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The Red and the Black

American Film Noir in the 1950s

A tour-de-force look at noir's forgotten decade

Critical wisdom has it that we said a long goodbye to film noir in the 1950s. Robert Miklitsch begs to differ. Pursuing leads down the back streets and alleyways of cultural history, The Red and the Black proposes that the received rise-and-fall narrative about the genre radically undervalues the formal and thematic complexity of '50s noir and the dynamic segue it effected between the spectacular expressionism of '40s noir and early, modernist neo-noir.

Mixing scholarship with a fan's devotion to the crooked roads of critique, Miklitsch autopsies marquee films like D.O.A., Niagara, and Kiss Me Deadly plus a number of lesser-known classics. Throughout, he addresses the social and technological factors that dealt deuce after deuce to the genre--its celebrated style threatened by new media and technologies such as TV and 3-D, color and widescreen, its born losers replaced like zombies by All-American heroes, the nation rocked by the red menace and nightmares of nuclear annihilation. But against all odds, the author argues, inventive filmmakers continued to make formally daring and socially compelling pictures that remain surprisingly, startlingly alive.

Cutting-edge and entertaining, The Red and the Black reconsiders a lost period in the history of American movies.


“In this recommended read, [Miklitsch] finds something fresh to say about a familiar film topic.”--Library Journal

"Highly Recommended."--Choice

"Miklitsch's extended mediation on 1950s noir will entertain and intrigue both film scholars and movie fans." --Journal of American Culture

"Possesses the potential to alter the entire field. An unimpeachable reference book to be dipped into at need and taken in toto as a substantial, sustained, and original interpretation of its subject. Miklitsch is profoundly (and charmingly) collegial, but his scrupulous tone should not obscure the challenge to received wisdom his book poses."--Ann Douglas, author of Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s

"Robert Miklitsch shows once again why he is one of the most interesting and knowledgeable critics of film noir. These readings of key '50s releases sparkle with insight, wit, and the enthusiasm of the committed cinephile."--R. Barton Palmer, author of Hollywood's Dark Cinema: The American Film Noir?


Robert Miklitsch is a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Ohio University. He is the editor of Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: On Classic Film Noir.

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