Fast Facts – film noir
Stacked heels and camera trickery were used during the filming of the 1946 version of The Big Sleep, to make Humphrey Bogart – who was shorter than female costars Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers – appear taller.
In the Coen’s noirish thriller Miller’s Crossing the line “Jesus, Tom” is said seven times, by four different characters.
According to the BFI, The Third Man is the “greatest British movie ever made”. Oddly, it also comes in at 57 in the American Film Institute’s “Top 100 American films”.
Because Orson Welles turned up two weeks late for the filming of The Third Man, men in “fat suits” had to be used as body doubles for several shots.
Cecil B DeMille was paid $10,000 and a brand new Cadillac for his cameo in Sunset Blvd. When Billy Wilder went back to him to film a necessary close-up, he demanded another $10,000.
There are three Maltese Falcon statuette props left in existence, and each is valued at over $1m – more than it cost Warner Bros to make the actual movie.
Pierce Patchett’s brothel in LA Confidential, in which the prostitutes are film star lookalikes, is based on a real place in 1940s Hollywood.
Noirish high school thriller Brick features a number of references to classic film noirs: the “long-short-long-short” car horn signal employed by the main character is stolen from Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
While filming Chinatown, Jack Nicholson often stalled shooting to watch basketball on a portable TV. Director Roman Polanski eventually became so enraged he smashed the gogglebox with a mop.
While often described as a genre, many claim film noir is more about the use of a visual style – i.e. low key lighting – and tropes such as “the femme fatale”, “the cynical detective” and a plot riddled with mystery and deception.
1940’s Stranger on the Third Floor, starring legendary noir character actor Peter Lorre, is widely regarded as the first ever film noir. Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) is often called the last of the classic noirs.
“Neo noir” movies that consciously echo the noir style include Body Heat (1981), Shattered (1991) and Basic Instinct (1992) – Sharon Stone’s sex vixen might be the most OTT femme fatale in cinema.
The Coen brothers often tip their hats to film noir while twisting its conventions: Fargo swaps a gritty urban setting for the supposedly wholesome rural Midwest, while The Big Lebowski casts a lazy stoner in the detective role.