The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Scarlet Street, and Out of the Past: Paradigm Cases

  • Nathaniel DeyoEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television book series (CRFT)


This chapter presents a comparative analysis of four films that have often been held up as paradigmatic of film noir: The Maltese Falcon (1941, often considered the first noir film), Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder 1944), Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang 1945), and Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur 1947). To have a stable base for comparison, in each film I focus on the scenes in which the male protagonist first meets the femme fatale figure. Working through each film/scene individually, I show that each uses this conventional story beat in very different ways and that their differences go beyond simply being variations on a single unifying theme. The chapter overall is a hinge between the conceptual/theoretical arguments of the introduction and the extended close readings of the remaining body chapters.


  1. Bazin, André. [1957] 1985. The Death of Humphrey Bogart. In Cahiers du Cinema: The 1950s, ed. Jim Hillier, 98–104. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Fujiwara, Chris. 1998. Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall. Jefferson: McFarland Press.Google Scholar
  3. Grossman, Julie. 2009. Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hirsch, Forster. 1981. Film Noir: The Dark Side of the Screen. New York: Da Capo Press.Google Scholar
  5. Klevan, Andrew. 2013. Barbara Stanwyck. London: British Film Institute.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Martin, Adrian. 2012. Guess-Work: Scarlet Street. Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism 3.
  7. Mulvey, Laura. 1975. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen 16 (3): 6–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. O’C Drury, M. 1973. The Danger of Words and Writing on Wittgenstein. New York: Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  9. Pye, Douglas. 1988. Seeing Glimpses: Fritz Lang’s The Blue Gardenia. CineAction.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1993. The Suppressive Narrative and Film Noir: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. In The Book of Film Noir, ed. Ian Cameron, 98–110. New York: Continuum Books.Google Scholar
  11. Ray, Robert B. 2008. The ABCs of Classic Hollywood. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

Personalised recommendations