Raymond Durgnat – “Paint it Black – The Family Tree of Film Noir’ (Laurie Dix)

Johnny Noir Film

In this short essay, Durgnat identifies the top eleven themes or plot synopses that noir stories tend to follow. A brief summary follows:


1. Crime as Social Criticism

This heading is the most self-explanatory, but also the most complicated. Although the main plot may revolve around a crime which is a reflection of the authors views of Society or the Economy or the Government, etc. at the time, it splits into several categories, each of which represent their own theme or criticism. They break down thus:

1a. Prohibition type Gangsterism: A typical criticism of corruption and exploitation.

1b. A Corrupt Penology: Which represents miscarriages of justice, etc.

1c. The Fight Game: Often representing Presidential candidacy, etc. A power play.

1d. Juvenile Delinquency: A comment on society, with the ‘Juveniles’ representing new society. Often representing morality versus sociology.


2. Gangsters

Gangsters and organised crime were a not uncommon theme…

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