Johnny Guitar

  • Directors: Nicholas Ray
  • Producers: Herbert J Yates
  • Writers: Philip Yordan, Roy Chanslor
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Western
  • Actors: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady

On the outskirts of a wind-swept Arizona cattle town, an aggressive and strong-willed saloonkeeper named Vienna maintains a volatile relationship with the local cattlemen and townsfolk. Not only does she support the railroad being laid nearby (the cattlemen oppose it) but she permits a suspected stage robber called The Dancin’ Kid to share her bed, and his confederates to frequent her saloon.

Vienna’s ex-lover Johnny Guitar, a reformed gunslinger whose real name is Logan, arrives at the saloon, renews his love for Vienna, and offers her needed protection. Life is cozy for the two until one day The Dancin’ Kid and his gang rob the town bank. The townsfolk suspect Vienna has played a part. Led by the vengeful Emma Small, a cattle rancher who has long hated Vienna, the posse descends on Vienna’s saloon and burns it to the ground. Emma persuades the men to hang Vienna, but at the last second she is saved by Johnny Guitar.

Vienna and Johnny escape the posse and find refuge in The Dancin’ Kid’s secret hideaway. The posse tracks them. The Kid and his men are killed. Emma challenges Vienna to a showdown. Vienna is wounded in the duel, but she manages to kill Emma. A halt is called to the bloodbath by the posse’s leader, McIvers. Vienna and Johnny depart, hopeful that better days lie ahead.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

  • Directors: Mervyn LeRoy
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Brown Holmes, Howard J Green
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
  • Actors: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Noel Francis

Sergeant James Allen (Paul Muni) returns to civilian life after World War I but has a hard time finding work. He accidentally becomes caught up in a robbery and is sentenced to ten years on a brutal Southern chain gang.

He escapes and makes his way to Chicago, where he becomes a success in the construction business. He becomes involved with the proprietor of his boardinghouse, Marie Woods (Glenda Farrell), who discovers his secret and blackmails him into an unhappy marriage. He then meets and falls in love with Helen (Helen Vinson). When he asks his wife for a divorce, she betrays him to the authorities. He is offered a pardon if he will turn himself in; Allen accepts, only to find that it was just a ruse. He escapes once again.

In the end, Allen visits Helen in the shadows on the street and tells her he is leaving forever. She asks, “Can’t you tell me where you’re going? Will you write? Do you need any money?” James repeats “no” as his answer as he backs away. Finally Helen says, “But you must, Jim. How do you live?” In the film’s final line and shot James replies chillingly, “I steal”, and disappears into the dark. The composition and lighting of the final scene, considered to be one of the best in film history, was reportedly accidental. The lights on the set supposedly either failed or were turned off earlier than intended. The studio liked what it saw and kept the ending.[2]

Angel Face

  • Directors: Otto Preminger
  • Producers: Otto Preminger
  • Writers: Story, Chester Erskine, Screenplay, Ben Hecht, Oscar Millard, Frank S Nugent
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Crime
  • Actors: Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Mona Freeman, Herbert Marshall

One night, Beverly Hills ambulance driver Frank Jessup and his partner Bill are called to the cliffside estate of Charles and Catherine Tremayne. By the time they arrive, Catherine has already been treated for gas inhalation, which the police believe occurred accidentally, but which the wealthy Catherine suspects was deliberate. As he is leaving the house, Frank notices Catherine’s beautiful English stepdaughter Diane playing a melancholy piano piece and assures her that her stepmother will be fine. When Diane becomes hysterical, Frank slaps her face to calm her. Confused, she slaps him back, then apologizes. Later, after getting off work, Frank goes to a nearby diner, unaware that Diane is following him in her sports car. In the diner, Frank tries to call his girl friend, Mary Wilton, a hospital receptionist, but gets no answer. Diane then comes in and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with him. When Mary finally calls him, Frank turns down her dinner invitation, claiming that he is too tired. Frank takes Diane out, and over dinner, she tells him that her father is a well-respected novelist but has not finished a book since her mother’s death during the war. Diane then asks Frank, a former race car driver who dreams of owning his own garage, about Mary, and he reveals that Mary has been saving her money to help him. The next day, Diane invites Mary to lunch and, while pretending that she wants to contribute to Frank’s garage fund, lets her know that he spent the evening with her. Seeing through Diane’s tactics, Mary rejects her offer but admits that her faith in Frank is shaken. That night, Mary is about to go out with Frank when he lies again about his date with Diane.

