Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Ramble through Noir - Neo Noir... & The Stock Players


The Classic Noir Era was roughly 1940-41 to 1958-59 in most consensuses, give or take a year.

Victor Mature in "gateway noir"  I Wake Up Screaming
Total number of productions is estimated at approximately 490, again give or take a few since everyone's personal definition of Noir is subjective, including some films discarding others. Regardless let's ramble through Classic Noirs, Transitional Noirs, and True Neo Noirs and see how everything lays out.



Though Classic Noir Crime films were copious in numbers there were a finite number of major studios producing them, in descending order those studios are United Artists with 76, RKO with 64, Warner Brothers with 58, Columbia with 55, Universal with 48, 20th Century Fox with 46, MGM with 36 and Paramount with 33 all the rest mostly the "Poverty Row" studios had less than 20. These studios had stables of stars and various film production artists under contract. This produced a familiar company of actors in a familiar Noir "universe." There are some aficio-Noir-dos or noiristas that can identify the studio from which a film was produced just by looking at a few frames, without seeing any of the contract players. So we in effect had a pool of stars and supporting players who acted solely for the most part in Film Noir. The first two lists below reflect this.



After the major studios ceased "B" productions, some noirs continued to be made some by the remaining Poverty Row studios some by independant productions, these we can call the Transitional Noir. Finally, Neo Noirs from 1968 to the present are basically all one off independant productions, this results in films having to be put together with everything from scratch, resulting in directors having a wide variety of available actors and artists to choose from culminating in films with a plethora of styles and looks. This in turn has some of these films working better than others. Today there is no consistent homogeneous look, unless the Noirs are say, produced as a miniseries for television.



Here is a list of Classic Film Noir leads and the most prominent supporting actors and actresses followed in parentheses the number of films they appeared in.

Charles McGraw in The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Men

Humphrey Bogart (15)
Richard Conte (15)
Raymond Burr (13)
Edmund O'Brien (13)
Elisha Cook Jr. (12)
Zachery Scott (12)
Barry Sullivan (12)
Edward G. Robinson (11)
Robert Ryan (11)
Howard Duff (10)
Dan Duryea (10)
Charles McGraw (10)
George Sanders (10)
Henry Morgan (9)
George Raft (9)
Wallace Ford (9)
Thomas Gomez (9)
Arthur Kennedy (8)
John Garfield (8)
Robert Mitchum (8)
Sterling Hayden (8)
Richard Widmark (8)
William Bendix (8)
Lee J. Cobb (8)
Joseph Cotten (8)
Broderick Crawford (8)
John Hodiak (8)
John McIntire (8)
Steve Cochran (7)
William Conrad (7)
Dane Clark (7)
Alan Ladd (7)
Steven McNally (7)
Lloyd Nolan (7)
Peter Lorry (7)
Howard daSilva (7)
Ted de Corsia (7)
Sydney Greenstreet (7)
Glen Ford (7)
Paul Stewart (7)
Albert Decker (7)
Regis Toomey (7)
Ed Begley (7)
John Hoyt (7)
Neville Brand (7)

Note, very prominent Noir actors Dana Andrews, Dick Powell, Burt Lancaster, Richard Basehart, Leo G. Carroll, Brian Donlevy, John Ireland, Frank Lovejoy, Victor Mature, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Art Smith, William Tallman, Joseph Calleia, and quite a few others have appeared in 6 or less films. Some of these films however, are rated as some of the best Film Noir ever produced.



Here below Gloria Grahame is the list for the Queens Of Noir, female actresses with the most film noir under their hummmm, garter belts.

