Flynn Noir?

10 Feb

Did Errol ever star or appear in any Film Noir? A question, not a quiz. What do you think, Flynnmates?

And from the Flynnvestigative files of our man shangheinz, we have this mystere noir from The Lady from Shanghai.

— Tim


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  1. rswilltell

    February 10, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Tim; Yes. Now Errol Flynn’s first mystery “Footsteps In The Dark” (1941) but that was based on a mystery-comedy Broadway play in the spirit of MGM’s successful “Thin Man” films. You know a wealthy and attractive husband and wife who dabble in solving murder mysteries. His next “Cry Wolf” (1947) with Barbara Stanwyck was true ‘noir’ based on the Marjorie Carleton’s gothic, pulp mystery novel. “Mara Maru” (1952) is ‘adventure noir’ with all the ingredients listed above except at sea and the waterfront. One of the best ‘film noir’ examples is Errol Flynn’s next “The Big Boodle” (1957) based on Robert Sylvester’s pulp, noir novel “Havana Detective”! Finally Universal remade their black & white ‘film noir’ classic “Singapore” (1947) starring Ava Gardner (perhaps the queen of noir’ and Fred MacMurray, ten years later into Errol Flynn’s “Istanbul” (1957) in Technicolor (no longer the glorious three-strip process). Of course they changed the locale but it was ‘film noir’ none the less. Ralph Schiller

    • PW

      February 10, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      London calling! There is a very good book on ‘film noir’, called the Dictionary of Film Noir, that lists every genuine noir film and also contains a pretty definitive essay on the subject.
      You mention rightly the importance of cinematography, atmosphere, femme fatales being chosen over their ‘nice’ counterparts, heavy drinking and smoking, opaque lighting and a European director. (Surely tongue in cheek, that!)

      I would also add that the noir hero, like a great artist or poet, cannot fit into the world in which he has been placed, and is thus antagonistic to most forms of authority, choosing to ‘go it alone’.

      But the real essence of noir is fatalism. The hero cannot escape his fate and he knows it. In fact he seems almost to embrace it, starting with the ‘bad’ woman over the ‘good’, and then, ultimately, his own death.

      Double Indemnity (possibly the greatest American noir) is a fine example, but so too are Out of The Past and Angel Face. Both star Robert Mitchum, who was the perfect noir actor, with his almost depressive air of resignation. In both films, he rejects the ‘nice’ women on offer for the bad and mad ones (Jane Greer and Jean Simmons) knowing this will literally kill him. Indeed in both films, he ends up killing himself and them simultaneously.

      I would say that the only Flynn film that merits an ‘official’ entry as a noir is 1947’s Cry Wolf. Footsteps in the Dark was too light in every sense (incidentally, the Thin Man films were not noirs), and was made before Hollywood really got to grips with the concept, which was a very bleak one. Istanbul does not count. as it was in colour and too much of an ‘adventure’ . So were Mara Maru and The Big Boodle.

      Cry Wolf has most of the elements of noir. It is shot in black and white, much of the action takes place at night, it involves false identities, possibly stolen money, double crosses, insanity, suicide and the requisite ambiguous feelings that the hero has for the girl, and vice versa.

      It also stars the greatest noir actress of all time: Barbara Stanwyck. Just look at her noir pedigree – Double Indemnity (perhaps the greatest noir ever), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Sorry, Wrong Number, The File on Thelma Jordan, No Man of Her Own, The Lady Gambles, etc. (I strongly disagree that Ava Gardner was the queen of noir, or even a princess of noir – in fact that is utter balls. Early on in her career she provided the eye candy in a few noirs, but made her reputation as a star in big technicolour productions like Show Boat, Mogambo and The Barefoot Contessa.)

      Even so, Cry Wolf is a bit too facile to be a proper noir. You sense from the start that there will be a happy ending. So I would call it 3 parts noir and one part melodrama.

      However, let’s think out of the box. Errol’s other ‘noir’ type films, though they are rarely seen as such, are The Dawn Patrol (1938) and – in particular- Uncertain Glory (1944). They are fatalistic, cynical, shot mostly at night with murky black and white cinematography, show heavy drinking and smoking, and an almost suicidal impulse to die, realised by the death of Errol in the latter. They may lack a femme fatale, but in every other sense they are noirs.