To help Diane, Vance hires Fred Barrett, a renowned defense lawyer. Just before the trial is to start, Fred convinces Frank and Diane to marry so that he can propose that Diane’s suitcase was in Frank’s room because they were planning to elope. During the trial, Barrett skillfully deflates expert testimony regarding the car’s transmission and steering mechanism, which appears to have been tampered with, and paints Frank and Diane as innocent lovebirds. Frank and Diane are acquitted, but once back at the estate, Frank tells Diane he is divorcing her. Diane finally talks about the jealousy and loneliness she felt when her father married Catherine and the grief she suffered upon seeing their crushed bodies. Despite Diane’s remorse, Frank insists he is returning to Mary. After Diane bets Frank her sports car that Mary will not take him back, Frank goes to Mary, who rejects him in favor of Bill. Diane, meanwhile, visits Barrett’s office and insists on confessing to the murders, detailing how she asked an unsuspecting Frank to explain the car’s transmission. Reminding Diane about the double jeopardy rule, Barrett tears up the confession. Upon returning home, Diane finds Frank packing for Mexico and asks if she can go, too. Frank says no, but agrees to let her drive him to the bus station. After Frank gets in, Diane shifts into reverse, jams her foot on the gas pedal and sends the car over the cliff.

Kiss Me Deadly

  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Producers: Robert Aldrich
  • Writers: Story, Mickey Spillane, Screenplay, A I Bezzerides
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Cloris Leachman

Ralph Meeker plays Mike Hammer, a tough Los Angeles private eye who is almost as brutal and corrupt as the crooks he chases. Mike, and his assistant/secretary/lover, Velda(Maxine Cooper), usually work on “penny-ante divorce cases”.

One evening on a lonely country road, Hammer gives a ride to Christina (Cloris Leachman), an attractive hitchhiker wearing nothing but a trench coat. She has escaped from a nearby mental institution. Thugs waylay them and force his car to crash. Hammer regains consciousness in some unknown location where he hears Christina screaming and being tortured to death. Hammer next awakens in a hospital with Velda by his bedside. He decides to pursue the case, both for vengeance and because, “She (Christina) must be connected with something big” behind it all.

The twisting plot takes Hammer to the apartment of Lily Carver (Gaby Rodgers), a sexy, waif-like blond who is posing as Christina’s ex-room mate. Lily tells Hammer she has gone into hiding and asks Hammer to protect her. It turns out that she is after a mysterious box that, she believes, has contents worth a fortune.

“The great whatsit”, as Velda calls it, at the center of Hammer’s quest is a small, mysterious valise that is hot to the touch and contains a dangerous, shining substance. It comes to represent the 1950s Cold War fear and nuclear paranoia about the atomic bomb that permeated American culture.

The original American release of the film shows Hammer and Velda escaping from the burning house at the end, running into the ocean as the words “The End” come over them on the screen. Sometime after its first release, the ending was crudely altered on the film’s original negative, removing over a minute’s worth of shots where Hammer and Velda escape and superimposing the words “The End” over the burning house. This implied that Hammer and Velda perished in the atomic blaze, and was often interpreted to represent the apocalypse. In 1997, the original conclusion was restored. The DVD release has the correct original ending, and offers the now-discredited truncated ending as an extra. The movie is described as “the definitive, apocalyptic, nihilistic, science-fiction film noir of all time – at the close of the classic noir period.”[2]

The Ox Bow Incident

  • Directors: William A Wellman
  • Producers: Lamar Trotti
  • Writers: Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Lamar Trotti
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Western
  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews

The Ox-Bow Incident takes place in Nevada in 1885[3] and begins with Art Croft (Harry Morgan) and Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) riding into the town of Bridger’s Wells. They go into Darby’s Saloon and find that the atmosphere is subdued, in part because of the recent incidents of cattle-rustling (the stealing of livestock) in the vicinity. Everyone wants to catch the thieves.

