The Maltese Falcon (novel & film)

The Maltese Falcon (1930) is probably America's greatest detective novel: it was recognized as such when published, and critics continue to affirm its importance. It defines the American conception of the private eye, Sam Spade, of the femme fatale, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and of the hard-boiled style. It is an eerie prognosticator of the personal and … Continue reading The Maltese Falcon (novel & film)

Mildred Pierce (film) 1941

With his publisher, Alfred Knopf, begging for new work, James M. Cain finally finished The Embezzler, a novella about the Depression's most common crime that eventually appeared in Three of a Kind (1943). Having completed his contract, Cain was free to sell his last major hard-boiled fiction, Mildred Pierce, to the highest bidder, which was … Continue reading Mildred Pierce (film) 1941

Postman Always Rings Twice (novel, 1934 & film, 1946 )

James M. Cain took the plot of Postman from the 1927-8 trial and execution of "Tiger Woman" Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray for the murder of her husband Albert. Gray's situation was eerily like Cain's and it tapped strong national fears about the Twenties "flappers," and sexuality. Ruth, 31, was a striking blond … Continue reading Postman Always Rings Twice (novel, 1934 & film, 1946 )

The Public Enemy (film, 1931)

The Public Enemy is sometimes considered a crime movie rather than film noir, but that judgement needs re-evaluation. In either case it is key in the development of film noir. Directed by William Wellman and starring then little-known James Cagney, this Warner Brothers' follow-up to Little Caesar already employs many of the new techniques and … Continue reading The Public Enemy (film, 1931)

The Underground Man (1971)

The Underground Man (1971)is often paired with The Goodbye Look as the author's best work. It achieves a complexity of plot, theme and structure not seen before in hard-boiled fiction. Among its concerns are ecological ravages, drugs, and the alienation of youth culture. The apparent story begins on a note inherited from Chandler, the strange … Continue reading The Underground Man (1971)

The Usual Suspects. 1995 (Dir: Bryan Singer)

The Usual Suspects (Dir. Bryan Singer, 1995) is a so-called "neo-noir" film written by Christopher McQuarrie. The plot follows five master thieves who, thrown together in a police line-up, plan a jewel heist that brings in $50 million and ousts dozens of corrupt New York City policemen. True to ensemble formula, the gang members have … Continue reading The Usual Suspects. 1995 (Dir: Bryan Singer)