She liked me. I could feel that. The way you feel when the cards are falling right for you, with a nice little pile of blue and yellow chips in the middle of the table. Only what I didn’t know then was that I wasn’t playing her. She was playing me, with a deck of marked cards and the stakes weren’t any blue and yellow chips. They were dynamite.
This film noir quote is from Double Indemnity, starring Fred MacMurray, and what a great piece of writing that is. I’ve loved old movies ever since I was a kid, and the film noir genre is no exception. But what is it about film noir that is so engaging? For me, it’s a combination of things.
Film noir movies by and large have a few central characters. First, the hardened, cynical, morally ambiguous male lead. This frequently was a private eye, but there were cops, boxers, and more. Then you had the femme fatale, the beauty with the devil on her shoulder. Finally, there is the well-heeled villain, who serves as a representation of the evils in our society. Throw in a drink and you’ve got a cocktail of film fun!
Can You Say Sex?
Think about Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep (a movie utilized in my novel This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies), Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner (referenced in my novel Reel Estate Rip-off). Can you tell I love film noir? It was natural to make my main character, Reed Ferguson, a film noir buff. Anyway, back to sex…Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia. Now these are old movies, so the sex isn’t in-your-face like so many movies nowadays. But that means the actors and director worked that much harder to set the scene, creating sexual tension that virtually overwhelms the viewer. Watch Double Indemnity for a great example of this. I’m surprised that the TV screen doesn’t fog up with all that sexual tension that courses through these movies!
I have always been a sucker for great dialogue and film noir movies have some of the best turns of phrases you will ever find in a movie (or book, for that matter). I’ll watch these movies and think: “I wish I would’ve written that line.”
Barbara Stanwyck: Last time I looked, you had a wife.
Robert Ryan: Maybe next time you look, I won’t.
Barbara Stanwyck: That’s what they all say.
That’s from Clash by Night. You find out so much about both characters in those three lines. How about this one, from Mildred Pierce:
Eve Arden: Personally, I’m convinced that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.
I could go on, but you get the picture (pun ha ha). The film noir genre is dark, definitely, but the movies offer a plethora of fantastic plots and drama. It’s been great fun incorporating this love of noir into the Reed Ferguson Mystery Series. I hope you enjoy reading those references as much as I had writing them.
Renée loves to travel and has visited numerous countries around the world. She has also spent many summer days at her parents' cabin in the hills outside of Boulder, which was the inspiration for the setting of Taylor Crossing in her novel Nephilim: Genesis of Evil.
A rich, attractive femme fatale.
A missing husband.
A rollicking ride to a dark and daring ending.
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