Gil learns that his former girlfriend left town at the start of the spring and drinks heavily to drown his sorrows. Art and Gil are possible rustler suspects simply because they are not often seen in town. The townspeople are wary of them, and a fight breaks out between Gil and a local rancher named Farnley (Marc Lawrence). Immediately after the fight, another man races into town on horseback, goes into the saloon and announces that a rancher named Larry Kinkaid has been murdered. The townspeople immediately form a posse to pursue the murderers, who they believe to be the cattle rustlers. The posse is told by the local judge that they must bring the presumed rustlers back alive for trial, and that their deputization by a deputy is illegal, but little heed is taken of this. Art and Gil join the posse as well, as much to avoid being its target as to participate. Davies (Harry Davenport), who is vehemently opposed to forming the posse because of its capacity for “mob rule”, also joins. Among the other people in the posse are “Major” Tetley (Frank Conroy) and his son, Gerald (William Eythe). The major informs the posse that three men with cattle bearing Kinkaid’s brand have just entered Bridger’s Pass, and therefore shouldn’t be too difficult to catch.

The men of the posse gather back in Canby’s Saloon and drink in silence. Major Tetley returns to his house and locks the door so his son cannot come in. His son yells at him through the door, telling him what he thinks of him. Major Tetley walks into another room and shoots himself. In the saloon, Gil reads Martin’s letter out loud to Art while the other members of the posse are listening. In the closing scene, mirroring the initial scene, Gil and Art ride out of town to deliver the letter to Martin’s wife and family.

Conflict

  • Directors: Curtis Bernhardt
  • Producers: William Jacobs
  • Writers: Alfred Neumann, Robert Siodmak, Arthur T Horman, Dwight Taylor
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet

On the surface, Richard (Humphrey Bogart) and Kathryn Mason (Rose Hobart) appear to be a happily married couple. But on their fifth wedding anniversary, Kathryn accuses Richard of having fallen in love with her younger sister, Evelyn Turner (Alexis Smith), who is living with them. He does not deny it, but has resigned himself to leaving things as they are, since he is certain Kathryn would not give him a divorce. At a party celebrating the couple’s anniversary hosted by family friend and psychologist Dr. Mark Hamilton (Sydney Greenstreet), Richard becomes annoyed when Evelyn spends time with Mark’s handsome young colleague, Professor Norman Holdsworth (Charles Drake). On the way home, Kathryn suggests to Evelyn that their mother is lonely, so Evelyn decides to move home. Distracted by this unwelcome news, Richard crashes their car and suffers a broken leg. He then decides to take desperate action.

Richard pretends to require a wheelchair, even after his leg has healed; his puzzled physician, Doctor Grant (Grant Mitchell), diagnoses the problem as psychological, not physical. He suggests exercise, so a car trip to a mountain resort is arranged. At the last minute, Richard has to stay home to do some work; he has Kathryn go on ahead by herself. She is blocked on a narrow deserted mountain road by a parked car. Richard walks unexpectedly out of the fog and kills her. Afterward, he pushes her car down a steep slope; it dislodges some logs which crash down and hide the automobile. He returns home in time to set up an alibi by meeting with employees he had summoned. He then notifies the police that she is missing.

The film is rather unique in that it is the only one which Bogart and Greenstreet co-starred and Greenstreet was not a villain or a corrupt character, but rather Bogart was.

The Two Mrs Carrolls

  • Directors: Peter Godfrey
  • Producers: Excecutive producer, Jack L Warner, Producer, Mark Hellinger
  • Writers: Screenplay, Thomas Job, Story, Martin Vale
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith, Nigel Bruce

An artist Gerry Carroll (Bogart) meets Sally (Stanwyck) while on a vacation in the country. They develop a romance but Carroll doesn’t tell her he’s already married.

Suffering from mental illness, Gerry returns home where he paints an impression of his wife as the angel of death and then promptly poisons her. He then marries Sally but after a while he paints Sally as the angel of death.

