American Noir and The Cold War
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      "Out of the Past" (1947)

Nation Books is proud to release the paperback edition of The Noir Forties: The American People from Victory to Cold War

Richard Lingeman is the longtime Senior Editor of The Nation and a biographer, historian, and satirist. In The Noir FortiesLingeman vividly recreates the momentous years between VJ Day in 1945 and the beginning of the Korean War in 1950 — America's postwar period, the "age of anxiety" characterized by the onset of the Red Scare and a nascent resistance to the growing Cold War consensus. The psychological hangover of World War II merged with burgeoning anti-communist paranoia and created a dark mood, a "postwar noir" phenomenon.

The Noir Forties saw the arrival of McCarthyism and a bleak distortion of American political culture. Lingeman traces the attitudes, hopes and fears, prejudices, and collective dreams and nightmares of the times, as reflected in the media, popular culture, political movements, opinion polls, and psychological studies. Lingeman has created a memorable portrait of what the American people lived, dreamed, and thought during the period that became the crucible in which the destiny of the next forty years was settled.

"Lingeman's discussion of films is never less than interesting, and he understands the paradox of a politically repressive period leading to some of the most inventive films ever made.... Along with movies, The Noir Forties contains fine summaries of other arts —Lingeman is especially good on the exuberant mishmash of populist forms of music that emerged after the war." —New York Times Book Review

"When I skimmed through the pages, I began to relax-and felt enchanted. It was another world. Lingeman evokes a mood, place, time, and a feeling that only someone who'd been there can. Incredible writing....Remarkable insight. Thank you for giving the world this gift." —Oliver Stone

"[A] richly textured and deeply felt book." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"This is an astonishing creation, a poignant, beautifully written history and memoir of a forgotten era. Richard Lingeman aptly calls it the Noir Forties, and his stylish prose blends the personal with delightful vignettes of American culture and politics. It is an elite brand of people's history. Lingeman's is a voice from the foxhole, soft-spoken and gentlemanly, but no less biting and acerbic than H.L. Mencken's." —Kai Bird

Watch this great clip from Double Indemnity. Lingeman notes:

[M]any films noir told the entire story through the hero's voiceover. This came into style with Double Indemnity, which is ingeniously told through flashbacks as Walter Neff dictates his confession. [Billy] Wilder said he chose voiceover because it was an efficient narrative device for feeding plot information to the audience. The suspense comes not from discovering whodunit but from learning how he will be caught and punished; instead of an intellectual puzzle like the standard murder mystery, we see the protagonists caught in a downward spiral driven by personal flaws. The audience becomes complicit in the crime; it feels sympathy for the narrator as an ordinary guy with recognizable, if unsavory, motives. The postwar crime film manages to flout conventional morality not by condoning murder but by suggesting that inside many an ordinary guy lurks a killer, just as many ordinary guys became soldier-killers during the war.

Check out this Q&A with Lingeman via The Nation: click here.

And you can watch many fantastic films noir on Turner Classic Movies: click here

Buy the book here.

Tags: america, film, lingeman, noir forties

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