Crime Films (Genres in American Cinema) by Thomas Leitch

By Thomas Leitch

Concentrating on ten motion pictures that span the diversity of the 20 th century, Thomas Leitch strains the transformation of 3 figures universal to all crime motion pictures: the felony, the sufferer and the avenger. He exhibits how the differences between them develop into blurred in the course of the process the century, reflecting and fostering a deep social ambivalence in the direction of crime and criminals. The felony, sufferer and avenger characters successfully map the transferring family members among subgenres (such because the erotic mystery and the police movie) in the better style of crime movie.

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Westlake’s caper novels about the comically frustrated thief John Dortmunder. Far more surprising than the rise of the caper film as an anatomy of noncriminal society or its leavening through the comedy of ineptness is the enlistment of crime films to promote family values. , which released Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll in 1956 despite the condemnation of the Legion of Decency. In the wake of the anticommunist witch-hunts of 1947 and 1950, however, calls for central control of the mass-entertainment media’s content remained strong, particularly when those media targeted children.

Crime films are about the continual breakdown and reestablishment of the borders among criminals, crime solvers, and victims. This paradox is at the heart of all crime films. Crime films operate by mediating between two powerful but blankly contradictory articles of faith: that the social order that every crime challenges is ultimately well-defined, stable, and justified in consigning different people to the mutually exclusive roles of lawbreakers, law enforcers, and the victims who are the audience’s natural identification figures; and that every audience member is not only a potential victim but a potential avenger and a potential criminal under the skin.

But Fran Striker and George W. Trendle’s Green Hornet and the A-1 Detective Agency, created by Carleton E. Morse for I Love a Mystery, were not far behind. America’s love affair with the detective hero continued, for better or worse, to be marked by its fascination with the dark side of human nature. Historical and Cultural Overview 5. The Hound of the Baskervilles: Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone as the bestloved Watson and Holmes of all. The Crisis in Hollywood Crime Through the 1930s, American mass culture had treated criminals and their culture predominantly as exotica, glamorizing both the criminal masterminds who cracked safes and controlled the traffic in illegal liquor and the detectives whose well-advertised eccentricities gave them a similarly exotic cachet.

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