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Noah Cross, Norma Desmond, Norman Bates, Harry Lime—these are a few of nearly 100 names that inhabit the mind of the narrator as he starts to compose short biographies of some of the most famous characters in the history of film noir. He sketches in whole lives, lives as intense as the dreams put up on the screen. The book begins to become a novel when the characters start to meet each other outside their respective films—as if they were real people with needs and passions. The names and faces are familiar to us—Jake Gittes from Chinatown, Laura Hunt and Waldo Lydecker from Laura, Rick and Ilsa from Casablanca—but is it true that Noah Cross and Norma Desmond were lovers in the 1920s, that she and Joe Gillis had a son who grew up to be Julian Kay in American Gigolo? The narrator is not merely the author, he has a mission to carry out—a lost family link to find, a thread to pull so that nearly all these disparate characters come together to form a kind of society. Ultimately this examination on how movies affect audiences—not only shaping perceptions and memories, but in some ways coming to stand in for them—can also be read as an unsettling examination of identity and the construction of self through the medium of narratives; or simply as a fascinating take on movie fandom.
Diedrichson lodged in his excellent memory and turned bad there: “So what’s in it for you, Mr. Keyes? You’re not an empty man. You’re not a machine. You go pale when I attack you. Your damned pipe goes out, and your mouth clamps down on it. So you caught our trick. You saved General Fidelity money. Does that satisfy you? Or tell me, Wilson Keyes, do you sometimes wonder what it’s like to step out of line, to give up the rules for someone like me? Don’t you wonder, Keyes, you liar? Know how
stories—in their magazine originals, or in the long-running television series—why, Rollo Martins, their author, has made our urbane Lime out of the green fruit. In fiction, he is tart but refreshing. Whereas, in life, he was poison. How are such tricks worked? It must be that we are fascinated by evil. The most horrible thing is how the world has turned out so close to Harry’s cynicism about the ghost of decency having been given up some time ago. “In these days, old man, nobody thinks in terms
him. He asked how she felt about her father. She didn’t know the answer. He thought it was a shame and said she could help America. The government needed to know her father’s contacts. There was a man in Rio de Janeiro, Alexander Sebastian, whom they suspected. As far as they could ascertain, she had met him once when she was a child. Would Alicia gain his confidence? Was that too much to ask? They went to Rio together. Devlin would kiss her and then, between kisses, urge her to get closer to
ragged Jersey shore, like civilization on the edge of swamp and wilderness. Bernstein’s parents were Austrian; his mother spoke no English; his father was a pawnbroker. Yet Bernstein became chairman of the board of Kane Enterprises, sitting in solitary splendor on top of the Inquirer Building after Kane had gone. Kane’s will left instructions for Bernstein to keep the use of the office and the title for as long as necessary. The tycoon had always trusted loyalty; it was the surest kind of
So as not to smell of fish, thinking that the place she comes from was so far from the sea. Does she know the instant when the man across the way, Lou Guarini, an elderly dandy with silver-plate hair and a cautious walk, looks up from his dark to watch this young woman at her toilet? He is old enough … old enough, anyway. What a strange, circuitous route it is that she went so far away and yet is now willing to have an old man spy on her in this intimate situation, a lover if he was twenty feet