Historical Dictionary of Film Noir

Historical Dictionary of Film Noir

Hardback Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts

By (author) Andrew Spicer

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  • Publisher: Scarecrow Press
  • Format: Hardback | 532 pages
  • Dimensions: 147mm x 218mm x 38mm | 816g
  • Publication date: 15 April 2010
  • Publication City/Country: Lanham, MD
  • ISBN 10: 0810859602
  • ISBN 13: 9780810859609
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 1,150,671

Product description

Film noir-literally "black cinema"-is the label customarily given to a group of black and white American films, mostly crime thrillers, made between 1940 and 1959. Today there is considerable dispute about what are the shared features that classify a noir film, and therefore which films should be included in this category. These problems are partly caused because film noir is a retrospective label that was not used in the 1940s or 1950s by the film industry as a production category and therefore its existence and features cannot be established through reference to trade documents. The Historical Dictionary of Film Noir is a comprehensive guide that ranges from 1940 to present day neo-noir. It consists of a chronology, an introductory essay, a bibliography, a filmography, and over 400 cross-referenced dictionary entries on every aspect of film noir and neo-noir, including key films, personnel (actors, cinematographers, composers, directors, producers, set designers, and writers), themes, issues, influences, visual style, cycles of films (e.g. amnesiac noirs), the representation of the city and gender, other forms (comics/graphic novels, television, and videogames), and noir's presence in world cinema. It is an essential reference work for all those interested in this important cultural phenomenon.

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Author information

Andrew Spicer is reader in Cultural History at the University of the West of England. He has published widely on British Cinema and on Film Noir.

Review quote

This dictionary by Spicer (Univ. of the West of England) is the latest entry in a series that has featured, in the last few years, volumes on German, Italian, Russian, Middle Eastern, and Spanish cinema, among others...In all, Spicer offers more than 400 concise, cross-referenced entries covering noir from the 1940s to the present, including entries for actors (e.g., John Garfield, Veronica Lake), directors (e.g., the Coen Brothers, Otto Preminger), movies (e.g., The Last Seduction, Scarlet Street), and writers (e.g., Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson), along with those for subgenres (e.g., country noir), foreign films (e.g., French film noir), and noir in other media (e.g., comics/graphic novels). Also included are a chronology, a brief introduction, an extensive, up-to-date bibliography, and a filmography. This work will be of value to those new to the study of film noir. Recommended. CHOICE In the raft of available film noir literature, both popular and scholarly, this represents the first subject lexicon. Each of Spicer's (European Film Noir) 400 alphabetized entries succinctly defines noir's landmark movies, key terms, and broader concepts. Running between a paragraph to two pages in length, the entries occasionally serve as subgenre field guides, describing the characteristics of country noir and neonoir. Others explain the complicated influence of ideas or movements, like the impact of European emigres on American production sets. Still, the bulk of the volume is devoted to professional biographies of the writers, producers, directors, composers, and actors who have shaped and continue to affect the genre significantly. While intended primarily as a lexicon, this work's absorbing introduction to film noir's origins offers a rationale for long-standing classification debates. A chronology locates the genetic material for noir in the 1794 gothic romance The Mysteries of Udolpho and traces this lineage through the 1920s into classic noir, neonoir, and contemporary Hollywood productions. Highly practical for researchers is the last quarter of the volume, which is devoted to a 64-page, thematically organized bibliography and a 70-page filmography, organized by nation. BOTTOM LINE A fitting counterpart to Alain Silver's The Film Noir Encyclopedia. Recommended for collections focusing on cultural and film studies. Library Journal Film noir, which occurred mainly in the 1940s and '50s, and its current manifestation, neo-noir, continue to attract many filmgoers and aficionados. Cinema expert Spicer has written widely about this genre and gathers information into a volume in the publisher's Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts series. The core of the content consists of American film noir during and after WWII and includes separate entries for seminal examples, such as The Big Sleep, Body Heat, and Double Indemnity. Other parts of the world are covered in entries such as German film noir, Japanese film noir, and Norwegian film noir. Subgenres (African American film noir, Gangster noir) and styles and themes (Visual style, Men) are also discussed. Representative directors and actors have entries. Spicer also discusses noir in other media, such as Comics/graphic novels, Posters, and Radio. Furthermore, he identifies precursors and other cultural phenomena that have influenced film noir, such as Existentialism, Hard-boiled fiction, and specific authors and painters. The A-Z entries vary in length from a half page to four pages (e.g., French noir) and are heavily crossreferenced. The beginning of the volume contains a chronology of film noir benchmarks and influences, from 1794 (publication of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho) to 2009's Duplicity (Stieg Larsson just missed the cut.) Eight pages of black-and-white photos of representative films and a poster are included in the middle. After the entries are a 60-page bibliography, divided by major topics, and a country-by-country filmography. Containing a wealth of detail about an intriguing film genre, this book belongs in most film collections. Booklist "Film noir" conjures a certain image-set in the popular imagination. Typically, the term is associated with certain black-and-white medium or low-budget films produced by the Hollywood studios in the 1940s and 1950s. A crime, often gangland, theme is usual, as is the presence of leading, usually male, players with a penchant for conveying toughness and world-weary cynicism, like Humphrey Bogart or, especially, Robert Mitchum. More illustrations would have been a bonus: there are eight pages of black and white photographs and the absence of pictures to accompany the entry on movie posters is particularly noticeable. This would, though, have inevitably escalated the price. As it is, The Historical Dictionary of Film Noir will be an essential purchase for any researcher in this subject, and for all academic libraries serving the needs of students in film studies. Reference Reviews Overall, this is an extremely useful and well-researched reference work. Spicer's knowledge of the complexities o the subject is evident throughout the work. American Reference Books Annual This complete reference covers everything film noir and is very desirable to anyone interested in cinema. Book News, Inc.