Deadly is the Female, Doomed is the Underdog

Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell as Bowie Bowers and Keechie in "They Live by Night" (1949) directed by Nicholas Ray

'They Live by Night' pioneered a sub-genre labeled “love on the run” in later films like 'Gun Crazy', 'Bonnie and Clyde',
'Badlands', and Robert Altman’s 1974 remake of 'They Live By Night': 'Thieves Like Us'.

After much commercial success in the 1950s with such great films as 'Rebel Without a Cause' (James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Dennis Hopper) and 'Johnny Guitar' (Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge), Nicholas Ray increasingly became shut out of Hollywood in the late 1960s and 1970s due to his widely-panned sense of experimentation in such films as 'The Savage Innocents' and his Jesus of Nazareth biopic 'King of Kings', along with an immense addiction to drugs and alcohol that left him hospitalized after collapsing on set of '55 Days at Peking', Ray didn’t reemerge back into film until the mid-1970s with a small student driven art film.
That film, which would be his last before he succumbed to lung cancer in 1979, was 'We Can’t Go Home Again'. 'We Can’t Go Home Again' will be screening it’s newly restored version released by Oscilloscope at the New York Film Festival on October 2nd".
Source: www.soundonsight.org


Peggy Cummins as Annie Laurie Starr and John Dall as Barton Tare in "Gun Crazy" (1950) directed by Joseph H. Lewis

"All noir heroes have unhealthy compulsions and a nose for trouble, but none are as victimized by their impulses as John Dall in 1949's spectacularly lurid B-movie 'Gun Crazy'. Dall is cinema's most impassioned gun fetishist; his need to possess (and suggestively fondle) the weapon runs against his gentle nature, which forbids him from ever using it for its intended purpose.
This makes him easy prey for Peggy Cummins, an expert marksman and out-of-control bad girl who seduces him in a memorable sideshow shooting contest that's unseemly in its implied eroticism. The film's original title, 'Deadly Is The Female', could apply to any number of code-flouting noirs, but Cummins deserves the title:
Her lusty cries for action are a clarion call that Dall can't resist, even though he knows they'll lead him to damnation".


"It's fight night at Paradise City, the low-rent, small-town sweatbox in Robert Wise's underappreciated 1949 palooka gem 'The Set-Up', one of five sterling noirs collected from Warner Brothers' vault for a box set labeled Film Noir Classic Collection.
Still filling out the undercard at 35, well past a prime that wasn't so great to begin with, boxer Robert Ryan has had his latest bout scheduled after the Main Draw, when punch-drunk fans are likely to walk out or stick around just to boo.
Pit against a young comer more than 10 years his junior, Ryan is such an underdog that his own manager not only agrees to throw the fight, but doesn't bother to tell his fighter about the fix. If Ryan gets knocked out, he's the loser everyone expects. If he wins, he's an even bigger loser.

Though 'The Set-Up' may not be considered a noir by the strictest definition, Ryan's dilemma typifies the existential malaise unifying the genre, more so even than the single-source black-and-white lighting effects, the hard-bitten narration, the femme fatale, or other obvious signifiers.

In a postwar America where cynicism and disillusionment carry the day, small-timers like Ryan try to assert themselves as men, but they're rendered impotent by situations that prey on their weaknesses and rob them of leverage. The heroes in all five of the set's Warner noirs are turned into suckers, yanked around by desires and schemes that are doomed to bite them in the tail". Source: www.avclub.com


"Bob [Ryan] didn't want to be seen as a sentimental man, which he was" -'Requiem for a Heavyweight' playwright director Arvin Brown

"Although 'The Set-Up' had received substantial critical praise in America, its relegation to budget status lessened its general public recognition. Wise recalled having a conversation with director Billy Wilder concerning the irony in 'The Set-Up's reception in Europa and in the United States. "If 'The Set-Up' had been made in France or Italy and had come over here", Wilder told Wise "it would have been acclaimed to the heavens by the critics".

"The figures that Robert Ryan creates with such authority are all, in different ways, isolated; if their aloofnes is not due to some violent obsession, it conceals something else: the secret of failure, or personal unhappiness, or extreme discontent. It is this persisting inner quality of restlesness, of disturbance, that gives him his individuality". -Coronet magazine (article, 1963)
-from "Robert Ryan: A Biography and Critical Filmography" by Franklin Jarlett (1997)

Joan Bennett and Robert Ryan as Peggy and Scott in "The Woman on the Beach" (1947) directed by Jean Renoir

"The Woman on the Beach" is still a remarkable film, the only true noir that Renoir ever made, and one of the most economical and relentless examinations of a marriage in collapse ever filmed, along with Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 masterpiece 'Le M├ępris' (Contempt).

As Tod Butler, Bickford gives the most nuanced performance of his career, at once tender and yet dangerous,
while Robert Ryan brings an intensity to the role of Scott Burnett that is both haunting and achingly realistic.

Dan Duryea and Joan Bennett as Johnny Prince and Kitty March in "Scarlet Street" (1945) directed by Fritz Lang

Joan Bennett’s foredoomed femme fatale is essentially a reprise of her role in 'Scarlet Street', but in Woman on the Beach, she seems more tragic and human than in Lang’s much colder moral universe". Source: www.noiroftheweek.com