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Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir
Challenging conventional scholarship placing the origins of film noir in postwar Hollywood, Sheri Chinen Biesen finds the genre's roots firmly planted in the political, social, and material conditions of Hollywood during the war. After Pearl Harbor, America and Hollywood experienced a sharp cultural transformation that made horror, shock, and violence not only palatable bu ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published October 19th 2005 by Johns Hopkins University Press
(first published October 1st 2005)
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This book is the culmination of research in support of a dissertation, and reads like one, which worked for me because I need new information told more than once. If this was fiction, we'd be informed early on that the west coast was blacked out for the duration of the war, which puts the kibosh on beachfront location shooting at night and grandiose studio shooting that leaks out windows, and because the OWI (Office of War Information) trumped the Production Code, violence creeped into the movie ...more
Deserves highest marks for demonstrating that the Noir style actually originated pre-World War II and that the stylistics were heavily influenced by the economics, rationing, and censorship during war-time film production. Loses a star because some of the supporting research bogs down the prose and would have been better as footnotes or as an appendix.
Sheri (who has a great blog and has one of my favorite twitter accounts) chronicles how wartime Film Noir was affected by wartime conditions such as blackouts, perceived enemy invasions on the West Coast, Joseph Breen and the infamous Hays office who were dedicated to keeping Hollywood "clean" through censorship. The book covers Noir films from the attack on Pearl Harbor in the December of 1941 through to the end of the war, and discusses the impact beyond wartime. The key film at play in her th ...more