Gloria Grahame and Sterling Hayden in The Naked Alibi
The Women

Ida Lupino 16
Shelley Winters 11
Joan Crawford 10
Claire Trevor 10
Gloria Grahame 9
Barbara Stanwyck 9
Audrey Totter 9
Jan Sterling 8
Evelyn Keyes 7
Dorothy Malone 7
Lizabeth Scott 7
Nina Foch 6
Joan Fontaine 6
Agnes Moorehead 6
Marie Windsor 5
Linda Darnell 5
Rhonda Fleming 5
Susan Hayward 5
Elsa Lanchester 5
Ingrid Bergman 4
Mercedes McCambridge 4
Ann Sheridan 4
Gene Tierney 4
Joan Bennett 4
Anne Bancroft 4
Rita Hayworth 3
Belita 3
Marsha Hunt (3)
Lauren Bacall 3
Hillary Brooke 3
Peggie Castle 3
Jean Peters 3
Arlene Dahl 2
Barbara Payton 2
Wanda Hendrix 2

Beyond the year 1960 a lot of the studio contract actor either retired or disappeared into TV productions, but there are some Classic Noir actors appearing in what we should be calling Transitional Noirs filmed in both Color and Black & White.



Noir was transitioning/morphing into Neo Noir. With the end of studio "B" film production and the weakening of the Motion Picture Production Code, Classic Noir unraveled. Crime stories were syphoning off to TV.  Poverty Row, Independent, and other low budget film creators were taking more artistic liberties, and making films targeting certain demographics. So those Film Noir that went too far over the line depicting violence started getting classified as Horror, Thriller (even though they were just say, showing the effects of a gunshot wound, or dealing with weird or kinky serial killers, maniacs, and psychotics, etc.). Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) opened that tangent. Those that went too far depicting sexual, drug, torture, juvenile delinquency, etc., storylines and situations were now being lumped into, or classed as various Exploitation flicks, (even though they are relatively tame comparably to today's films). The noir-ish films that dealt with everything else, except Crime, concerning the human condition were labeled Dramas and Suspense. Those that tried new techniques, lenses, etc., were labeled Experimental films.

Janine Lenon in Transitional Noir Aroused (1966)
During this Transition a few Classic Noir actors and actresses continued making films. Glenn Ford is in Experiment in Terror (1962) and The Money Trap (1965) with Rita Hayworth BTW, and also in the Color Neo Noir Rage (1966). Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters were in The Young Savages (1961) a stylistic Juvenile Delinquent/Message Noir. Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962) gives Anthony Quinn and also Mickey Rooney another notch on their Noir CVs, Steve Cochran is in the almost forgotten The Beat Generation (1959) and he's also in another Transitional Noir Tell me In The Sunshine (1965). Lloyd Nolan is in Girl of the Night (1960). Other Classic Noir big name stars appeared in later Neo Noir's, Robert Mitchum, John Ireland, Charles McGraw, Elisha Cook Jr., Sterling Hayden, Sidney Poitier, Gary Merrill, and Burt Lancaster to name a few.

Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and  Jackie Gleason rt. in  Requiem For A Heavyweight
The above is one way to look at it. Another tack you can take concerning Noir though is this. The more Noirs I watch the more I'm questioning the 1940-1959 year brackets for Noir, (it's solely used because the original definers of Classic Noir were only looking at major studio productions).

Marilyn Monroe in Niagara (1953)
I'm beginning to come around to a different thought, and that is that Classic American Black & White Film Noir stretched from say 1940 to 1967-68 (67 being the last general use of B&W film in production) here below is the breakdown by year of Black & White Noirs (there may be a few more to add in, in that 1959 to 1968 stretch and remember that the 1959 cut off is oft sited possibly for the end of major studio production, this however ignores the independent and highly creative tangents that were explored and exploited in approximately forty-six Transitional Noir films identified currently between 1960 and 1968. Four of these forty-six "lost noirs" were shot in Color (see more about Color vs, Black & White in paragraphs below list).

Spencer Tracy and  Robert Ryan in Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
Classic Film Noir (productions by year) 

1940 (5)
1941 (11)
1942 (5)
1943 (5)
1944 (18)
1945 (22)
1946 (42)
1947 (53)
1948 (43)
1949 (52)

1950 (57) ------ The high water mark year
1951 (39)
1952 (26)
1953 (21)
1954 (26)
1955 (20)
1956 (19)
1957 (12)
1958 (7)
1959 (7) ........... the quite arbitrary cut off for Classic Noir

1960 (5)
1961 (5)
1962 (10)
1963 (1)
1964 (8)
1965 (9)
1966 (4)
1967 (3)
1968 (1)

I'm also thinking, actually playing with the idea now, that the Color Film Noirs that were produced within this 1940-1968 time frame were actually the first Neo Noirs (let's call these first phase neos or proto neos) so that the two sub genres/styles actually overlap. But until the Motion Picture Production Code weakened in the 1960s the only significant difference between Noir and Neo Noir was the use of color film. Post 1960 the Neo Noirs (second phase neos) both Color and Black & White began to drift away from predominantly crime centric stories into more previously taboo "dark" subject matter and employing various salacious visual depictions not possible before.

