Only the good go to sleep at night.
The French coined the term film noir, so it seems only fitting to feature a collection of French posters celebrating the genre. Above and below are fifteen examples promoting films noir from France, Britain, and the U.S., representing some of the best ever produced within the art form, as well as some less celebrated examples that we happen to love. Of those, we highly recommend seeing Le salaire de la peur, for which you see the poster above, and Ride the Pink Horse, below, which played as Et tournent les chevaux de bois in France. Just a word about those films (and feel free to skip ahead to the art, because really, who has time these days to listen to a couple of anonymous internet scribes ramble on about old movies?).
1953’s Le salaire de la peur is about a group of men stranded in an oil company town in the mountains of South America. In order to earn the wages to get out, four of them agree to drive two trucks filled with nitroglycerine over many miles of dangerous terrain. The idea is to use the chemicals to put out a raging oil well fire that is consuming company profits by the second, but of course the film is really about whether the men can even get there alive. Le salaire de la peur was critically praised when released in Europe, but in the U.S., political factions raised their ugly heads and got censors to crudely re-edit the prints so as to reduce the movie’s anti-capitalist (and by extension anti-American) subtext. The movie was later remade by Hollywood twice—once in 1958 as Hell’s Highway, and again in 1977 as Sorcerer. The original is by far the best.
1947’s Ride the Pink Horse is an obscure noir, but a quintessential one, in our opinion. If many noirs feature embittered World War II vets as their anti-heroes, Robert Montgomery’s Lucky Gagin is the bitterest of them all. He arrives in a New Mexico border town on a quest to avenge the death of a friend. The plot is thin—or perhaps stripped down would be a better description—but Robert Montgomery’s atmospheric direction makes up for that. Like a lot of mid-century films featuring ethnic characters, the most important one is played by a white actor (Wanda Hendrix, in a coating of what looks like brown shoe polish). It's racist, for sure, but within the universe of the film Lucky Gagin sees everyone around him only as obstacles or allies—i.e., equals within his own distinct worldview. So that makes up for it. Or maybe not. In any case, we think Ride the Pink Horse is worth a look. Fourteen more posters below.
, Le Salaire de la peur
, Le crime était presque parfait
, Dial M. for Murder
, L’Etreinte du passé
, Out of the Past
, Le corbeau
, Les filles du service secret
, Et tournent les chevaux de bois
, Ride the Pink Horse
, Les forbans de la nuit
, Night and the City
, Un condamné a mort s’est échappé
, Nous sommes tous des assassins
, À 23 pas du mystère
, 23 Paces to Baker Street
, Le coup de l’escalier
, Key Largo
, 13 Rue de Madelaine
, John Huston
, Andre Cayatte
, Alfred Hitchcock
, Henri-Georges Clouzot
, Robert Bresson
, Ava Gardner
, Fred MacMurray
, Van Johnson
, Vera Miles
, Harry Belafonte
, Shelley Winters
, Robert Montgomery
, Wanda Hendrix
, Rita Hayworth
, Glenn Ford
, Yves Montand
, Grace Kelly
, Ray Milland
, Robert Mitchum
, Jane Greer
, Humphrey Bogart
, Lauren Bacall
, Edward G. Robinson
, poster art
, film noir
Sixty-three years ago today Rita Hayworth electrified as the archetypal femme fatale.
Gilda is a film that appears on every list of top ten noirs we’ve ever seen, and still it is impossible to overstate how great the movie is. Rita Hayworth had acted in more than a dozen features before this one, but she was a revelation here. Her husband steps into her bedroom saying, “Gilda, are you decent?” And she appears with a hairflip and a wicked smile, saying, “Me?” Right away you know you’re in for a ride. You know this is a woman who is never decent. Something about the blazing eyes seems to promise unimaginable carnal adventures. She stands backlit in a nearly sheer shirt that shows the silhouettes of her breasts. After a song and dance routine she allows a stranger onstage to try and zip her out of her strapless black dress. At one point, about to ride off into the night with a suitor, she says, “Haven’t you heard, Gabe? If I’d been a ranch they’d have named me the Bar Nothing.” All this just to drive poor Glenn Ford mad with jealousy. Yes, Gilda is a femme fatale for the ages, and Gilda is a must-see piece of American cinema.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
1953—Watson and Crick Unravel DNA
American biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick tell their friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. The formal announcement takes place in April following publication in Nature magazine. In 1968, Watson writes The Double Helix, a non-fiction account of not only the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the work.
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
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