptation Murder My Sweet (1944) and Chandler's adaptation of Double Indemnity (1944), the author became in fashion in Hollywood: Warners filmed The Big Sleep, MGM did The Lady in the Lake (1946), and Paramount filmed a Chandler original, The Blue Dahlia (1946). 

Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane (1941) is not considered to be an example of film noir and yet there would barely be one reel of classic film noir at all were it not for this American drama film directed by, produced by, and starring Orson Welles.

Also starring Joseph Cotten and the players of the Mercury Theatre Citizen Kane appears right at the start of the great film noir years, and was released in same year as The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra and I Wake Up Screaming — all of which are full fat noir, proving the style was already underway.

At the same time, there's a case to be made for the fact that Citizen Kane is the archetypal, primal, principal and inceptive American film noir production.

Citizen Kane is not a crime film and does not feature any murder, femmes fatales, post-war anxiety, paranoia or otherwise any saps, heels, mooks, cops, roscoes, police procedural brutality or wandering palookas astray in an alienating urban environment.

Nazi Agent (1942)

Nazi Agent (1942) is a propaganda espionage thriller directed by Jules Dassin in his first feature-length film for MGM. 

It stars Conrad Veidt playing identical twins, one loyal to the United States, the other a dedicated German Nazi.

There is an uncommonly interesting patch of movie-making in the 1940s which intersects both espionage themed thrillers and the spy genre with film noir.

Nazi Agent (1942) by dint of its subject matter is a film concerned with identity and that which is hidden —  a film of shadows and of betrayal —  and although its director Jules Dassin went on to make some of the finest film noir known to humanity including the mighty Brute Force (1947) and The Naked City (1948) Nazi Agent is not a film noir — despite certain qualities.

Repeat Performance (1947)

Repeat Performance (1947) is a lousy husband murder fantasy amnesia film noir with Joan Leslie, Louis Hayward, Richard Basehart, Tom Conway and Virginia Field.

One of the strengths of 1940s film noir was the element of the fantastic, which was often created by closed studio sets and incredible coincidences in the storytelling, in which characters acted out dark fantasies for real, with as little realism as possible — another world often being created by the mis en scene and the strange happenings.

Repeat Performance (1947) is something of an outlier in that the fantasy within it is manifest. Like other film noir which quickly taps into a national unconscious and plays out a murderous what-if, Repeat Performance tells a wild story in which the wild elements are simply givens that are accepted from the off.

The Street With No Name (1948)

The Street With No Name (1948) is a gangster gang-busting cop-on-the-inside undercover documentary style FBI procedural crime wave film noir from William Keighley, starring Mark Stevens and Richard Widmark as uneasy cat and mouse opponents in the burgeoning game of federal crime detection.

As the 1950s approached classic film noir began to make an uneasy turn towards portraying, usually via the medium of the earnest authoritarian male voiceover, the technological and forensic crime detection methods.

Never much required in earlier film noir, the voiceover becomes an unnoticed interruption in the crime drama, and forms one aspect of the documentary style noir storytelling, and aspect somewhat determined to lecture and inform, as well as providing the useful service of telling the audience what is happening on screen.

House by the River (1950)

House by the River (1950) is a lousy husband historical 'accidental' murder body in the river sex pest film noir, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman and Jane Wyatt.

The lead character is a manipulative and power-crazed failing writer, who finds that the murder of his maid, and the publicity it gives him, has a huge effect on his writing career.

He of course next makes the mistake of writing out his murderous tale of inappropriate groping lust into a novel, but this is not his undoing.

His undoing is his guilt and his ineptitude at manipulating those around him, which he achieves through a mixture of anger, belligerence and snobbish posturing as he bullies his rather weak brother into greater complicity in the crime.

Clash By Night (1952)

Clash By Night (1952) is a romantic-unromantic dockside drama destructive love drifter-comes-home film noir by Fritz Lang, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Douglas and Robert Ryan.

For a film noir there are few of the elements we normally might expect to see from the form, and yet with the addition of a fairly noirish cast, and some dark and unpleasant behaviour and characterisation from Robert Ryan, Clash By Night (1952) squeezes into the fold because of anguished performances, again largely delivered by the alienated woman hater played by Robert Ryan.

Barbara Stanwyck plays Mae Doyle, a woman who returns to her hometown, the fishing town of Monterey, California, after 10 years on the East Coast. 

Conflict (1945)

Conflict (1945) is a wife-murder mystery paranoia and psychiatry film noir from the classic noir period, starring Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith and Sydney Greenstreet.

