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Noir Style: Natives – Not Émigrés


In Film Noir: Reflections in a Dark Mirror (Columbus Books Limited, 1988), Bruce Crowther entitles his third chapter as “The Origins of Film Noir: Emigre and Other Directors.” He says:

“The growth of fascism and the coming to power of Hitler generated tensions and fears in many areas of German life….Many film-makers felt compelled to leave Europe, among them several directors of considerable stature in their own land who were largely unknown to the rest of the world. They included William Dieterle, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer and Billy Wilder, all of whom made an impact on the development of film noir — notably Lang, Siodmak and Wilder.” (39)

Similarly, Andrew Spicer, in Film Noir (Pearson Education Limited, 2002), has a subsection, “Émigrés,” in his discussion of the “Cultural Influences” on film noir. He similarly says:

“The rise of Nazism and Hitler’s assumption of power made in 1933 served to intensify an already established exodus [of “German film-makers”]. These émigrés included directors: William Dieterle, [Fritz] Lang, Otto Preminger, [Robert] Siodmak and the writer-director Billy Wilder; [and] cinematographers: John Alton, Karl Freund and Rudolph Maté….” (13)

The table below has 69 US crime noirs that are cited in at least one of the following reference books. These films were released from 1940-1944. (Because 1940 is the first year for American film noir in both books, no film noirs from the 1930s are included.)

Michael F. Keaney, Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940-1959 (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003)

Spencer Selby, The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition (Sink Press, 2013)

For each film I have cited the author(s) who identify it as a film noir.

The table provides additional evidence that film noir didn’t arise in the United States because of émigrés to America from France or Central Europe. With very few exceptions, the directors and cinematographers responsible for the development of US film noir were were born in America; or, if they were born elsewhere, their film careers were substantially if not entirely in the US.

Four additional tables show the predominance of native British and American directors and cinematographers, respectively, to spy noirs. See the pages under Spy Noirs and the Origins of Film Noir.

Here are two examples that show how I cite information about the directors and cinematographers.

Anatole Litvak (Ukraine; US career: 1937)

Anatole Litvak was born in the Ukraine (using today’s name for his birth country) and his career in the US began in 1937.

William Wyler (France; US career)

William Wyler was born in France and his career was entirely in the US. 

When the literary source of a spy noir is a novel or a play, I only provide the title when it is different from the film’s title.

The information in the table about each film’s writer(s) shows how rarely a crime noir was adapted from a published hardboiled novel or story. Instead, stage plays or novels not associated with hardboiled fiction are more often the basis for crime noirs. Most frequently, crime noirs come from original screenplays or screenplays adapted from original, unpublished stories.







