This year marks the 70th anniversary of the release of Double Indemnity, a movie many credit with being the first real Film Noir. In honor of that anniversary and the film, a set of articles is planned over at CriminalElment.com written by Jake Hinkson exploring the genre. Here's a taste of his first entry on Indemnity:
The making of Double Indemnity—particularly the writing of the script—is the stuff of movie legend. Adapted from the novel by James M. Cain, the screenplay was written by director Billy Wilder and novelist Raymond Chandler. This was an impossibly talented duo, though not exactly the match made in heaven that it might have looked like on paper. Chandler was curmudgeonly under the best of circumstances, and he neither approved of Cain’s book (“Everything Cain touches smells like a billygoat”) nor enjoyed working with Wilder (“an agonizing experience”). Perhaps those fat studio paychecks gave him the strength to endure.
The full entry is here.
Film critics and movie buffs can discuss the origins of film noir endlessly -- which movies were the precursors, what was the first, best, worst, etc. One thing that I rarely see, though, are nods to the gangster movies of the 1930s, which to my mind were a big influence, arguably more so than the foreign movies often cited in scholarly discussions.
Here's a scene from Public Enemy (1931), where James Cagney takes in on the chin:
This isn't film noir, but the feel and dialogue could easily fit into the movies a decade later.