Monday, August 01, 2016

Book Review: Into the Dark: The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950

INTO THE DARK: THE HIDDEN WORLD OF FILM NOIR, 1941-1950 is a beautiful new coffee table book by Mark A. Vieira.

I have a number of books by Vieira, and my perception is that he tends to write two different styles of books. Titles like CECIL B. DEMILLE: THE ART OF THE HOLLYWOOD EPIC and HARLOW IN HOLLYWOOD: THE BLONDE BOMBSHELL IN THE GLAMOUR CAPITAL, 1928-1937 (cowritten with Darrell Rooney) included a great deal of substantive, well-researched text in addition to the fabulous photos.

The author's MAJESTIC HOLLYWOOD: THE GREATEST FILMS OF 1939, which I reviewed in 2014, and INTO THE DARK are more of a "scrapbook" style which are lighter on text. Without fail, however, all Vieira's books are beautifully illustrated with top-quality photos.

INTO THE DARK is, in essence, a pictorial encyclopedia of the genre's first decade. There's a brief introduction to each year, followed by entries for numerous films. The typical entry is two to four pages in length. In addition to the photos, the book provides short review excerpts as well as quotes from filmmakers and contemporaneous reactions from theater owners.

The book should appeal to both long-time noir fans and those new to the genre. I read as many books on film noir as possible, and there were a great many photos included in the book which I don't recall seeing before. Some of the photos, for instance from films like THE LOCKET (1946) and SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947), are simply exquisite. And what a fantastic shot of Yvonne DeCarlo at the window in CRISS CROSS (1949), with Angels' Flight in the background!

I also found enjoyment in reading the quotes from reviews and filmmakers, a format which reminded me of the many Citadel film books in my collection. It's interesting to see how films which are now appreciated by so many of us were received upon release; reading the reviews, one starts to wonder if the New York Times' Bosley Crowther liked anything! These snippets provide an interesting "of the times" context for the movies; I particularly enjoyed reading the bits from the Los Angeles Times reported by Edwin Schallert, father of the late William Schallert.

As a great fan of film noir, I particularly appreciated that the book stretched beyond the best-known titles in the genre to include lesser-known favorites such as BLACK ANGEL (1946), DESPERATE (1947), and IMPACT (1949). Of course, as with any book like this there can be puzzling omissions; for instance, where is KISS OF DEATH (1947)?

While those newer to film noir will also want to read more detailed books such as Eddie Muller's DARK CITY: THE LOST WORLD OF FILM NOIR and Foster Hirsch's THE DARK SIDE OF THE SCREEN: FILM NOIR, INTO THE DARK will whet a new noir fan's appetite to see the included films and learn more about them. As a young film fan it was photo books like INTO THE DARK which helped spur my interest in movies, and I believe a hefty, well-produced book like this is of great value, deserving a spot on every noir fan's bookshelf.

Southern Californians have the opportunity to meet the author and have their book signed at a special night at UCLA this August 13th. UCLA will be hosting an evening of Nitrate Noir at the Billy Wilder Theater, showing LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) and NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947). I have great memories of seeing nitrate prints as a young filmgoer in the '70s and hope to be there that evening.

INTO THE DARK is a hardcover which is 336 pages, including index. The paper is glossy, with outstanding photo reproductions. The book includes a foreword by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller.

Thanks to Running Press for providing a review copy of this book.


Blogger Jandy Hardesty said...

I literally just finished Muller's Dark City book yesterday. Amazing. Maybe one of my top five favorite film-related books ever.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jandy! Isn't DARK CITY terrific? Delighted to hear you enjoyed it so well. Thanks for sharing your feedback!

Best wishes,

6:30 PM  
OpenID vienna said...

I too just finished reading it two days ago. A fine addition to the history of noir. The photo illustrations are of the highest quality as we have come to expect from Mr.Vieira. I hope to review it myself.

12:33 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad you enjoyed it too, Vienna! I'll look forward to your review. :)

Best wishes,

9:37 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I enjoyed your review! I did also wonder if Crowther liked any film noirs. LOL. Thank you so much for noting the connection between Edwin and William Schallert. I was wondering if they were related but neglected to look it up!

7:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much, Raquel! And glad I could fill in that Schallert background! :)

Best wishes,

9:02 AM  

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