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“Nothing You Can’t Fix”

Hardboiled Fiction’s Hollywood Makeover
  • Megan E. Abott
Chapter
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Abstract

The first image of the famed 1946 film version of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is of a hand-painted sign reading “Man Wanted.” When hobo Frank Chambers (John Garfield) takes the position to which the sign refers, lured in by the site of the luscious Cora (Lana Turner), he burns the sign. A man was wanted, and now he is there to do the job: eliminate the weak older man and sexually overpower the young wife. Of course, the question of who has ensnared whom—a question fundamental to much of film noir—persists through the entire film. Is the sign “Man Wanted” an expression of lack begging fulfillment, or is it a siren song? Is the tough vagabond Frank bringing a masculine promise to the Twin Oaks Tavern, or is he leaving behind the freedom of the road to be trapped in a doomed and dooming domesticity?

Keywords

White Woman Source Text Film Version Star Power Existential Solitariness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Foster Hirsch, The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir (San Diego: A. S. Barnes Co., 1981), 39. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Paul Schrader, “Notes on Film Noir,” in Film Noir Reader, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight Editions, 1996), 56. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    Janey Place and Lowell Peterson, “Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir” in Film Noir Reader, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight Editions, 1996), 65–68.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    James Naremore, More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  5. and J. P. Telotte, Voices in the Dark: The Narrative Patterns of Film Noir (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989),Google Scholar
  6. in addition to Main Silver and Elizabeth Ward’s exhaustive Film Noir: An Encyclopedia of the American Style (New York: Limelight Editions, 1996), offer useful discussions of the development of the term “film noir,” including discussions of Nino Frank’s coinage. Frank used the term in 1946 to compare particular American crime films to the novels published in France by Série Noire (which, not coincidentally, would later publish Chester Himes’s detective novels). Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton are crucial to the term’s mass usage, publishing Panorama du film noir américain in 1955.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    Janey Place, “Women in Film Noir” in Women in Film Noir, ed. E. Ann Kaplan (London: British Film Institute, 1978), 45. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Richard Martin, Mean Streets and Raging Bulls: The Legacy of Film Noir in Contemporary American Cinema (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997), 14.Google Scholar
  9. 29.
    Quoted in Ed Sikov, On Sunset Boulevard. The Life and Times of Billy Wilder (New York: Hyperion, 1998), 203. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  10. 40.
    Sylvia Harvey, “Woman’s Place: The Absent Family of Film Noir,” in Women in Film Noir, ed. E. Ann Kaplan (London: British Film Institute, 1978), 33. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  11. 45.
    Jonathan Buchsbaum, “Tame Wolves and Phoney Claims: Paranoia and Film Noir,” in The Book of Film Noir, ed. Ian Cameron (New York: Continuum, 1992), 94.Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    James Maxfield, The Fatal Woman: Sources of Male Anxiety in American Film Nair, 1941–1991 (Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), 40. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar

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© Megan E. Abott 2002

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