Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: On Classic Film Noir

Edited By ROBERT MIKLITSCH
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt6wr5fg
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  • Book Info
    Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
    Book Description:

    Consider the usual view of film noir: endless rainy nights populated by down-at-the-heel boxers, writers, and private eyes stumbling toward inescapable doom while stalked by crooked cops and cheating wives in a neon-lit urban jungle. But a new generation of writers is pushing aside the fog of cigarette smoke surrounding classic noir scholarship. In Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: On Classic Film Noir , Robert Miklitsch curates a bold collection of essays that reassesses the genre's iconic style, history, and themes. Contributors analyze the oft-overlooked female detective and little-examined aspects of filmmaking like love songs and radio aesthetics, discuss the significance of the producer and women's pulp fiction, and investigate topics as disparate as Disney noir and the Fifties heist film, B-movie back projection and blacklisted British directors. At the same time the writers' collective reconsideration shows the impact of race and gender, history and sexuality, technology and transnationality on the genre. As bracing as a stiff drink, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands writes the future of noir scholarship in lipstick and chalk lines for film fans and scholars alike. Contributors are Krin Gabbard, Philippa Gates, Julie Grossman, Robert Miklitsch, Robert Murphy, Mark Osteen, Vivian Sobchack, Andrew Spicer, J. P. Telotte, and Neil Verma.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09651-8
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface Noir Futures “It’s a Bright Guilty World”
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Introduction Back to Black “Crime Melodrama,” Docu-Melo-Noir, and the “Red Menace” Film
    (pp. 1-16)

    Film noir is, as Marx says of the commodity, a queer thing. As daunting as it is to define its generic essence, it is almost equally daunting, as I argue in the concluding essay in this volume, to determine its origins. The critical consensus has been that whether one dates its advent from 1940 (Stranger on the Third Floor) or 1941 (The Maltese Falcon), the classical period begins to flower in 1944 withLaura, Double Indemnity, Murder, My Sweet,andThe Woman in the Window,reaching its full “evil” bloom in 1947 with Jacques Tourneur’sOut of the Past.

    I...

  6. 1 Independence Unpunished: The Female Detective in Classic Film Noir
    (pp. 17-36)
    PHILIPPA GATES

    Film noir arose in concert with U.S. involvement in World War II. As the war came to a close, noir narratives were often centered on the problems facing returning servicemen, from unemployment to broken homes—problems often regarded as the result of increased female independence. During the war, women had supported the men fighting overseas and the war effort back at home by going to work; when the war was over and the men returned, however, women were encouraged to return back to the home. In the immediate postwar years, women were needed to nurture the physically and mentally wounded...

  7. 2 Women and Film Noir: Pulp Fiction and the Woman’s Picture
    (pp. 37-61)
    JULIE GROSSMAN

    Many discussions of film noir are dominated by the categories of the hardboiled detective and the femme fatale. While these character patterns tend to govern our thinking about the genre, classification of films as noir itself poses problems because of the term’s cultural pervasiveness. This essay reconsiders the categories conventionally associated with film noir, not only because these labels tend to overshadow discussion of narrative, but also because focusing on such stock characters excludes consideration of other generic associations that can shed light on some of the most intriguing films from the classic period. The most compelling film-noir movies, finally,...

  8. 3 The Vanishing Love Song in Film Noir
    (pp. 62-79)
    KRIN GABBARD

    This essay is about a musical practice in two canonical noirs. In Jacques Tourneur’sOut of the Past(1947) and Fritz Lang’sThe Blue Gardenia(1953), a romantic ballad (1) plays over the opening credits, (2) recurs regularly as it becomes associated with the central characters, but (3) isnotheard at the end of the film. Although the scores for both films are otherwise entirely typical of Classical Hollywood, a vanishing love song is unusual. The phasing out of a love theme nevertheless seems well suited to film noir, if only because so many noirs begin with the promise...

  9. 4 Radio, Film Noir, and the Aesthetics of Auditory Spectacle
    (pp. 80-98)
    NEIL VERMA

    This essay asks what to make of the fact that the classic era of film noir and the golden age of American radio drama overlap so closely. Many think of radio as a novel technology of the 1920s, but radio culture on a national scale actually arose in the Depression, achieving mass saturation around 1940, when the U.S. Census Bureau found that 82.8 percent of families had sets at home. By 1944, according to the Nielsen service, more than twenty-five million families listened each weeknight.¹ So while classic noirs began to flourish at the cinema, most Americans listened to radio...

