Exploring Noir – Chandler on Noir

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Writing in 1947 to the producer of Double Indemnity (1944) – which Raymond Chandler co-wrote – Chandler asserts his belief that film noir (a term coined after this letter, Chandler uses the vague term “mystery story”) is a style or stylistic mood rather than a form of film or literature based on common narrative elements. Film noir is a genre of film whose essential features are predominantly visual and stylistic. Chandler writes:

 

Back in 1943 when we were writing Double Indemnity you told me that an effective motion picture could not be made of a detective or mystery story for the reason that the high point is the revelation of the murderer and that only happens in the last minute of the picture. Events proved you wrong, for almost immediately the mystery trend started, [referring to film noir] and there is no question but that Double Indemnity started it… The thing that made the mystery effective on the screen already existed on paper, but you somehow did not realize just where the values lay. It is implicit in my theory of mystery theory writing that the mystery and the solution of the mystery are only what I call “the olive in the martini”, and the really good mystery is one you would read even if you knew somebody had torn out the last chapter. (1.)

 

1. Raymond Chandler in Alain Silver and James Ursini, Film Noir Reader 2, New York: First Limelight Editions, (1999), p. 4.

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

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