High Sierra

  • Directors: Raoul Walsh
  • Producers: Mark Hellinger
  • Writers: Story, W R Burnett, Screenplay, John Huston, W R Burnett
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Curtis, Arthur Kennedy

An aged gangster, Big Mac (Donald MacBride), is planning a robbery at a California resort casino, and he wants an experienced Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart), just released from an eastern prison by a governor’s pardon, to lead the heist and to take charge of the operation. Roy drives across the country to a camp in the mountains to meet up with the three men who will assist him in the heist: Louis Mendoza (Cornel Wilde), who is working in the resort, and Red (Arthur Kennedy) and Babe (Alan Curtis), who are already living at the camp. Babe has also brought along a young woman, Marie (Ida Lupino). Roy wants to send Marie back to Los Angeles, but after some argument she convinces Roy to let her stay. At the camp Roy also is adopted by a small dog called Pard.

Marie falls in love with Roy as he plans and executes the robbery, but he does not reciprocate. On the drive up to the mountains, Roy met the family of Velma (Joan Leslie), a young woman with a deformed foot who walks with a limp. Roy pays for corrective surgery to allow Velma to walk normally. While she is convalescing, Roy asks Velma to marry him, but she refuses, explaining that she is engaged to a man from back home. When Velma’s fiancé arrives, Roy then turns to Marie, and the two become lovers.

While Roy and Marie leave town, a dragnet is put out for him. The two separate in order to allow Marie time to escape, while Roy is pursued until he climbs one of the Sierra mountains, where he holes up overnight. Shortly after sunrise, Roy trades shots with the police down the mountain from him, he hears Pard barking and runs out calling Marie’s name and is shot dead from behind by a sharp shooter.

The Letter

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Howard Koch, Based on the play by W Somerset Maugham
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson

On a moonlit night in the opening scene, Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), the wife of a British rubber plantation manager in Malaya, shoots and kills a man whom her male servant recognizes as Geoff Hammond (David Newell). She tells the servant to send for her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall), who is working at one of the plantations. Her husband returns, having summoned his attorney and a British police inspector. Leslie tells them that Geoff Hammond “tried to make love to me” and she killed him to save her honor.

Leslie is placed under arrest and put in prison in Singapore as a matter of form to await trial for murder. Everyone believes she acted heroically, with the exception of her attorney, Howard Joyce (James Stephenson), who seems to be rather suspicious of her motives. Howard’s suspicions seem justified when his clerk Ong Chi Seng (Victor Sen Yung) shows him a copy of a letter Leslie wrote to Hammond the day she killed him, informing him she would be home alone that evening and pleading with him to visit her. Ong Chi Seng tells Howard that the letter is in the possession of Hammond’s widow (Gale Sondergaard), a Eurasian woman who lives in the Chinese quarter of town. Howard then confronts Leslie with the damning evidence and forces her to confess to Hammond’s cold-blooded killing; but Leslie cleverly manipulates the attorney into agreeing to buy back the letter.

In a dazed state after the pressure of the trial and her confrontation with Robert, Leslie wanders out into the moonlight and begins walking outside the gate almost as if she knows that someone is waiting for her. There she meets Mrs. Hammond and her henchman. Mrs Hammond kills her with a knife, after the henchman has overpowered her. As the two attemp to silently slip out, they are confronted by a policeman who question their whereabouts. The policeman tells the two to move along and both walk away from the scene. The clouds which hid the moons rays, darken the area where Leslie Crosbies body was killed. In the end, the clouds open and the moons rays shine at the area where her body lays but no one is there to see her body.

Dark Passage

  • Directors: Delmer Daves
  • Producers: Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Story, David Goodis, Screenplay, Delmer Daves
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead

Convicted murderer Vincent Parry escapes from San Quentin prison. He is picked up on the road and sheltered by Irene Jansen, an artist who has taken a personal interest in his case.

Helped by a friendly cabbie, Sam, the fugitive Parry gets a new face from a plastic surgeon, thereby enabling him to dodge the authorities and look for his wife’s real murderer.

He has difficulty staying hidden at Irene’s because of nosy Madge Rapf, a spiteful woman whose testimony sent him up to prison. Madge keeps stopping by Irene’s apartment, particularly after she fears Parry might come after her next.

Parry’s best friend is found murdered, so he becomes the logical prime suspect. A blackmailer named Baker also traps Parry and tries to extort money from Irene to keep from turning over Parry to the cops.

The story’s climax features the killer realizing the true identity of the man behind the new face.