Conflict broadcasts its wicked and paranoiac storyline directly from one of the key centres of film noir existence — the middle class suburban marriage. 

These marriages are often writ unhappily across noir, and featured weakened males, bothered by lust for another woman, as in this example, or other forms of unhappy greed.

Conflict opens with such a marriage on display —  a couple who appear to be happily married but in fact are not. And on their fifth wedding anniversary, wife Kathryn (played by Rose Hobart) accuses husband Richard (played by Humphrey Bogart) of having fallen in love with her younger sister, Evelyn.

World weary and as super cynical as ever, Bogart as Richard does not deny it, even though he has resigned himself to leaving things as they are, since Kathryn certainly would not give him a divorce.

You Only Live Once (1937)

You Only Live Once (1937) is a 1930s couple on the run prison crime drama noir by Fritz Lang, and a super-early film noir classic, the bleakness of which the United States was not quite ready to face.

The picture's true noir inclination arises from the fact that it is about destiny and fate, and is the subjectively told story of the interlocking forces that serve to ruin the lives of a positive and beautiful young couple.

Although everything may at times seem to be going well for this couple, the truth is that everything is going badly. 

An early entry into the sub-genre of fugitive lovers on the lam pictures, the story leans on the legend of Bonnie and Clyde and shows how three times jailbird Eddie Taylor (played by Henry Fonda) is released, after strings are pulled,  into the arms of his adoring gal, Jo Graham (Sylvia Sidney). 

Brother Orchid (1940)

Brother Orchid (1940) is a Warner Bros. comedy gangster caper which while not a part of the classic film noir cycle, is an interesting stop on the route.

One of five films to star both Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, Brother Orchid is a  shenanigan-based production which manages to eke out comedy from gangsterism — never truly easy in the era — while combing a spiritual and moral aspect, which doesn't quite pull the criminality from crime, but refashions it for social purpose.

The story kicks off with crime boss Little John Sarto (played by Edward G. Robinson) retiring suddenly, giving leadership of his gang to Jack Buck (played by Humphrey Bogart) while he leaves for a tour of Europe to acquire 'class'. However, Sarto is repeatedly swindled and finally loses all his money in a series of daft newspaper headlines.

Picture Snatcher (1933)

Picture Snatcher (1933) is a pre-code proto-noir ex-con-goes-straight journalism and media drama come farce starring James Cagney, Ralph Bellamy, Patricia Ellis and Ralf Harrolde.

The movie runs to many things in its farcical and dramatic and comic qualities, and this includes being a portrait of contemporary big-city journalism, in which various metropolitan dailies and evening papers would compete hard to scoop each other. 

In a cinematic take on a tabloid journalist sneaking a camera into the Ruth Snyder execution in 1928, James Cagney does the same and a chaotic chase follows. The electrocution of housewife Ruth Snyder at Sing Sing on the evening of January 12, 1928, for the March 1927 murder of her husband was made famous when news photographer Tom Howard, working for the New York Daily News, smuggled a hidden camera into the death chamber and photographed her in the electric chair as the current was turned on. 

Suspense (1946)

Suspense (1946) is an ice-skating mystery film noir, combing the popular tropes of the self-propulsion and gliding of an dancer across an ice surface using metal-bladed ice skates — and the mystery and murder aspects of noir.

Barry Sullivan plays Joe Morgan, an unkempt drifter type who arrives in Los Angeles and winds up working at an ice theatre, the star of which is Roberta Elva, played by former Olympic skater Belita. The heavy crime and mystery melodrama which ensues is solid film noir, insofar as it is redolent of nothing less than a nightmare.

Beyond the Forest (1949)

Beyond the Forest (1949) is a vicious bored housewife rural murder film noir starring Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, David Brian and Ruth Roman as lumber town citizens wrapped up in more iniquity than should be tolerable within such an idyll.

Bette Davis vamps up as the housewife who just wants more. Dissatisfied with her life in the rural Wisconsin logging town of Loyalton where she finds herself — and unable to cope with the boredom and the satisfaction of a modest family life, she not only has an affair with a Chicago businessman, she cruelly schemes up a murder to keep her secret safe.

For Rosa Moline (Bette Davis) Chicago is a dream, and represents all things fine, and all things glamourous. For Rosa Chicago is a byword for the sophistication she craves, where expensive items await her along with interesting people.