John Payne 2nd from lt and  Ted de Corsia seated center
The catalyst for this new alignment is when I read a quote about Neo Noir that said that if the filmmakers made a conscience decision to film in black and white when color was the norm then it was an artistic decision and not one of necessity for budget purposes, Same should go the other way if B&W was the norm for low budget B Noirs then it was an artistic decision to film it color.

The color film noir, Neo Noir, running with this description, have been around now almost 70 years (again, my disclaimer, there maybe a few more to be identified) but they (Neo Noir) as a whole really up ticked in three decades, in the 70s (with 23), the 80s (with 17) and the 1990's (with 38) there was a dip, a lull, in the 2000s only 13 productions) with no films in 2000 or between 2002-4 and currently I count 7 in the 2010s, and with only three years left in the decade, it's lean times in the U.S., again these are almost all American productions about 120 total, there may and probably are more foreign films to find. Also it must be pointed out that as the majority of mainstream films are now predominantly catering to a youth and global market in general the subject matter has been sanitized,  the story lines dumbed down and characters have been caricatured practically into cartoons. The new, creative and serious fountainhead for Noir is now actually cable television, and these productions should be considered now equal or even surpassing film (this however is an interesting subject to tackle for an entire different essay) :

Color Film Noir (Neo Noir)

1945 (1)
1947 (1)
1948 (1) ---------- 3

1953 (2)
1955 (3)
1956 (3)
1958 (1) ---------- 9

1966 (2)
1967 (2)................................... end of Black & White film production
1969 (1) ---------- 5

1970 (2)
1971 (4)
1972 (2)
1973 (3)
1974 (5)
1975 (5) * 1 foreign film
1976 (3)
1977 (2)
1978 (1)
1979 (0) ----------- 27

1980 (2)
1981 (2)
1982 (2)
1983 (1) * foreign film
1984 (3)
1985 (2)
1986 (1)
1987 (3)
1988 (0)
1989 (1) ----------- 17

1990 (6)
1991 (3) * 1 foreign film
1992 (3)
1993 (4)
1994 (5)
1995 (2)
1996 (4)
1997 (5)
1998 (4)
1999 (2) ------------38

2000 (0)
2001 (2)
2002 (0)
2003 (0)
2004 (0)
2005 (3) * 1 foreign film
2006 (2)
2007 (4)
2008 (0)
2009 (3) -------------14

2010 (1)
2011 (0)
2012 (2)
2013 (0)
2014 (1)
2015 (1)
2016 (2)
2017 (0) -------------7

Actors and actresses for Neo Noir, * note, the actors and actresses still living and active should provide that unique quality of cinematic memory, and would be a "no brainer" asset to any serious new Neo Noir film project. Before we get to the Neo Noir let's first examine the Transitional Noir stars:

The Transitional Noir  (years 1960-1968 *note some of these names usually span both Classic and Transitional Noir and possibly acted in a few Neo Noir also, for those that have credits in Classic Noir total with be the red number, those in Transitional white, those in Neo Noir green)

Lee Remick in Experiment In Terror (1962)