      • rswilltell

        February 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm

        So Ava Gardner doesn’t even rate as a ‘film noir’ princess let alone queen? Bullocks!
        Ava Gardner’s credentials in ‘noir’ begin with ‘Whistle Stop’ (1946) with George Raft, followed by the haunting ‘The Killers’ (1946) with Burt Lancaster directed my the great Robert Siodmak! Back at her home studio MGM she co-stars in ‘The Bribe’ (1949) with Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, John Hodiak and Robert Taylor. The same year she makes ‘East Side, West Side’ (1949) with Barbara Stanywck (a worthy pretender to the throne) James Mason and Van Heflin. Her last is ‘My Forbidden Past’ (1949) at the best ‘noir’ studio in Hollywood, RKO with the true ‘noir king’ Robert Mitchum and Melvyn Douglas. I also add a few titles to Miss Stanwyck’s illustrious resume in ‘noir’. The western ‘noir’ ‘The Furies’ (1950) with John Huston, ‘Jeopardy’ (1953) with Ralph Meeker and Barry Sullivan, and the superb ‘western noir’ classic (in color) ‘The Violent Men’ (1955) with Glenn Ford and Edward G. Robinson! One of her worst films ever was the Warner Bros. ‘film noir’ ‘The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (1947) with Humphrey Bogart, a real stinker. Her best ‘film noir’ after the Billy Wilder classic is the suburb “Witness To Murder” (1954) with that wonderful George Sanders! In that one she witnesses George Sanders strangling a woman in the apartment building across the street. She calls the police and detective Gary Merrill is met by the suave, charming, disarming Sanders who convinces the cops the lady must be having nightmares. Then she is next on his list! It is available on DVD. The true queen of ‘film noir’ is none other than Jane Greer who starred in the finest ‘film noir’ of all, ‘Out Of the Past’ (1947) directed by the great Jacques Tourneur. In it she stole the entire film from Rober Mitchum and Kirk Douglas! Her other ‘noir’ films include the classic ‘They Won’t Believe Me’ (1947) with Robert Young and Susan Hayward, the western ‘noir’ “Station West” (1948) with detective Dick Powell and bad guy Raymond Burr, and “The Big Steal” (1949) directed by ‘noir’ master Donald Siegel and co-starring Bob Mitchum again. Long live the queen who even co-starred in the remake of ‘Out Of The Past’ in 1984 ‘Against All Odds’ looking as beguiling as ever! Ralph Schiller

  2. Gentleman Tim

    February 11, 2017 at 2:42 am

    What wonderful insight and scholarship, Ralph and PW. Thank you both!!


  3. shangheinz

    February 11, 2017 at 12:23 pm


    Whatta shame that Errol wasn`t allowed to step from the light into the shadow of Film Noir. He definitely had it in him to portrait an ambigous character, framed by fatal females and up to his neck in an alcohol soaked plot of murder and cover ups.

    • Gentleman Tim

      February 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Very illuminating, shadowheinz. Flynn would have shined very brightly in Noir.



      • PW

        February 11, 2017 at 6:17 pm

        That last gif is charming. Reminds me of the wonderful noir spoof, ‘My Favourite Brunette’ (1947) in which Bob Hope plays a baby photographer mistaken for a private eye. It’s full of cameos by stalwart noir actors like Alan Ladd and Peter Lorre, all sending themselves up delightfully. Then, when Hope’s character is about to go to the electric chair in San Quentin…..but I won’t spoil the end if you haven’t seen it!

        • Gentleman Tim

          February 12, 2017 at 5:07 am

          Yes, love those old movies with Bob Hope! Whenever I’m in San Diego, I go down to the harbor to watch his outdoor show for the troops. … Love, too, when he makes the crack about Errol in Road to Bali. The Englishman from Eltham springs eternal.



  4. timerider

    February 11, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Do tell RS! Thank you, PW and all for the research.
    Doesn’t Orson look great and so young!
    In this modern day Sin City comes to mind as a Noir style and type. The early Flynn flicks are very easy to watch and not so stark as in the super color that we all remember in Robin Hood. In some ways I like the acting and the motion of the early stuff.

    • The Zaca

      February 11, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Don’t forget Lauren Bacall – definitely a top rating Noir femme if there ever was one!

      If you want the ultimate Noir spoof I strongly recommend Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid – a montage of famous noir films with Martin dubbing in as if part of the original films. It’s a must see……..and funny!