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  • Writer's pictureSouth West Silents

Film Noir UK: Beginnings…

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

Co-Director James Harrison explains a new venture for South West Silents. Enter the world of 'Film Noir UK'.

Some might be surprised that South West Silents, an organisation dedicated to silent film, has decided to launch a new spinoff company called ‘Film Noir UK’. But why not?!

Out of the post silent era genres (although, I still question whether Silent Film or even Film Noir are actually genres) Film Noir and Silent Film very much work hand in hand. Directors, cinematographers and even stars influenced the later.

In fact, there are some perfect Film Noir titles which work with the world of Silent Film and via versa. Russell Rouse’s The Thief (1952) starring Ray Millard is a film with no dialogue whatsoever and it’s great fun. So fun in fact I am hoping to screen in in the next coming few months. And how many silent films give the look of Film Noir? A lot!

But this is very the starting block for us. So very much a beginning I guess… so what better way to start this beginning of a new film organisation with a film which was very much the beginning for many.

The 1941 film adaptation of Maltese Falcon was not only the directing debut of John Huston but also the beginning of the key persona of Humphrey Bogart. Yes, he had starred in Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra (1941), classed as the first true ‘Bogart film’ (co-written by John Huston mind you) but I always find that Maltese Falcon is the first ‘cool’ Bogart film. Who else could be able to say “Shoo her in, Effie darling, shoo her in!” while doing a roll your own. This is the first time we see the Bogart of future classics such as Casablanca (1942), To Have And Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), Dead Reckoning (1947) and Key Largo (1948) (also directed by Huston).

Maltese Falcon isn’t the first Film Noir mind you; Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) seems to plant the flag on that peak, but it is very hard to ignore the impact of Huston’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s serial/novel (the 3rd film adaptation by Warner Bros.) in 1941.

So, for this beginning, we would like to thank our good friends at Arnolfini, Watershed, Park Circus, Warner Brothers and Cinema Rediscovered for allowing us for this new jump.

As for our dedication to silent film, don’t worry! We have even more plans than ever on that front. But this is a new frontier we couldn’t ignore after so many years.

Our thanks as well to our advisory board not only for their patience but also for their guidance and suggestions for future programming; you will be happy to know that we have plenty of adventures to come. For now however do join us to not only to mark a beginning but also to celebrate 80 years of a true classic of Hollywood filmmaking.

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