The Men

Lloyd Nolan (8,1) deceased
Herschel Bernardi (2, 1) deceased
Edmond O'Brien (12, 1) deceased
Bert Freed (6, 2) deceased
Phil Harvey (1, 1) ............................................*
Sid Melton (1, 1) deceased
Larry Tucker (2) deceased
Burt Lancaster (6, 1) deceased
Larry Gates (3) deceased
Telly Savalas (2) deceased
John Davis Chandler (2) deceased
Dennis Hopper (1, 1, 5) deceased
Gavin Muir (2, 1) deceased
Warren Beatty (1, 1)..........................................*
Karl Malden (6, 1) deceased
Robert Mitchum (8, 1, 4) deceased
Glenn Ford (7, 3, ) deceased
Frank Sinatra (2, 1) deceased
Corey Allen (3, 1) deceased
Warren Oates (2, 2) deceased
Jerome Cowan (7, 1) deceased
Anthony Quinn (3, 1,1) deceased
Mickey Rooney (3, 1) deceased
Nick Adams (1, 1) deceased
Kenneth Tobey  (5, 1) deceased
Skip Homeier (2, 1) deceased
Claude Rains (5, 1) deceased
James Gregory (3, 2) deceased
Rod Steiger (3, 3) deceased
Sterling Hayden (8, 1, 1) deceased
Jeffrey Hunter (1, 2) deceased
Dana Andrews (6, 1) deceased
Strother Martin (4, 2,) deceased
Gregory Peck (1, 1, 1) deceased
Walter Matthau (1, 1) deceased
Van Heflin (4, 1) deceased
Jack Palance (4, 1) deceased
Steve Cochran (10, 1) deceased
James Garner (1, 1) deceased
Rock Hudson (2, 1) deceased
Will Geer (2, 2) deceased
Jeff Corey (5, 2) deceased
John Randolph (2, 1) deceased
Khigh Dhiegh (2) deceased
Murray Hamilton (2) deceased
Paul Newman (2) deceased
Robert Wagner (1, 1) ........................................*
Robert Webber (1, 2) deceased
Juano Hernandez (2, 1) deceased
Raymond St. Jacques (2) deceased
Brock Peters (2) deceased
Marlon Brando (2, 2) deceased
E.G. Marshall (2. 1) deceased
Robert Blake (1, 1, 1) .......................................*
Scott Wilson (2) ................................................*
John Forsythe (2, 1) deceased
Paul Stewart (7, 1) deceased
Vaughn Taylor (4, 1) deceased
James Flavin (9, 1) deceased
Gary Merrill  (4, 1) deceased
Brian Keith (4, 1, 1) deceased
Anthony Franciosa (1, 0, 2) deceased
Slim Pickens (1, 1) deceased
Joe Santos (1, 1)  deceased
Vince Edwards (5, 0, 1) deceased
Joe Mantell (1, 1, 2) deceased
Gene Evans (9, 1) deceased
James Best (1, 1 ) deceased
Keenan Wynn (2, 1, 1) deceased
Charles McGraw (10, 0, 2) deceased
John Carradine (3, 0, 1) deceased
Royal Dano (1, 0, 2) deceased
Lawrence Tierney (7, 0, 2) deceased
Howard Duff (10, 0, 2) deceased
James Stewart (5, 0, 1) deceased
Harry Dean Stanton (1, 0, 5) deceased
Dean Stockwell (2, 0, 3) ................................*
Philip Ahn (2, 1) deceased
Warren Beatty (1, 3) ......................................*
Timothy Carey (5, 0, 2) deceased
Ben Gazzara (3) deceased
Seymour Cassel (1, 1) ...................................*
John Cassavetes (4, 0,1)

Steve Cochran and Shary Marshall  in Tell Me In The Sunlight (1965)
The Women

Anne Francis (2, 2) deceased
Kay Medford (2, 1) deceased
Barbara Baxley (3) deceased
Julie London (3, 1) deceased
Laraine Day (1, 1) deceased
Terry Moore (1, 1) .........................................*
Debra Paget (3, 1) ..........................................*
Juli Reding (3) ...............................................*
Shelley Winters (11, 2) deceased
Luana Anders (1, 1, 1)  deceased
Carroll Baker (1, 1) ........................................*
Janet Leigh (5, 2) deceased
Madame Spivy (3) deceased
Constance Towers (1, 2) ................................*
Beverly Garland (5, 1) deceased
Jeanette Nolan (2, 1) deceased
Jean Simmons (1, 1) deceased
Angela Lansbury (3) ......................................*
Lauren Bacall (3, 1) deceased
Julie Harris (2) deceased
Stella Stevens (2) ...........................................*
Ruby Dee (2, 1) .............................................*
Thelma Ritter (4, 1) deceased
Jan Sterling (6, 1) deceased
Lee Grant (2, 1, 1) .........................................*
Joanne Woodward (1, 1, 1) ............................*
Tuesday Weld (1, 0, 2) ...................................*
Julie Adams (1, 0, 2) ......................................*