1940 Angels over Broadway — Keaney — Selby Ben Hecht (US) Lee Garmes (US) Ben Hecht (screenplay)
1940 City for Conquest — Keaney Anatole Litvak (Ukraine; US career: 1937) James Wong Howe (China; US career) John Wexley (screenplay); Aben Kandel (novel)
1940 Double Alibi — Selby Phil Rosen (US) Woody Bredell (US) Harold Buchman, Roy Chanslor & Charles Grayson (screenplay); Frederick C. Davis (story, “The Devil is Yellow”)
1940 House Across the Bay — Selby Archie Mayo (US) Merritt Gerstadt (US) Kathryn Scola (screenplay); Myles Connolly (story)
1940 The Letter — Keaney — Selby William Wyler (France; US career) Tony Gaudio (US) Howard Koch (screenplay); W. Somerset Maugham (novel)
1940 Rebecca — Keaney — Selby Alfred Hitchcock (Britain; US career: 1940) George Barnes (US) Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison (screenplay); Daphne Du Maurier (novel)
1940 Stranger on the Third Floor — Keaney — Selby Boris Ingster (Latvia; US career) Nicholas Musuraca (US) Frank Partos (screenplay & story)
1940 They Drive by Night — Keaney — Selby Raoul Walsh (US) Arthur Edeson (US) Jerry Wald & Richard Macaulay (screenplay); A.I. Bezzerides (novel, Long Haul)
1941 Among the Living — Keaney — Selby Stuart Heisler (US) Theodor Sparkuhl (Germany; US career: 1928) Lester Cole & Garrett Fort (screenplay); Brian Marlow & Lester Cole (story)
1941 Blues in the Night — Keaney — Selby Anatole Litvak (Ukraine; US career: 1937) Ernest Haller (US) Robert Rossen (screenplay); Edwin Gilbert (play)
1941 Citizen Kane — Keaney Orson Welles (US) Gregg Toland (US) Herman J. Mankiewicz & Orson Welles (screenplay)
1941 The Devil and Daniel Webster — Keaney — Selby William Dieterle (Germany; US career: 1931) Joe August (US) Dan Totheroh & Stephen Vincent Benet (screenplay); Stephen Vincent Benet (story)
1941 The Face Behind the Mask — Selby Robert Florey (France; US career) Franz Planer (Czech Republic; US career: 1938) Paul Jarrico & Allen Vincent (screenplay); Arthur Levinson (story); Thomas Edward O’Connel (play)
1941 Flight from Destiny — Selby Vincent Sherman (US) James Van Trees (US) Barry Trivers (screenplay); Anthony Berkeley (story)
1941 High Sierra — Keaney — Selby  Raoul Walsh (US)  Tony Gaudio (Italy; US career: 1906) John Huston & W.R. Burnett (screenplay); W.R. Burnett (novel)
1941 Highway West — Keaney — Selby William McGann (US) Ted McCord (US) Allen Rivkin, Charles Kenyon & Kenneth Garnet (screenplay); George Abbott & Leon Abrams (play)
1941 I Wake Up Screaming — Keaney — Selby H. Bruce Humberstone (US) Edward Cronjager (US) Dwight Taylor (screenplay); Steve Fisher (novel)
1941 Johnny Eager — Keaney — Selby Mervyn LeRoy (US) Harold Rosson (US) John Lee Mahin & James Edward Grant (screenplay); James Edward Grant (story)
1941 Ladies in Retirement — Keaney — Selby Charles Vidor (Hungary; US career) George Barnes (US) Garrett Fort & Reginald Denham (screenplay); Reginald Denham & Edward Percy (play)
1941 The Maltese Falcon — Keaney — Selby John Huston (US) Arthur Edeson (US) John Huston (screenplay); Dashiell Hammett (novel)
1941 Rage in Heaven — Keaney — Selby W. S. Van Dyke (US) Oliver Marsh (US) & George Folsey [uncredited] (US) Christopher Isherwood & Robert Thoeren (screenplay); Edward Chodorov (uncredited); James Hilton (novel)
1941 The Shanghai Gesture — Keaney — Selby Joseph Von Sternberg (Austria; US career) Paul Ivano (France; US career) Josef von Sternberg, Geza Herczeg & Jules Furthman (screenplay); John Colton (play)
1941 Suspicion — Keaney — Selby Alfred Hitchcock (Britain; US career: 1940) Harry Stradling (US) Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison & Alma Reville (screenplay); Anthony Berkeley, as Francis Iles (novel)
