The modern metropolis cannot be imagined without the automobile. Along with the skyscraper, teeming streets of humanity, and barely functioning decrepit mass transit, the automobile defines the noir city. Dark deeds, heists, police pursuits, escapes, betrayals, and death all happen in and around cars – the darker and wetter the streets the better to deliver justice or not. Wailing sirens, screeching tyres, and the crack of gunshots from and into car windows mark out the celestial territory of film noir.
4 thoughts on “Film Noir Motifs: The Automobile”
Wow, you again expand the boundaries of noir study with a breathtaking photo essay on the automobile and it’s crucial role in the noirish mise en scene. Fantastic!
Wonderful photo essay.
One of my favorite noir cars is the long, sinister black limousine that keeps pace with the speeding train in THE NARROW MARGIN. Director Richard Fleischer and editor Robert Swink engineer frequent cutaways to the car, as seen by the cop (Charles McGraw) who is transporting a mob witness. Every time McGraw glances from the window, that spooky boat of a car is there. McGraw knows it’s full of mob torpedoes–and he can’t do a thing about it.
Hey David. Thanks and a great heads up for The Narrow Margin! I had forgotten those scenes and also the scenes inside the car when cops took Marie Windsor to the train station.
Honorable mention to Cry Danger (1951) with the upside down bath tub Nash Amassador it had the first one piece curved windshield, enclosed front wheelwells and with coil spring suspension in front and back, “giving it the best ride in its class.” That bobs up and down like a boat. 😉