A Noir Banquet: The Dark Page and The Dark Page II
The first thing to recommend these massive tomes is the catchy and inventive name (wink, wink)! But there’s so much more. Written by Kevin Johnson, The Dark Page and II are visually stunning compilations of the original works that inspired nearly 300 films noirs. As described in the author’s introduction, The Dark Page is “a book about books, a book about American film noir, and a book about the novelists, screenwriters, and directors that make up the fascinating and rarely discussed relationship between the two.” The Dark Page, published in 2007, focuses on films released from 1940 through 1949, and Dark Page II, published two years later, centers on 1950 through 1965.
Each write-up consists of a full-color, full page picture of the source book (including the original dust jacket!), accompanied by fascinating information about the book, the author and the film production. Take for example the book Murder in the Bud. The Dark Page informs us that the author, Phyllis Bottome, was a prolific English writer, political and social activist, and supporter of women’s suffrage. She was also the author of Private Worlds, adapted into the 1935 film of the same name starring Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer. We also learn that Murder in the Bud was made into the 1945 film noir Danger Signal, and that the film’s director, Robert Florey, also helmed the first Marx Brothers feature in 1929 and contributed to the script of Frankenstein (1931). Some of the many films noirs covered in the two volumes include They Live By Night, Crossfire, Mildred Pierce, The Maltese Falcon, Champion, Convicted, Gun Crazy, Odds Against Tomorrow, Clash By Night, and Touch of Evil. It’s a veritable noir banquet!
Johnson is a rare bookseller and, since 1996, owner of Royal Books, in Baltimore, Maryland. In a 2008 interview in the Baltimore City Paper, Johnson stated that there’s “nothing in this book about prices or how rare this is – it’s not spoken. I wanted it to be a book where people who didn’t care at all about book collecting, but loved the jacket design, would consider this a cool book.”
And cool it is. You can spend hours enjoying the pictures of the books alone, and even more time taking in the interesting and varied details that Johnson provides. I like to think that I have a way with words, but I can’t find enough accolades to describe these captivating volumes. They are an absolute treasure, and a must-have for any lover of film noir.
The Dark Page and The Dark Page II can be purchased at the Royal Books website, www.royalbooks.com, Amazon.com and other online booksellers