10 Things I Learned: Columbia Noir

We just launched the new Criterion Channel today, and we’re hitting the ground running with a lineup of outstanding film noirs produced by Columbia Pictures between the midforties and the early sixties, after the company had risen from its humble beginnings on Hollywood’s Poverty Row to become an important player in the studio system. Film noir has always been an amorphous term that defies precise definition, and you can see that in the wide range of approaches represented in this series: Gothic thrillers, hardboiled crime flicks, procedurals, and sparse works of minimalism with a distinctly European influence. Not every film has a fall guy, a femme fatale, or even a shadow-filled room with Venetian blinds, but all eleven of them share a bleak, cynical, almost paranoid outlook that undoubtedly speaks to the postwar era in which they were made. Watching the films in conversation with one another will allow viewers to see how noir manifests in a variety of different styles and forms. Here are a few other things I noticed and some interesting tidbits that I learned while watching the films and researching the series.


Kim Novak, best known for embodying the ultimate Hitchcock blonde in the role of Madeleine in Vertigo, made her first credited on-screen appearance in Richard Quine’s Pushover.

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