On Dangerous Ground (1951)

On Dangerous Ground (1951) is a classic Nicholas Ray urban rural violent cop film noir starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino in a tale of loneliness and duality combining the full and contrasting forces of both the wildscapes of the north and the urban environments on the individual.

Robert Ryan plays Jim Wilson a brutalised city cop, in danger of losing his job due to his lack of control when it comes to managing violence in his job. 

Ida Lupino plays Mary Malden, a blind woman who characteristic of blindness in the movies at the time — is symbolically set to allow the hero to finally 'see'.

Possessed (1947)

Possessed (1947) is high period paranoid woman family mystery amnesiac film noir with complexities galore, and starring Joan Crawford, Van Heflin and Raymond Massey.

Working wonders with the flashback structure, Possessed starts in dramatic style with a woman on the wander through some vacant city streets, murmuring only the name 'David' to herself.

The opening, which punches hard upon the perennial themes of urban isolation and amnesiac or damaged individuals lost within these concreted jungle confines, opens the door to frame an entirely flashback-told story of a woman called Louise Howell, played by Joan Crawford, who is presumably the possessed character of the title.

Laura (1944)

Laura (1944) is a classic murder mystery web of love film noir drama of meagre and unhealthy male obsession directed by Otto Preminger, starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price.

The premise of the story is that three men are fixated on the one woman, Laura Hunt, and as the story starts we visit one of those men — Waldo Lydecker, played by Clifton Webb — in the company of another of them, the young cop Mark McPherson, played by Dana Andrews.

The classic film noir flashback structure allows for a multitude of mystery and nonstandard storytelling, much of this confused by the fact that Waldo Lydecker is a brittle and caustic storyteller in himself — he is a famous columnist and aside from the power that he wields — typing his sometimes vitriolic and career-ending columns for his bathtub — he is in fact a weaver of tales himself and as such should not be trusted.

Tension (1949)

Tension (1949) is a superlative hen-cucked husband murder mystery double identity hard-boiled cop on the case film noir starring Audrey Totter, Richard Basehart, Barry Sullivan, Cyd Charisse and William Conrad.

Tension (1949) sits at the apex of 1940s fantasy film noir in which the darkest thoughts become rampant reality — it is one of the style's best examples of obsessive, uninhibited dark tales of suburban and urban America, involving a doomed marriage, feral morals and weakness. 

The term fantasy refers here to a certain lack of inhibition in the story telling. 

The Sign of the Ram (1948)

The Sign of the Ram (1948)
is a paranoid woman lighthouse-tinted family dynamic film noir with Susan Peters as paralysed poet Leah St Aubyn, a conflicted woman who attempts to psychologically unsettle those around her.

The film marked Susan Peters' return to the screen after a three-year absence following a gun accident that paralysed her. It was her final film.

There is a solid fear factor Cornish foam alert for SPOILERS because the logic of film noir The Sign of the Ram is cast horrific and solid in the portrayal of Susan Peters in something that at the time and for some time after was unique among wheelchair roles in Hollywood.

The creepy house of secrets was a firm feature too of family noir, most especially if that house is in England, and of course it has to be on a cliff. Within the house is tragedy and secrecy, something that film noir was custom built to suggest. Within shadows, mystery, and within mystery, suspense.

Notorious (1946)

Notorious (1946) by Alfred Hitchcock is an espionage romance story, with film noir overtones.

The picture stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, with support from Claude Rains, and is a favourite among Alfred Hitchcock lovers for its mature cinematic portrayal of a love affair. 

The film noir overtones that characterise Notorious are best illustrated in the dark forces that negatively affect Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) in the form of alcohol and poison, both of which cause her hallucinations that are shared with the viewers of the film through noir photography, fully developed by this stage in the film noir cycle, as is the theme of the ineffective marriage, which is fully played out between Bergman and Rains. 

The Unsuspected (1947)

The Unsuspected (1947) is a multiply textured mystery and suspense film noir starring Claude Rains as a handsome patriarchal radio show presenter, who specialises in true crime. For film noir — it's a way of life.

Technology and murder combine in The Unsuspected in the form of Claude Rains' own master studio where he engineers as much evil as he does family entertainment, with his hi-tech equipment.

Victor Grandison (Claude Rains) plays a character more embedded in crime than most, and hosts a murder mystery radio show. 

Journey Into Fear (1943)

Journey Into Fear (1943) is a World War II cat and mouse espionage noir Jospeh Cotten tramp-steamer assassination thriller which although directed by Norman Foster feels mysteriously like like the work of Orson Welles!

