Day 13 of Noirvember: The Dark Page

One of my most treasured movie-related books is The Dark Page, by Kevin Johnson. (And not just because its name is so similar to my film noir newsletter!) It’s an absolutely beautiful coffee table book that consists of full color pictures of novels on which film noir features were based, along with fascinating information about both the book and the resulting movie.

Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on this gorgeous tome and some of the many tidbits it contains.

Book: The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

Movie: The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), starring Zachary Scott, Peter Lorre, and Sidney Greenstreet

Ambler wanted to call his novel A Coffin for Dimitrios, but his publisher in the UK didn’t like the idea. “I never knew exactly why,” Ambler said in his autobiography. “But I have never found the second senses of higher authorities worth challenging unless one is prepared for a fight to the finish and to shed blood.”

Book: The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong

Movie: The Unsuspected (1947), starring Claude Rains, Joan Caufield, and Audrey Totter

The book’s author was born and raised in an iron-mining town called Vulcan, Michigan. She earned a degree from Barnard, then worked a secretary and then a fashion reporter. While raising her three children, she wrote stories, poems, and two Broadway plays before turning to detective novels. The Unsuspected was her fourth novel.

Book: The Brick Foxhole by Richard Brooks

Movie: Crossfire (1947), starring Robert Young, Robert Montgomery, and Robert Mitchum

The novel was about a group of Marines who murder a gay man. The character was changed to a Jewish man in the film. The film’s director, Edward Dmytryk, said that RKO producer Dore Schary didn’t want the picture made, but “he took all the credit for Crossfire after it was a success . . . he thought it was a very dangerous thing to make a picture about anti-Semitism.”

Book: High Sierra by W.R. Burnett

Movie: High Sierra (1941), starring Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, and Joan Leslie

Burnett was also the author of Little Caesar, which led to his job in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Warner Bros. bought the rights to High Sierra before it was even published. Burnett worked on the screenplay, along with a young John Huston, whose debut as a director was still a few months ahead of him.

Book: Kiss the Blood Off My Hands by Gerald Butler

Movie: Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948), starring Burt Lancaster, Joan Fontaine, and Robert Newton

The movie was directed by former pre-Code actor Norman Foster, who appeared in more than 40 films before switching career gears and becoming a director. He was married twice, first to Claudette Colbert, from 1928 to 1935, and then to Sally Blane, Loretta Young’s big sister, from 1937 to his death in 1976.

Book: The Pitfall by Jay Dratler

Movie: Pitfall (1948), starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, and Raymond Burr

The film’s director, Andre De Toth, once recounted that all of the film’s parts were cast except the “heavy,” a private dick named MacDonald. According to De Toth, he went back and forth with the studio until one afternoon when the casting agent visited his office carrying a briefcase full of photographs. When he opened the case, the pictures fell out onto the desk and the floor. “As he gathered them up, I noticed one on the floor right next to my foot,” De Toth said. “It was Raymond Burr, whom I had never seen before. And I said, ‘That’s him. That’s the one.’ And he got the part.”

Book: The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

Movie: The Big Clock (1948), starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, and Maureen O’Sullivan

The book’s author was born in Oak Park, Illinois. While poetry was his passion, he wrote pulp fiction and even pornography to earn money. He wrote eight novels; The Big Clock was his second. He earned about $60,000 on the book, but unfortunately, when it came to negotiating with Paramount for the film, he permanently signed away his rights.

Book: The Woman in Red by Anthony Gilbert

Movie: My Name is Julia Ross (1945), starring Nina Foch, George Macready, and Dame May Whitty

The author’s real name was Lucy Beatrice Malleson. She published her first mystery as Athnoy Gilbert, and for many years her true gender was kept a secret. The Woman in Red was a detective novel, featuring a detective named Arthur Crook. Crook was dropped from the film version, however.

Book: Tucker’s People by Ira Wolfert

Movie: Force of Evil (1948), starring John Garfield, Beatrice Pearson, and Thomas Gomez

After writing the screenplay for the boxing noir Body and Soul (1947), Abraham Polonsky was given the opportunity to direct this film. Both Polonsky and the film’s star, John Garfield, were blacklisted in 1951 after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Garfield died the year after the blacklisting and Polonsky did not write or direct again under his own name until 1969.

Check it out! You only owe it to yourself.

Book: Once Off Guard by J.H. Wallis

Movie: The Woman in the Window (1945), starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea

This film sticks in the craw of a number of film noir buffs (including me) because its ending shows that the entire proceedings were just a dream. Director Fritz Lang explained, “The Woman in the Window was too dark at first. So I used a cheap trick to change the ending, to make it upbeat. . . . Some critics ridiculed the dream ending, but they were wrong.”

If you get a chance, check out The Dark Page. You’ll love it.

And join me tomorrow for Day 14 of Noirvember!


~ by shadowsandsatin on November 13, 2017.

4 Responses to “Day 13 of Noirvember: The Dark Page”

  1. Damn! I had an idea for a book along (vaguely) similar lines. I’ll now have to think about whether my idea is sufficiently different from Johnson’s book. Oh, drat, drat and drat again.

    (I know, I should temper my language, but . . .)

    I thought the UK edn of the Ambler was called A Coffin for Dimitrios? I know that certainly the novel’s been published under the latter title, which I’ve always preferred.

  2. Wow, this is my kinda book. I checked the NYPL catalog and see that it’s in their collection along with The Dark Page II, which covers the years 1950-1965. Looking forward to both. Thanks for the hint.

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