1941 A Woman’s Face — Keaney — Selby George Cukor (US) Robert Planck (US) Donald Ogden Stewart & Elliot Paul (screenplay); Francis de Croisset (play)
1942 The Big Shot — Selby Lewis Seiler (US) Sid Hickox (US) Bertram Millhauser, Abem Finkel & Daniel Fuchs (screenplay)
1942 Cat People — Keaney — Selby Jacques Tourneur (France; US career) Nicholas Musuraca (US) DeWitt Bodeen (screenplay)
1942 Crossroads — Keaney — Selby Jack Conway (US) Joseph Ruttenberg (Russia; US career) Guy Trosper (screenplay); Frederick Kohner (uncredited); John H. Kafka & Howard Emmett Rogers (story)
1942 Fingers at the Window — Selby Charles Lederer (US) Harry Stradling (US) Rose Caylor & Lawrence P. Bachmann (screenplay); Rose Caylor (story)
1942 A Gentleman After Dark — Selby Edwin L. Marin (US) Milton Krasner (US) Patterson McNutt & George Bruce (screenplay); Richard Washburn Child (story)
1942 The Glass Key — Keaney — Selby Stuart Heisler (US) Theodor Sparkahl (Germany; US career: 1928) Jonathan Latimer (screenplay); Dashiell Hammett (novel)
1942 Juke Girl — Selby Curtis Bernhardt (Germany; US career: 1939) Bert Glennon (US) A.I. Bezzerides (screenplay); Theodore Pratt (story)
1942 Lady Gangster — Keaney Robert Florey (France; US career) Arthur Todd (US) Anthony Coldeway (screenplay); Dorothy Mackaye & Carlton Miles (play)
1942 Moontide — Keaney — Selby Archie Mayo (US) & (Fritz Lang [uncredited[ (Germany; US career: 1934) Charles Clarke (US) John O’Hara (screenplay); Willard Robertson (novel)
1942 Murder in the Big House — Selby B. Reeves Eason (US) Ted McCord (US) Raymond L. Schrock (screenplay)
1942 Night in New Orleans — Selby William Clemens (US) Merritt Gerstadt (US) Jonathan Latimer (screenplay); James R. Langham (novel, Sing a Song of Homicide)
1942 Sealed Lips — Keaney — Selby George Waggner (US) Stanley Cortez (US) George Waggner (screenplay & story)
1942 Street of Chance — Keaney — Selby Jack Hively (US) Theodor Sparkuhl (Germany; US career: 1928) Garrett Fort (screenplay); Cornell Woolrich (novel, The Black Curtain)
1942 A Tragedy at Midnight — Keaney Joseph Santley (US) Ernest Miller (US) Isabel Dawn (screenplay); Hal Hudson & Sam Duncan (story)
1943 Calling Dr. Death — Selby Reginald Le Borg (Austria; US career) Virgil Miller (US) Edward Dean (screenplay)
1943 Flesh and Fantasy — Keaney Julien Duvivier (France; US career: 1938) Stanley Cortez (US) Ernest Pascal, Samuel Hoffenstein & Ellis St. Joseph (screenplay); Ellis St. Joseph, Oscar Wilde & László Vadnay (story)
1943 I Walked with a Zombie — Keaney — Selby Jacques Tourneur (France; US career) J. Roy Hunt (US) Curt Siodmak & Ardel Wray (screenplay); Inez Wallace (story); Charlotte Brontë (novel, uncredited)
1943 The Leopard Man — Keaney — Selby Jacques Tourneur (France; US career) Robert DeGrasse (US) Ardel Wray (screenplay); Cornell Woolrich (novel, Black Alibi)
1943 The Ox-Bow Incident — Keaney William A. Wellman (US) Arthur Miller (US) Lamar Trotti (screenplay); Walter Van Tilburg Clark (novel)
1943 The Seventh Victim — Keaney — Selby Mark Robson (Canada; US career) Nicholas Musuraca (US) Charles O’Neal & DeWitt Bodeen (screenplay)
1943 Shadow of a Doubt — Keaney — Selby Alfred Hitchcock (Britain; US career: 1940) Joseph Valentine (US) Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson & Alma Reville (screenplay); Gordon McDonnell (story)
1943 Whispering Footsteps — Keaney — Selby Howard Bretherton (US) Jack Marta (US) Dane Lussier & Gertrude Walker (screenplay); Gertrude Walker (story)
1944 Bluebeard — Keaney — Selby Edgar G. Ulmer (Czech Republic; US career) Jockey Feindell (US) & Eugen Shüfftan [uncredited] (Poland; US career) Pierre Gendron (screenplay); Arnold Lipp, as Arnold Phillips, & Werner H. Furst (story)
1944 Christmas Holiday — Keaney — Selby Robert Siodmak (Germany; US career: 1933) John Fulton (US) Herman J. Mankiewicz (screenplay); W. Somerset Maugham (novel)
