Indie Birds – Great Film Noir Directors of the 1940’s

For fans of the Film Noir genre, including myself, there is little doubt that the 1940’s produced a wealth of noir directed by many of the greatest film noir directors in the genres history. It was these early noir efforts that would take the genre well into the 1950’s.

The success of the following directors is not in any way limited to the 1940’s, or to film noir exclusively. Many started earlier, and / or continued with their director success for decades to come in numerous film genres.

They are listed alphabetically and I’m sure you will find some of your own favorites included. I will also suggest for viewing some of their most notable film noir for the decade.

 

Here are my favorites:

Edward Dmytryk – From studio messenger, to top director, to university professor, Dmytryk directed two of the more classic film noir titles of the 40’s. However, there was a black side to the directors career as he was one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals during the McCarthy era.

 

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Movie director Edward Dmytryk testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 1951. Dmytryk , who went to jail for refusing to answer questions before HUAC in 1947, admitted he was a member of the Communist Party briefly in 1944-45, but testified that he now considers the organization “treasonable.” (AP Photo)

Murder My Sweet – 1944
Crossfire – 1947

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Indie Birds

Alfred Hitchcock – A London import name name and films are familiar to everyone. A master of psychological thrillers, many of which are film noir, Hitchcock had a career that spanned over five decades approaching him the distinction of being considered one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.

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Alfred Hitchcock

Suspicion – 1941
Shadow of a Doubt – 1943
Spellbound – 1945

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Shadow of a Doubt

John Huston – The son of actor Walter Huston, John’s career as a director, actor, and screenwriter left a monumental impression on the motion picture industry. Huston was considered to be a rebel as well as an ardent supporter of human rights. Huston’s offscreen exploits garnered as much attention as his films.

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John Huston

The Maltese Falcon – 1941
Key Largo – 1948 (close to noir)

Key Largo

Key Largo

Fritz Lang – American filmmaking lucked out when Lang fled Germany and the Nazis (even leaving his wife behind) to Paris and unexpectedly to America in 1934. He directed films in America for over 20 years before a combination of factors – an economic declination for the film industry, his reputation for being hard to work with and abusive to actors ended his career on American soil.

Fritz Lang

1950s — Fritz Lang, Austrian-American film director and producer, wearing his habitual monocle. — Image by © Heinz-Juergen Goettert/dpa/Corbis

Moontide – 1942 (though uncredited)
Scarlet Street – 1945
The Woman in the Window – 1945

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window

Anatole Litvak – Also forced to flee Germany and the Nazis, Litvak went to the United Kingdom, and then France, before finally landing in the Hollywood in 1937. His work was at its best when directing taut and suspenseful crime / noir films.

Anatole Litvak

Anatole Litvak – Indie Birds

City for Conquest – 1940
Out of the Fog – 1941
Sorry Wrong Number – 1948

Out of the Fog

Out of the Fog

Nicholas Ray – During World War II, Ray worked on radio assistance with propaganda efforts. His first directorial work was for RKO Radio Pictures in 1949; however, Ray’s best contribution to film noir would come in the next decade.

Nicholas Ray

Nicholas Ray

Knock On Any Door – 1949

They Live by Night

They Live by Night

They Live by Night – 1949 (this film provided Ray’s directive debut, but was released later in the yesr).

Robert Siodmak – His early work was also in Germany, and like many others, was composed to leave with the rise of Nazism. Early success with B-movies provided the opportunity to direct bigger budget pictures. Siodmak’s contribution to noir during the 1940’s is very impressive.

Robert Siodmak

Killers, The (1946) | Pers: Burt Lancaster | Dir: Robert Siodmak | Ref: KIL004AC | Photo Credit: [ Universal / The Kobal Collection ] | Editorial use only related to cinema, television and personalities. Not for cover use, advertising or fictional works without specific prior agreement

Phantom Lady – 1944
Christmas Holiday – 1944 (Do not associate Christmas with noir? Try this.)
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry – 1945
The Spiral Staircase – 1945
The Killers – 1946
The Dark Mirror – 1946
Cry of the City – 1948
Criss Cross – 1949

The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase

Jacques Tourneur – Born in Paris, Jacques first began his American directing career for RKO horror movie legend Val Lewton. This early experience in the horror genre provided the basis for Tourneur’s command of mood and atmosphere, both essential in film noir.

Jacques Tourneur

Jacques Tourneur

Out of the Past – 1947
Berlin Express – 1948

Berlin Express

Berlin Express

Raoul Walsh – This Hollywood legend developed his skill as a front-line director during the silent screen era and would continue for over 50 years. In the 1930’s, Walsh would begin working for Warner Brothers where he was introduced to and would become a master director of both crime drama and film noir.

Raoul Walsh

Raoul Walsh

They Drive by Night – 1940
High Sierra – 1941
Pursued – 1947 (one of just a handful of Western noirs)
The Man I Love – 1947
White Heat – 1949

The Man I Love

The Man I Love

Orson Welles – Referred to as “boy genius’ for his work directing, co-writing, starring, and producing the classic Citizen Kane, Welles is thought by many to be one of the most creative figures in film history.

Orson Welles

Orson Welles

Journey Into Fear – 1943
Tomorrow Is Forever – 1946
The Stranger – 1946
The Lady From Shanghai – 1947
The Third Man – 1949

The Third Man

The Third Man

There they are my list of favorite film noir directors of the 1940’s. If you are a noir fan, or simply a movie fan, you owe it to yourself to see as many of these films as possible.

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