The film was based on a popular Eric Amber novel, the rights of which RKO had bought in 1941 intending to use it as a vehicle for Michèle Morgan.

Ben Hecht was signed to write the script, and Robert Stevenson was to direct and David Hempstead to produce. Fred Astaire was discussed as the male lead —  as was Dennis O'Keefe.

Eventually Joseph Cotten was assigned the lead on the basis of his performance in Citizen Kane. and in July 1941 it was announced that Orson Welles would play a lead role and direct the film, following completion of his second movie, The Magnificent Ambersons. So Orson Welles was on board! 

Murder by Contract (1958)

Murder by Contract (1958) is classic hitman film noir starring Vince Edwards and directed by Irving Lerner. Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Ben Maddow did uncredited work on the film which looks at an existentialist and nihilist hit man assigned to kill a woman.

Famous for its brand-new-at-the-time raw style, employed by Irving Lerner, Murder By Contract is considered a B-movie classic, lauded by Martin Scorsese and others for its almost home-made independent style. 

It’s a little like Allen Baron’s Blast of Silence insofar as everything that it lacks in polish, it makes up for in commitment and style.

Crossroads (1942)

Crossroads (1942) is an amnesia mystery film noir starring William Powell, Hedy Lamarr, Claire Trevor and Basil Rathbone, and directed by Jack Conway. 

William Powell plays a diplomat whose amnesia about his past subjects him to back-to-back blackmail schemes, which threaten his reputation, job, marriage, and future. 

The film was based on the 1938 French film Crossroads which had also had a British remake called Dead Man's Shoes in 1940.

With shimmering cobblestones and foggy streetlamps, and deception, blackmail and a surprising if dubious mystery story, Crossroads (1942) is a prime example of 1940s amnesia noir.

I Confess (1953)

I Confess (1953) is an Alfred Hitchcock man-in-a-dilemma noir in which a murder and confession collide when a priest is more than suspected of committing a murder, when he has already heard the confession of the real killer.

The priest and his best friend, young married woman Ruth Grandfort played by Anne Baxter, have other secrets and cop Karl Malden makes it his business to get to the bottom of it all, Malden being the force that keeps this whodunnit engaging and driving, as it spirals into faster increasing paranoia and fear, for the man who knows he did not commit the crime he is accused of.

Starring Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter and Karl Malden this exciting thriller jumps from point to point and in such great surroundings it is hard to resist.

East Side, West Side (1949)

East Side, West Side (1949) is melodrama crime film with noir overtones, starring Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Van Heflin, and Ava Gardner. 

It's a film of socialites and infidelity, one of these glimpse-into-the-lives of the rich and popular, and a look at their habits, drinks, dresses, affairs, apartments, moeurs and murders.

In this world it's always a beautiful morning, and the jewels and the dresses sparkle, and platonic relationships spring up, as does the rekindling of old flames. There is a club where they hang out, and a friendly barman called Bill — and it's always time for a straight Scotch.

High Wall (1947)

High Wall (1947) is a wife-murder mystery amnesia psychiatric PTSD ex-serviceman prison noir starring Audrey Totter, Robert Taylor and Herbert Marshall.

From its exciting opening sequence in which ex-mercenary flyer Steven Kenet (Robert Taylor) crashes his car into a river, trying to cover the evident strangulation murder of his wife with a suicide, to its traversing of the prison system for the criminally insane, up until its drug-induced truth-finding denouement, High Wall is exciting, fantastic, serious, dopey and features a proper film noir evil villain, a cool-blooded bad-doer who commits the most callous killings  — in order to save his chances at career promotion within the business of religious book publishing.

Smart Money (1931)

Smart Money (1931) is a Pre-Code Proto-Noir comedy caper starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, playing larger than life the all-American obsession with gambling.

This overbearing national pastime which had flourished via the stock tickers of the 1920s, resulting in the almighty and catastrophic crash of that same decade, is here presented in every popular form available, including horse racing, quiet gambling with dice in the back room and it appears the front room of the quiet small town barber Nick Venizelos, played by Edward G. Robinson.

Nick is a swell fellow and a charmer, and considered a champion gambler by all who know him. The back room seems like a swell place too, where the wisecracking cracks all night long and Nick and the others laugh it up no end, often at the uncomfortable expense of their African American 'boy' 'Snake Eyes' — played by an uncredited John Larkin.

Mr Arkadin (1955)

Mr Arkadin (1955) is an Orson Welles mystery drama French-Swiss-Spanish co-produced espionage film noir, also known as Confidential Report and as is not unusual for a plagued Welles production, one which exists in several edits and versions.

