Film noir has always stood with one foot firmly entrenched in literature. Early films noir based on the novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and W.R. Burnett were the shining beacons of a new kind of crime film, while the term itself suggests ties to the gothic Roman noir novels of the early 20th century and was inspired by the French Série noire reprints of hard-boiled novels in the 1940s. Film noir’s style and content not only reflected the malaise of post-war letdown, it also inspired filmmakers to tell their stories in new ways, bringing about a classic period of filmmaking and providing the starting point for several offshoots into neo-noir.
But it also inspired writers in the way they told their stories. The transformative mixture of hard-boiled content and filmic style created an atmosphere that authors have been striving to capture for decades. With this in mind, the Dryden Theatre is proud to present, in person, four contemporary authors inspired by the same films that inspire all of us.
The series begins with The Maltese Falcon, John Huston’s prototypical detective thriller. Visiting author Sean Chercover will be on hand to provide context. Chercover is the Shamus-winning author of Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City and is a former private detective. He will lead a discussion before introducing the film. Shannon Clute, who works on Turner Classic Movies’ monthly “Now Playing” guide, is also a noir scholar and author. Clute will be in town for the screening of Mildred Pierce to introduce the film and talk about all things noir.
Megan Abbott is one of the premiere authors of noir fiction working today. Her novels, including the Edgar-winning Queenpin, are set in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, and evoke the classic period of noir with lyrical prose and visceral violence. Abbott will discuss noir’s legacy and her work before introducing Gilda. The series wraps up with a return visit from Edgar-nominee and Rochester author Charles Benoit. His new “young adult noir,” You, a searing second-person portrait of the hopelessness of being a teenager, was the October Junior Library Guild selection. Benoit will introduce Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle on February 24 and will participate in a discussion before the screening.
Exciting and little-seen films noir from the classic period complement the series. A Don Siegel double feature highlights two films from the early part of the influential director’s career: The Lineup and The Big Steal. A Max Ophuls/James Mason double feature focuses on one year in the career of the German director and the British actor: 1949. Both Caught and The Reckless Moment were released that year and focused on women caught in criminal enterprises. A Double Life is Ronald Colman’s Oscar®-winning screen triumph, the capstone of a long career, and I Walk Alone is the first pairing of screen legends Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, at odds with each other over a bootlegging fortune. — Jared Case, Head of Cataloguing, Motion Picture Department
All screenings are at 8 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.
Thursday, January 6
THE MALTESE FALCON
(John Huston, US 1941, 100 min.)
Thursday, January 13
Don Siegel Film Noir Double Feature
8 p.m. THE LINEUP
(Don Siegel, US 1958, 86 min.)
9:45 p.m. THE BIG STEAL
(Don Siegel, US 1949, 71 min., 16mm)
Thursday, January 20
(Michael Curtiz, US 1945, 113 min.)
Thursday, January 27
A DOUBLE LIFE
(George Cukor, US 1947, 104 min.)
Friday, January 28
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
(Alfred Hitchcock, US 1951, 101 min.)
Thursday, February 3
James Mason/Max Ophuls Film Noir Double Feature
7 p.m. CAUGHT
(Max Ophuls, US 1949, 88 min.)
8:45 p.m. THE RECKLESS MOMENT
(Max Ophuls, US 1949, 82 min.)
Thursday, February 10
(Charles Vidor, US 1946, 110 min.)
Thursday, February 17
I WALK ALONE
(Byron Haskin, US 1948, 98 min., 16mm)
Thursday, February 24
THE ASPHALT JUNGLE
(John Huston, US 1950, 112 min.)