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Film Noir: A Tapestry of American History Essay

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The fascination with film noir and its influence on American history remains elusive. Bordering on the obsessive and fanatical these films left political and moral indelible marks on societies around the globe, specifically, in America. Film Noir began to emerge in the years before the United States entered into World War II, with movies such as Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), and The Maltese Falcon (1941). During and after the war, it slowly developed into a style of film that expressed the tales of American hardship, romance and social discontent. Only through the analysis of cinema spectatorship and historical experience can begin to understand film noirs impact on American history.
Previous research and critical writing regarding Film Noir have been in the context of literature, gender studies and the like. This paper will attempt to take a historical focus and perspective regarding this unique period of American Film history and its influence on a society searching for a means to escape the daily routine and tribulations of war, crime and a changing way of life. Pre-industrialized America was mostly an agrarian society based on myth, and ideologies of property ownership and expansion of the west. The coming of the twentieth century ushered in a mass consumer society with no new myths to entertain fantasies and a national identity in crisis. Film noir is a complicated genus, although complicated and shrouded in controversy its impact on American society and culture is extraordinary. As it echoed the mood and evolution of a country in transition from a disjointed society to one with a common goal of a nation.




Understanding how Film Noir reflected the political, social and cultural changes in America is accomp...


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...'s Big Screen: How Modern Audiences Experience Yesterday's Classics." Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 2008: 203-212.
Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. "U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Motion Picture and Radio Propaganda, 1941." Digital History. 2013. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu (accessed December 7, 2013).
Naremore, James. "American Film Noir: the History of an Idea." Film Quarterly, 1995-1996: 12-28.
Touch of Evil. Directed by Orson Welles. Performed by Charlton Heston Orson Welles. 1958.
Gilda. Directed by Charles Vidor. Performed by Glenn Ford Rita Hayworth. 1946.
Schrader, Paul. "Notes on Film Noir." i.mtime. September 3, 2008. http://www.i.mtime.com (accessed December 8, 2013).
Smyth, Edmund. "Noir Cityscapes: An Introduction." Romance Studies, 2007.
Sunset Boulevard. Directed by Billy Wilder. Performed by Gloria Swanson William Holden. 1950.



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