1944 Curse of the Cat People — Keaney Gunther Von Fritsch (Croatia; US career) & Robert Wise [uncredited] (US) Nicholas Musuraca (US) DeWitt Bodeen (screenplay)
1944 Dark Waters — Keaney — Selby Andre de Toth (Hungary; US career: 1942) Archie Stout (US) Joan Harrison & Marian B. Cockrell (screenplay); John Huston (uncredited); Francis M. Cockrell & Marian B. Cockrell (story)
1944 Destiny — Keaney Reginald Le Borg (Austria; US career) & Julien Duvivier [uncredited] (France; US career: 1938) George Robinson (US) Roy Chanslor & Ernest Pascal (screenplay)
1944 Double Indemnity — Keaney — Selby Billy Wilder (Poland; US career: 1934) John Seitz (US) Billy Wilder & Raymond Chandler (screenplay); James M. Cain (novel)
1944 End of the Road — Selby George Blair (England; US career) William Bradford (US) Denison Clift & Gertrude Walker (screenplay); Alva Johnston (magazine article)
1944 Experiment Perilous — Keaney — Selby Jacques Tourneur (France; US career) Tony Gaudio (Italy; US career) Warren Duff (screenplay); Margaret Carpenter (novel)
1944 Gaslight — Keaney — Selby George Cukor (US) Joseph Ruttenberg (Russia; US career) John Van Druten, Walter Reisch & John L. Balderston (screenplay); Patrick Hamilton (play)
1944 Guest in the House — Keaney — Selby John Brahm (Germany; US career: 1937) Lee Garmes (US) Ketti Frings (screenplay); André De Toth (uncredited); Hagar Wilde & Dale Eunson (story)
1944 Lady in the Death House — Keaney — Selby Steve Sekely (Hungary; US career: 1939) Gus Peterson (US) Harry O. Hoyt (screenplay); Frederick C. Davis (story, “Meet the Executioner”)
1944 Laura — Keaney — Selby Otto Preminger (Ukraine; US career) Joseph LaShelle (US) Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein & Elizabeth Reinhardt (screenplay); Vera Caspary (novel)
1944 The Lodger — Keaney — Selby John Brahm (Germany; US career: 1937) Nicholas Musuraca (US) Barré Lyndon (screenplay); Marie Belloc Lowndes (novel)
1944 The Mark of the Whistler — Keaney — Selby William Castle (US) George Meehan (US) George Bricker (screenplay); Cornell Woolrich (story)
1944 The Missing Juror — Keaney — Selby Budd Boetticher (US) L. W. O’Connell (US) Charles O’Neal (screenplay); Leon Abrams & Richard Hill Wilkinson (story)
1944 Murder, My Sweet — Keaney — Selby Edward Dmytryk (Canada; US career) Harry Wild (US) John Paxton (screenplay); Raymond Chandler (novel, Farewell, My Lovely)
1944 Phantom Lady — Keaney — Selby Robert Siodmak (Germany; US career: 1933) Woody Bredell (US) Bernard C. Schoenfeld (screenplay); Cornell Woolrich, as William Irish (novel)
1944 Port of 40 Thieves — Selby John English (England; US career) Jack Marta (US) Dane Lussier (screenplay & story)
1944 Strangers in the Night — Selby Anthony Mann (US) Reggie Lanning (US) Bryant Ford & Paul Gangelin (screenplay); Philip MacDonald (story)
1944 The Suspect — Keaney — Selby Robert Siodmak (Germany; US career: 1933) Paul Ivano (France; US (career) Bertram Millhauser (screenplay); James Ronald (novel)
1944 When Strangers Marry — Keaney — Selby William Castle (US) Ira Morgan (US) Philip Yordan & Dennis J. Cooper (screenplay); George Moskov (story)
1945 The Whistler — Keaney — Selby William Castle (US) James S. Brown (US) Eric Taylor & J. Donald Wilson (screenplay)
1944 The Woman in the Window — Keaney — Selby Fritz Lang (Germany; US career: 1933) Milton Krasner (US) Nunnally Johnson (screenplay); J.H. Wallis (novel, Once Off Guard)


Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

Michael F. Keaney, Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940-1959, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003

Spencer Selby, The Worldwide Film Noir Tradition, Sink Press, 2013