In an 1991 essay The Seven Arkadins, writer  Jonathan Rosenbaum identified seven different versions of the story, and since its initial publication, two more versions have emerged, including a novel and a stage play. 

When Welles missed an editing deadline, producer Louis Dolivet took the film out of his hands and released several edits of the film, none of which were approved by Welles. 

Adding to the confusion is a novel of the same title that was credited to Orson Welles, though Welles claimed that he was unaware of the book's existence until he saw a copy in a bookshop.

City For Conquest (1940)

City for Conquest (1940) is an epic Warner Bros. stories-of-the-city style prestige picture with a few filings of film noir placed within its frames, which tend to sprawling grandeur rather than intimate psychological portrayal.

Manhattan melodrama is the pure-bred genre this humanistic tale of immigrant struggles in New York City, does not fare high in noir, but is still a part of the story of the style, above all in the efforts of Warner Bros. to depict James Cagney as something more than a criminal, a boxer on the rise and fall, a story paralleled by the story of his young love Peg Nash, played by Ann Sheridan.

Hangover Square (1945)

Hangover Square (1945) is a classic historically-set amnesia film noir about madness, genius, weakness and manipulation, starring Laird Cregar, Linda Darnell and George Sanders.

Add to this some further elements of police psychology, the perils of artistic genius and a clash of class, and there emerges one of the best thrillers of the decade, albeit bizarre with facial pulls from Cregar, super-dramatic music from Bernard Herrmann, one of the cinema's greatest ever composers.

That and a whole host of Cockney side-fun, which serves to pull focus on the murderous madness which is at the centre of the action.

G Men (1935)

G Men (1935) is a Proto-Noir Post-Code Warner Bros. crime and police procedural action film starring James Cagney, Ann Dvorak, Margaret Lindsay and Lloyd Nolan in his film debut. 

G Men, one of the top-grossing films of 1935 was a shot at portraying crime successfully within the confines of the newly enforced Hayes Code, by creatively casting crime favourite James Cagney in a non-criminal role -- in this case supporting the law and maintaining the action by becoming a federal agent.

The supporting cast features Robert Armstrong and Barton MacLane and the surrounding tension arises from the fact that Cagney's character, Brick Davis changes sides and bides farewell to the mob boss who financed his education as a lawyer, to become a full on nark, a fed or what passed for it in the long-past and unarmed days of 1935.

The Tall Target (1951)

The Tall Target (1951) is a historical film noir crime film starring Dick Powell as a latter-day detective working to foil an assassination plot against then President-Elect Abraham Lincoln.

The action is based on an alleged real life plot to kill the President in 1861, and this historical fact of a possible assassination attempt on Lincoln gives the movie most of its power and interest.

Dick Powell is the star with the period hat and haircut who uses deduction and logic to find who on the train could be conspirators. 

He is straight-up foiled at different times but manages to win the day even when the conspirators have caught him. For effect, the movie's action takes place mostly on the train with the old rocking-camera technique and some fun fights in the steam and in the various parts of the vehicle.

The Little Giant (1933)

The Little Giant (1933) is a Pre-code proto-noir gangster-comedy romance story starring Edward G. Robinson and Mary Astor.

The comedy is given legs by a real life conundrum in the form of the question regarding what bootleggers and racketeers can now do, since Prohibition has ended and they are now in competition with the government for the production and distribution of liquor.

Bugs Alhern ― Edward G. Robinson ― is comically ahead of the game ―and his plan is to take his millions to Santa Barbara and start living the life of a socialite, living swell with the swanks, and appreciating culture ― usually expressed in this caper through the medium of polo.

The Accused (1949)

The Accused (1949) is a psychology sex-killer-thriller paranoid woman classic from the film noir era, starring Loretta Young as a psychology professor who asks he students to perform sexual-psychological experiments on each other. With disastrous consequences.

The Accused is as essential a film noir one would need as the most extreme example of the othering and socially oppressing of women. It's the ultimate in #metoo noir as well.

The Accused is directed by William Dieterle and adapted to screenplay by Ketti Frings from the novel Be Still, My Love written by June Truesdell. It stars Loretta Young, Robert Cummings, Wendell Corey, Sam Jaffe and Douglas Dick. Music is by Victor Young and cinematography by Milton R. Krasner.

The Narrow Margin (1952)

The Narrow Margin (1952) is a tightly-drawn and unyielding train-bound classic film noir thriller starring Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor, largely set on board a cross-country passenger locomotive.