Caroll Baker in Something Wild (1961)
Neo Noir (years 1968 - present) again remember this is a work in progress there may be and probably are some undiscovered Neo Noirs especially in the 68-1989 stretch. The total numbers of Neo Noir including the Transitional Noirs from 1960 to 2017 (includes both Color and Black & White Films) is approximately 155 excluding the Transitional Noir the total is 104.

Michael Wincott lt. and Gary Oldman rt. in Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)
The Men

Steve Buscemi (7)
Harry Dean Stanton (7) deceased
Mickey Rourke (7)
Stacey Keach (6)
Jack Nance (6) deceased
Dennis Hopper (5) deceased
M. Emmet Walsh (5)
Samuel L. Jackson (5)
Bill Pullman (4)
Robert Mitchum (4) deceased
Peter Boyle (4) deceased
Harvey Keitel (4)
Harrison Ford (4)
Michael Madsen (4)
Dan Hedaya (4)
Bruce Willis (4)
Robert Forster (4)
Nick Nolte (4)
Billy Bob Thornton (4)
Jeff Bridges (4)
Nicholas Cage (3)
Jim Metzler (3)
Val Kilmer (3)
Jack Nicholson (3)
Michael Caine (3)
Jeff Bridges (3)
Gene Hackman (3)
Harris Yulin (3)
Robert De Niro (3)
William Hurt (3)
Dennis Farina (3) deceased
Rutger Hauer (3)
John Turturro (3)
William Petersen (3)
Gary Oldman (3)
Woody Harrelson (3)
William H. Macy (3)
Philip Baker Hall (3)
Robert Blake (3)
John Goodman (3)
Marc Macaulay (3)
Gregg Henry (3)
Powers Boothe (3) deceased
Tommy Lee Jones (3)
Michael Shannon (3)
Ray Liotta (2)
Benicio Del Toro (2)
Robert Downey Jr. (2)
Josh Hartnett (2)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (2) deceased
Josh Brolin (2)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2)
Danny Glover (2)
Thomas Jane (2)
Tom Sizemore (2)
Elias Koteas (2)
Russell Crowe (2)
Balthazar Getty (2)
Timothy Carey (2) deceased
Julian Sands (2)
Morgan Freeman (2)
Peter Berg (2)
Warren Beatty (2)
Danny Glover (2)
Willem Dafoe (2)
Kyle MacLachlan (2)
Martin Sheen (2)
Clint Eastwood (2)
Samm-Art Williams (2)
Edward James Olmos (2)
Frederic Forrest (2)
James Caan (2)
Royal Dano (2) deceased
Howard Duff (2) deceased
Don Stroud (2)
Charles McGraw (2) deceased
Pepe Serna (2)
James Woods (2)
Gig Young (2) deceased
John Hillerman (2) deceased
Bo Hopkins (2) deceased
Joe Mantell (2) deceased
Dustin Hoffman (2)
Warren Oates (2) deceased
Anthony Franciosa (2) deceased
Richard Roundtree (2)
Chris Penn (2)
Kyle MacLachlan (2)
Joe Pesci (2)
J.T. Walsh (2) deceased
Kevin Anderson (2)
Ving Rhames (2)
William Devane (2)
James Gandolfini (2) deceased
James Garner (1) deceased
Kenneth Tobey (1) deceased
George Tyne (1) deceased
Rod Taylor (1) deceased
Theodore Bikel (1) deceased
William Smith (1)
Moses Gunn (1) deceased
Yaphet Kotto (1) deceased
Anthony Quinn (1) deceased
Steve McQueen (1) deceased
Ben Johnson (1) deceased
Al Lettieri (1) deceased
Slim Pickens (1) deceased
Bill Cosby (1)
Robert Culp (1) deceased
Elliott Gould (1)
Sterling Hayden (1) deceased
Chuck Connors (1) deceased
Vince Edwards (1) deceased
Neville Brand (1) deceased
Robert Webber (1) deceased
John Ireland (1) deceased
Giancarlo Giannini (1)
John Carradine (1) deceased
Elisha Cook Jr. (1) deceased
Roy Scheider (1) deceased
John Cassavetes (1) deceased


