The Origins Of Film Noir

The noir films occurred in America during the war, and continued to be made during the forties and fifties, but it did not come out of nothing. The noirs were inspired both by literature and previous film history along with the sociohistory of the period it grew out of. In America in the thirties there was a literary tradition called hard-boiled novels. These were crime novels and so called pulp fiction, and very popular. The American hard-boiled fictions represented a completely different world and a different kind of detective than those found in english and earlier detective stories; both content and style were differentiated. This kind of fiction added a new tradition of realism to the detective fiction. The hero was as much an anti-hero, the action was taken down on the streets, it was violent, and the language was cut short and it was often marked by verbal wit. Instead of upper-class "detectives", we are now introduced to the proletarian tough guy detective that are walking the mean streets, and often he finds himself on the edge of law and crime. Contemporary America is described as an urban and industrialized area where people are in the hands of naturalistic drives. Many of these works were adapted to the screen, such as the works of Hammet, Chandler, Cain and McCoy to mention some, and many of the authors were hired by Hollywood as screenwriters. Obviously this hard-boiled fiction had a considerable influence on the film noirs.

Another thing that influenced the noir was the film traditions of German expressionism of the twenties and French poetic realism of the thirties. The German expressionism was a expressionistic and conventionalized film style, where the aesthetics were marked by distortions and exaggerations. It had a world wide influence and the filmmakers of America sought to integrate this popular stylistic style in their own movies.
The French poetic realism was a film style where poetic conventionalization were combined with realistic topics and milieus. Also the american gangster movies were an inspiration for the film noir. All of these movie styles have in common the description of a dark and fatalistic image of the world. This is something we find in the film noir as well. From these movements the film noir could gather inspiration, and alongside this, Hollywood received quite a lot of émigrés with roots in these movie milieus in Europe during the prewar years. The émigrés took jobs in different parts of the american movie industry, both as technicians and as directors. Thus they also made a contribution to the society and heritage that film noir emerged from.