6-22 The Fascinating 1920s with Lauri Robinson

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Film Noir by Lynn Lovegreen

This may seem like an odd topic for me, so I’ll explain. My parents instilled in me a love of classic movies, including film noir. I grew up watching Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. It’s not too surprising film noir would eventually work its way into my writing.

My manuscripts about World War II in Alaska weren’t attracting agents and editors. I’m sure there were several reasons, but my conclusion is that some of it was bad timing; two of my main characters were not of my heritage, and while that would have been okay years ago, it is problematic now. In light of the #ownvoices movement, I decided I wasn’t the right person to write those stories. So I moved on, looking for a new project.  I ended up with a teen sleuth living in Anchorage, Alaska in 1941. And I discovered The Maltese Falcon was released that October! I am now immersed in film noir as I write this book.

Film noir originated in Europe. The American style of film noir started in the 1940s. It is defined by its dark themes and cinematic look dominated by shadows. Many film noir movies have hard-boiled detectives or disillusioned anti-heroes paired with femme fatales. Director John Huston created The Maltese Falcon from a Dashiell Hammett novel, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. (I think Lee Patrick, who played Effie the resourceful secretary, should get more credit than she usually does!) Film noir lists usually include Laura, Double Indemnity, Key Largo, To Have and Have Not, The Third Man, Sunset Boulevard, and D.O.A. Some include Citizen Kane, which has a film noir tone in its cinematography.

One of my favorite quotes is Lauren Bacall’s lines to Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not: “If you want me, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." I had a ceramic box and whistle referring to this in my study. Unfortunately, it fell off the shelf and broke during our recent earthquake. I couldn’t find all the pieces afterwards, but glued it back as well as I could. Life goes on, and film noir endures in our hearts and minds.

Lynn Lovegreen has lived in Alaska for fifty years. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in Alaska, a great place for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at www.lynnlovegreen.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


Judith Ashley said...

I've not seen a film noir movie in decades but in my memory, the setting, the lighting play an enormous role in them. Your new 1940's teen sleuth is an interesting concept, but then I loved Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. And what about Scoobie Doo? Teens are awesome people and make equally great characters in a story.

Sorry your WW2 stories didn't attract the interest you wanted. Those stories need to be told as memories of people who lived through that war and were raised right after that are aging and fading. So much of our history is no longer taught in some schools. Paraphrasing a truth: Without knowing our past, we are condemned to repeat it...

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Thanks, Judith. I hope others tell those stories and get them published. In the meantime. I'm enjoying my teen sleuth. And you're right--Nancy, Scoobie, and the others are so much fun!

Madelle Morgan said...

I so enjoyed your post, Lynn! I love film noir but somehow missed watching Laura, which stars a young Vincent Price. I will have to see if I can find it.

The photo of the broken ceramic dish is very poignant. While news footage showed the structural damage from Alaska's major earthquake, that is all repairable. Personal treasures can never be replaced. Stay safe.

Maggie Lynch said...

I too love film noir. In addition to the stories, I LOVE the lighting in those movies. That was when the cinematographer truly had to be a story teller too with the mood and the light, the closeups. There are some movies today that do that, but too few of them in my opinion. With full color and CGI, I think too many people rely on all the action and the color instead of setting the mood and lighting.

Love the teen sleuth idea. Are you aiming for the middle grade market or the YA market in your books? I've seen some aimed at middle grade but not YA. So it may be a nice hole to jump into. Best of luck with this.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Thanks, Madelle and Maggie. Yes, I recommend Laura, and lighting is one of the best parts of film noir. My book is going to be YA, I think. ;-)