The set-up is that Detective Sergeant Walter Brown (played by Charles McGraw) has to protect a mob boss's widow, Mrs. Frankie Neall (Marie Windsor), as she rides a train from Chicago to Los Angeles to testify before a grand jury. 

The boss's wife is also carrying a payoff list that belonged to her murdered husband and the mob's hitmen do not know what she looks like. On the way to pick her up, Brown bets his partner and friend, Sergeant Gus Forbes (Don Beddoe), that he knows what she will look like: "She's the sixty-cent special. Cheap. Flashy. Strictly poison under the gravy."

Street of Chance (1942)

Street of Chance (1942) is an early noir cycle amnesia noir that with Burgess Meredith and Claire Trevor which beautifully captures so many of the elements that would go on to make the full fat noir formula.

Burgess Meredith takes a little accident downtown and the fantasy world of Street of Chance has begun. You find a few full on readies in the early 1940s, where pretence to realism is only in the way, and every idea can be playful run.

Here is the hapless man who becomes film noir's solid centre stage staple. Here is a descent into an opposing world that this heel has experienced. He carries with him too a seeker female hero in Claire Trevor and it's going to be a helluva ride. There is domestic routine, without which any early noir would lose its bindings and be entirely wild.

Moonrise (1948)

Moonrise (1948) is a rural redemption murder and forgiveness film noir crime film directed by Frank Borzage starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell and Ethel Barrymore.

Atypical in the classic film noir canon, Moonrise is a small-town story of bullying and fate — of how the sins of one man reflect upon his son, and ruin and determine his son's life. 

What is remarkable about Moonrise is how true it is to some regular film nor themes —  most surely of all those of fate and paranoia, and the haunting effect of the past — combined with a story that presses hard into notions of redemption and transcendence.

The Racket (1951)

The Racket (1951) is a tough-guy crooked cop corporate crime thriller noir which pits cop against mobster in a classic tale of urban violence, corporate criminality and corruption which may in fact go all the way to the to the top — a great new flavour of wickedness for the 1950s, as the more fantastical and psychological elements of personal corruption are left in the shadowy fun of the 1940s.

As an exercise in casting, The Racket (1951) is a film noir which pulls together so many favourite actors and even directors, that it might appear hard to miss. You'll maybe want to know why The Racket ain't a classic film noir — given that it features Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Lizabeth Scott, supported by William Conrad and William Talman, and with direction from not just the credited John Cromwell, but from Nicholas Ray and Tay Garnett also.

Beware, My Lovely (1952)

Beware, My Lovely (1952) is a home invasion amnesia Christmas-themed paranoid delusional maniac film noir starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, two of noir's greatest acting talents.

Robert Ryan plays a strange kinda killer in this low-key film noir which takes something of a path of its own off of the main noir highway, and which yet complies with many of film noir's best tropes.

Most clearly of all, Beware, My Lovely (1952) is suburban noir and is the kind of noir that was becoming increasingly popular in the early 1950s — the type of noir which dealt the goods not on the streets and criminal dives of the 1940s, but directly within the super-vulnerable domestic bliss of the 1950s.

The Phenix City Story (1955)

The Phenix City Story (1955) is a violent semi-documentary true-life film classic film noir story set in the super-corrupt Alabama town of Phenix City.

The film depicts the real-life 1954 assassination of Albert Patterson, who was nominated as the Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General on a platform of cleaning up Phenix City, a city controlled by organized crime. 

Patterson was murdered in Phenix City, and the subsequent outcry resulted in the imposition of martial law by the state government. Full length prints of the film include a 13-minute newsreel-style preface which stars newsman Clete Roberts interviewing many of the actual participants.

Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd Man Out (1947) by Carol Reed and starring James Mason is a classic British film noir set largely on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, following one man's episodic flight in the night, as he evades the law, while partially aided in his delirious and wounded state, by a variety of comrades, sympathetic locals and other colourful characters.

The noir chops of this outstanding thriller are evident first in the central character of Johnny McQueen, who is a sympathetic villain — almost a double villain if this is a permissible description.

As a handsome and wounded hero pulling off a passable Irish accent, James Mason is fully sympathetic despite his being both an armed robber and a terrorist — the latter at least in the eyes of the state.

The noir feel is further evident in the photography which is stunning in its use of shadows and light on the streets, corners and alleyways. These in fact do presage the similar, more famous and more elaborate work done by Carol Reed in the film The Third Man (1949), which was filmed two years later than this.