The Forbidden Hollywood collections have been bringing us some of the greatest pre-code films to DVD for the first time for almost a decade. Originally released through the TCM Vault Collection, the last few editions have come from the Warner Archive Collection. Vol. 6 has been out for a few weeks now, but I was finally able to sit down and watch the four films included: The Wet Parade, Downstairs, Mandalay and Massacre. It’s a pretty great collection – all of films I hadn’t heard of before. Vol. 7 will be coming out shortly (and I will hopefully report on that collection as well). After the cut, I’ll briefly discuss the four films that are included in this excellent manufactured on demand set.
I thought it would be fitting to start Noirvember with a discussion of John Huston’s iconic adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Although film noir, a term coined in 1946 by French film critic Nino Frank, is often thought of as an post-war era in American cinema (many neo-noir and foreign films would later emulate these original films), this film has been cited as the first true American Film Noir. There’s a great debate about when the era starts and whether it counts as a genre (I don’t believe in genres period, so you can probably guess where I stand on that issue). A lot of the early crime films in the thirties and the silents made during German Expressionism all led to the style and topics seen in the noir films, but for me I think the films made during this era were distinctly full of post-war angst. That said, I’ll admit if The Maltese Falcon isn’t the first true noir, it’s definitely the premiere proto-noir. The film essentially launched Humphrey Bogart as a leading man, following his explosive earlier that year in Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra, in a performance that set the tone for all of noir’s anti-hero heroes to come. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, though it didn’t win any: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor Sydney Greenstreet and Best Picture. The other films nominated that year were: Blossoms in the Dust, Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Hold Back the Dawn, The Little Foxes, One Foot in Heaven, Sergeant York (co-written by John Huston), Suspicion and winner How Green Was My Valley.