  10. 5 Disney Noir: “Just Drawn That Way”
    (pp. 99-112)
    J. P. TELOTTE

    Attempting to excuse her vampish looks and reputation, the “toon” Jessica Rabbit of the Disney productionWho Framed Roger Rabbit(1988) explains to the detective Eddie Valiant that “I’m not bad; I’m just drawn that way.” It is a memorable and evocative line, particularly given how excessively “bad” she indeed looks and the jaw-dropping effect that this “drawn” character clearly has on the various males in this neo-noir hybrid of live action and animation. That self-description recalls the almost equally—and literally—stunning impact of a range of femme fatales from the film-noir canon: Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), as she...

  11. 6 Detour: Driving in a Back Projection, or Forestalled by Film Noir
    (pp. 113-129)
    VIVIAN SOBCHACK

    I borrow my subtitle from the great critic David Thomson, who uses it to introduce a short meditation not directly about film noir but about the experience of driving in Los Angeles.¹ For Thomson, driving in Los Angeles means always imagining oneself in a movie, even in bright sunlight, and his thoughts seem noirish as he evokes Walter Neff’s confessional Dictaphone recording inDouble Indemnity(1944) when he writes: “I would like to say that this piece was composed—written or dropped into the spirals of a recorder on the front seat—when driving in Los Angeles.” However, Thomson makes...

  12. 7 Producing Noir: Wald, Scott, Hellinger
    (pp. 130-151)
    ANDREW SPICER

    Scholars have tended to fasten on aesthetic features—chiaroscuro lighting, unbalanced compositions, oddly angled cinematography, complex patterns of narration and shifting, unstable time frames—as a way of characterizing film noir, whether it be to define it as a genre, a movement, a visual style, a prevailing mood or tone, or a transgeneric phenomenon. In part this reflects the characteristic tendency of film studies to privilege texts (and textual interpretation) over contexts where films are located as part of wider processes of production and reception. This general tendency is accentuated in the case of film noir because it is, notoriously,...

  13. 8 Refuge England: Blacklisted American Directors and ’50s British Noir
    (pp. 152-170)
    ROBERT MURPHY

    American expatriates blacklisted in Hollywood for their Communist sympathies in the postwar period made a vital contribution to British cinema, particularly to the development of a British strand of film noir, though their achievements tended not to be celebrated. In the 1940s and 1950s, most British films sought distribution in America, and any association with those who had been blacklisted would seriously damage their commercial prospects.Give Us This Day(1949), a film depicting the harsh lives of Italian construction workers in New York during the Depression, directed by Edward Dmytryk and written by Ben Barzman, was comprehensively excluded from...

  14. 9 A Little Larceny: Labor, Leisure, and Loyalty in the ’50s Noir Heist Film
    (pp. 171-192)
    MARK OSTEEN

    “None of these men are criminals in the usual sense; they’ve all got jobs, they all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But they got their problems, and they’ve all got a little larceny in ’em” With these words, Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) describes the crew he has assembled to pull off a racetrack robbery in Stanley Kubrick’sThe Killing(1956). A milquetoast cashier with a wayward wife, a cop in debt to a gangster, a lonely bookkeeper, a farmer, a chess-club manager, and a bartender married to an invalid: such ordinary men with “problems” populate the gangs in many 1950s...

  15. 10 Periodizing Classic Noir: From Stranger on the Third Floor to the “Thrillers of Tomorrow”
    (pp. 193-218)
    ROBERT MIKLITSCH

    The question “What is film noir?” has haunted critics, if not fans, almost from the moment the “genre” became an object of study. There are numerous ways to approach this issue or tissue (genre, formal elements, thematic motifs, production cycles, etc.), but one popular angle has been historical, as in: When did the classic or “historical” period of American film noir begin and end?¹

    The problem, of course, with this periodic approach is that it begs the question, since to pinpoint the advent and end of classic noir presupposes some determinate knowledge about its essence or identity—about what it...

  16. Classic Noir on the Net
    (pp. 219-220)
  17. Critical Literature on Film Noir
    (pp. 221-224)
  18. Contributors
    (pp. 225-228)
  19. Index
    (pp. 229-245)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 246-246)