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Black Is the Night

Everything you ever wanted to know about film noir--OK, not everything.

Book Cover The term film noir gets tossed around quite a bit in the polyphonious public conversations about movies—it’s possible that its meaning has been diluted to mean anything that takes place at night that has the slightest hint of human mayhem.

Thus the publication of an updated Film Noir Encyclopedia (The Overlook Press), assembled by four film-history types—Robert Porfirio, Alain Silver, James Ursini, Elizabeth Ward—is a rewarding reminder of the nitty-gritty reality of that film style’s golden day, which included iconic Hollywood actors such as Humphrey Bogart (with or without Lauren Bacall), Peter Lorre, Edward G. Robinson, Robert Mitchum, John Garfield, Burt Lancaster, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and many more.

Almost 500 pages with nearly 600 photographs, this compendium aspires to be the definitive authority on classic film noir, a claim that no doubt will commence a literary squabble of no big import. The really good news, however, is that David Thomson’s The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is scheduled for a fifth edition later this year. Though it is difficult for me to accept, I realize that you may not know of Thomson, in which case I direct you to a recent essay he wrote honoring Lena Horne.

After you read it: see what I mean about Thomson?
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