Noir 1949

The Zippy from the 11th takes Zippy back, in a Pontiac, to a cinematic 1949:


The film noir movies in question (from that year) are, in order, The Big Steal and Cover Up. And the first features one of the major figures of film noir, the icon of masculinity Robert Mitchum:

Robert Charles Durman Mitchum (August 6, 1917 – July 1, 1997) was an American film actor, author, composer and singer. … Mitchum rose to prominence for his starring roles in several major works of the film noir style, and is considered a forerunner of the anti-heroes prevalent in film during the 1950s and 1960s. (Wikipedia link)

Brief accounts of the movies (films in the genre tend to be remarkably intricate, hard to summarize — The Big Steal especially so):

Don Siegel’s Mexico-set crime drama The Big Steal (1949), featuring [Jane] Greer, her Out of the Past co-star Robert Mitchum, William Bendix, Patrick Knowles, and silent film veterans Ramon Novarro and Don Alvarado.

Cover Up is a 1949 black-and-white mystery film written by and starring Dennis O’Keefe. … In a small Midwestern town a man is found dead. Dennis O’Keefe plays an insurance investigator [Sam Donovan] looking into the apparent suicide. All clues leads him into suspecting murder. Unfortunately, no one wants to assist him with the case, including Sheriff Larry Best ([William] Bendix). Finally, attractive local girl Anita ([Barbara] Britton) breaks the silence and helps investigator Donovan solve the case.

(In an earlier Zippy on this blog, Zippy claims to be “possessed” by film noir actor Dan Duryea (in Kiss Me Deadly specifically; other Duryea films are mentioned in the posting), and Griffy by Robert Mitchum; Scott Brady and Edmond O’Brien also come into it.)

Mitchum in his noir fedora:


More Wikipedia detail on the man:

Mitchum was initially known for his work in film noir. His first foray into the genre was a supporting role in the B-film When Strangers Marry, about newlyweds and a New York City serial killer. Undercurrent, another of Mitchum’s early noirs, featured him playing against type as a troubled, sensitive man entangled in the affairs of his brother (Robert Taylor) and his brother’s suspicious wife (Katharine Hepburn). John Brahm’s The Locket (1946) featured Mitchum as bitter ex-husband to Laraine Day’s femme fatale. Raoul Walsh’s Pursued (1947) combined western and noir styles, with Mitchum’s character attempting to recall his past and find those responsible for killing his family. Crossfire (also 1947) featured Mitchum as a member of a group of soldiers, one of whom kills a Jewish man in an act of anti-Jewish hatred. It featured themes of anti-Semitism and the failings of military training. The film, directed by Edward Dmytryk, earned five Academy Award nominations.

Following Crossfire, Mitchum starred in Out of the Past (also called Build My Gallows High), directed by Jacques Tourneur … Mitchum played Jeff Markham, a small-town gas station owner whose unfinished business with gambler Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) and femme fatale Kathie Moffett (Jane Greer), comes back to haunt him.

… He returned to true film noir in The Big Steal (also 1949), where he again joined Jane Greer in an early Don Siegel film.

… Following a series of conventional westerns and films noirs, including the Marilyn Monroe vehicle River of No Return (1954), he appeared in Charles Laughton’s only film as director, The Night of the Hunter (1955). Based on a novel by Davis Grubb, the thriller starred Mitchum as a monstrous criminal posing as a preacher to find money hidden by his cellmate in the cellmate’s home [and also featured Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish]. His performance as Reverend Harry Powell is considered by many to be one of the best of his career [and the lyric, expressionistic style of the film was a great influence on later directors].

The Night of the Hunter is a remarkable film, with a remarkable performance by Mitchum — both dark, though not film noir.

Morphological note, on the plural of film noir. The Wikipedia article tells us that

Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic films noirs were referred to as melodramas.

Also from this article:

Opinion is divided on the English plural of film noir. In the French from which the term derives, the plural is films noirs. Some English speakers prefer films noir [an “internal plural”, with the inflectional mark on the head noun], while film noirs [an “external plural”, with the inflectional mark at the end of the whole expression] is the most common formulation. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, which acknowledges all three styles as acceptable, lists film noirs first.

This note is seriously confused. In French spelling, the plural of film noir is indeed films noirs, but neither s is pronounced. English film noir and films noirs almost always have nativized pronunciations, in which hardly any of the segments in film and noir are pronounced as in French (shifting to French phonetics in the midst of speaking English strikes most people as decidedly affected, though it does occur). As a result, there’s not much point in spelling the plural of film noir in English with two s‘s — especially since many English speakers pronounce the plural with a /z/, either on the head noun (/fɪlmz nwar/) or at the end (/fɪlm nwarz/; for what it’s worth, end-marking is my preference), but not both (a zero-plural /fɪlm nwar/ is also possible, but doubly marked /fɪlmz nwarz/ is odd indeed). So the spelling films noir or film noirs in English makes sense in a way that the spelling films noirs in English does not.

As is so often the case, there is confusion between spelling and pronunciation, even more vexing when two languages (both with troublesome spelling systems) are involved.

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