Kathleen Turner and John Hurt in Body Heat (1981)
The Women 

Frances McDormand (4)
Melanie Griffith (4)
Joanna Cassidy (4)
Rosanna Arquette (4)
Isabella Rossellini (4)
Jennifer Connelly (4)
Sheryl Lee (4)
Gina Gershon (4)
Shirley Stoler (3) deceased
Charlotte Rampling (3)
Sylvia Miles (3)
Kathleen Turner (3)
Linda Fiorentino (3)
Laura Dern (3)
Ellen Barkin (3)
Grace Zabriskie (3)
Jessica Alba (3)
Susan Tyrell (3) deceased
Tuesday Weld (2)
Candy Clark (2)
Nina van Pallandt (2)
Madeleine Stowe (2)
Elisabeth Shue (2)
Patricia Arquette (2)
Brittany Murphy (2) deceased
Linda Haynes (2)
Jodie Foster (2)
Virginia Madsen (2)
Theresa Russell (2)
Juliette Lewis (2)
Suzy Kendall (1)
Ali MacGraw (1)
Britt Ekland (1)
Isela Vega (1)
Faye Dunaway (1)
Valerie Perrine (1)
Joanne Woodward (1)
Lena Olin (1)

Rosanna Arquette in The Wrong Man (1993)
Going by percentages during the Classic Noir Era the top two male leads were Humphrey Bogart and Richard Conte with 15 noir apiece. So 15 films / 490 Classic Noir equals a 00.031 or 3% the low ball number for quite a bit of stars was 6 films so 6 films / 490 Classic Noir is 00.012 or 1%.

Harry Dean Stanton in Paris Texas (1984)
The high end equivalent for male stars during the Neo Noir Era would then be 00.031 x 144 films which is  4.5 films. Looking at our list above Steve Buscemi, Harry Dean Stanton, Mickey Rourke, Stacey Keach, Jack Nance, Dennis Hopper, M. Emmet Walsh, and Samuel L. Jackson are comparatively well above the Classic Era percentage ratio, while Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Harvey Keitel, Harrison Ford, Michael Madsen, Dan Hedaya, Bruce Willis, Robert Forster, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, and Jeff Bridges are currently at Classic Era totals.

Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart (1987)
Classic Noir Era female  top stars were Ida Lupino with 16 and Shelley Winters with 11 respecively. Ida Lupino percentages out at 00.033, Shelley Winters at 00.022. The low ball number for Classic Female leads we'll cut off at 4 so 4 films /490 is 00.01.

Gina Gershon in This World Then The Fireworks (1997)
The high end equivalent for female leads would be .033 x144  or 5 films, during the Neo Noir Era from our list above Frances McDormand, Melanie Griffith, Joanna Cassidy, Rosanna Arquette, Isabella Rossellini, Jennifer Connelly, Sheryl Lee, and Gina Gershon all make the grade and have four films apiece one film below what would be Classic Era percentage levels.

Melanie Griffith in Mulholland Falls (1996)
It's difficult to get that elusive Noir quality, many films both original productions and remakes claim it, but few in fact can achieve it. Story and style factors are a must, get those correct and you're halfway there, add more bonus points if you reuse some Classic locations in geographic Noirsville, but populate your piece with just box office generating actors and actresses that are all wet behind the ear poseurs trying to act hardboiled and it falls apart. Any producer or director going for Neo Noir equivalent of Classic Era Noir cinematic memory would do well to consult the above lists and populate their films with at least a quarter to half of actors and actresses that have made a mark in Noir. With so few Neo Noirs produced there is a definite lack of sustainability for a Noir "universe."

John Hawkes in Too Late (2015)

* note refer back to this article as I will update it as I unearth new discoveries.

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