Tag Archives: Raymond Chandler

Veronica Lake: The “Peekaboo” Femme Fatale

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Veronica Lake 1945

Veronica Lake (November 14, 1922 – July 7, 1973) Peekaboo!

“I wasn’t a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.”

Veronica Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn. Her father was a German oiler, her mother an Irish widow. It seems that she was destined to become a femme fatale of the silver screen; as a young woman she was expelled from an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal. Later, when her family had moved to Miami, she developed a reputation in highschool as ‘the hot girl’ and was actually diagnosed as schizophrenic.

In 1938 she attended an acting school in Beverly Hills, small parts in several films got her noticed by director John Farrow (who was entranced by her peekaboo hairstyle) and led to a long-term agreement with Paramount.

She officially “brokeout” in I Wanted Wings (1941), and went on to consistently attract huge audiences to the films in which she starred. She’s best known for being paired onscreen with Alan Ladd (because he was so short for a leading man, few actresses were short enough to star opposite).

People argue that changing her hairstyle during WWII destroyed her career– but she was notoriously difficult to work with. Ms. Lake was known as ‘the bitch’ throughout Hollywood, and Joel McCrea (her co-star in Sullivan’s Travels) is quoted as saying “Life’s too short for two films with Veronica Lake.” Her career declined as she became a borderline alcoholic and more and more people refused to work with her.

In 1946, she again co-starred with Ladd in The Blue Dahlia– while filming, the screenplay author (and iconic noir crime fiction great) Raymond Chandler referred to her as “Moronica Lake.” Her popularity completely collapsed by the early ’50s and her career came to a close with her filing bankruptcy.

Veronica was married 4 times and had 4 children– After her third divorce she was a drifter in New York City and was arrested frequently (public drunkeness, disorderly conduct).

Lake died on July 7th, 1973 of hepatis and acute renal failure (due to her alcoholism).

She left a significant legacy in the world of film noir, and as a femme fatale her iconic hairstyle make her an essential component of noirwhale.com

Veronica Lake Femme Fatale

Peekaboo in Color

Veronica Lake Actress

Veronica in Color

Actress Veronica Lake

Veronica in Color

Veronica Lake I Wanted Wings

I Wanted Wings 1941

Femme Fatale Veronica Lake

Publicity Still

Veronica Lake Pilot

She had a pilot’s license, and flew from LA to NY.

Veronica Lake Portrait

up close

Veronica Lake Black and White

Light and shadow

Veronica Lake Shooshing

“SHhhhhhhh!”

Veronica Lake Fashion

the way the light hits this dress is otherworldly

Veronica Lake Ramrod 1947

Ramrod (1947)

Veronica Lake This Gun for Hire

This Gun For Hire (1942)

Veronica Lake Alan Ladd This Gun for Hire

with Alan Ladd, This Gun For Hire (1942)

Veronica Lake gif

(via terrymckays.tumblr.com)

*All Biographical Details from: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_Lake

*All Pictures (unless otherwise noted) from:

http://www.doctormacro.com

*Quote from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/veronica_lake.html

2 Comments

Filed under Femme Fatales

Noir Quotes | Raymond Chandler

Noir Quotes Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

 “I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.”

Raymond Chandler
Farewell My Lovely
1940

Noir Quotes Farewell My Lovely

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Leave a comment

Filed under Noir Quotes

Noir Crime Fiction | The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter

Noir Crime Fiction The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter

My Copy (Cover Art by Charles Pyle)

The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter is as ambitious a work of noir as any I’ve ever read. Presented as three separate novels, wrapped in the same binding, telling the story of a tortured author across decades. This daring undertaking is further complicated by his literary approach, channeling the prose styles of three noir fiction legends; Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson. With such an innovative narrative, I feel my normal style of review too clumsy an effort, especially when paired with the elegant depth and scope of Mr. Winter’s work. I’ve agonized over the correct approach, and decided to forgo my traditional noir definition run down; instead opting for a simpler book-by-book evaluation. Let it suffice to say that his books are indisputably noir, with each defining element meticulously observed. The Twenty-Year Death is the magnum opus of a noir-loving madman.

Book 1- Malniveau Prison

Pelleter shook his head, trying to soften his expression. “You never can tell. Later, afterwards, of course, and then you wonder if you always knew.” He considered his words. “Men are capable of anything.”

A small town in France in 1931, a dead body and a missing person– a classic noir opener to stage act one of the novel. Chief Inspector Pelleter, a cigar smoking veteran from the city, must expose the filthy underbelly of pristine Verargent while challenging shy citizens who like their secrets buried. A complex tapestry emerges, composed of Simenon-esque methodical stitchwork, and two seemingly unimportant side characters shift into focus; A boozing American author, Shem Rosenkrantz, and his very young French wife, Clotilde-ma-Fleur. Winter’s treatment of the narrative is impressive, his channeled Simenon convincing if not perfect.

“I’m just about finished with the case.”

She looked at him then, but it didn’t look as though she saw him. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It might not. But for the living, it’s all we can ever do.”

Ariel S. Winter Noir Author

Ariel S. Winter (via thelosangelesbeat.com)

Book 2- The Falling Star

I had been hired to babysit a paranoid prima donna, and I had ended up finding a dead woman cut almost to pieces. For some reason, I felt as though I hadn’t done a very good job.

Ten years pass, and Shem and his french wife (who now goes by Chloe Rose) have become permanent fixtures in Hollywood. He’s a quickly sinking author, now spending his evaporating talent writing for porn-rags, while living large on Chloe’s widespread fame as a golden-era film starlet. The narrator is another investigator, this time a private eye named Dennis Foster, hired to investigate claims that Chloe is being stalked. What he uncovers is a climate of corruption and scandal that too many who want him out of. Written in the metaphor heavy style of Raymond Chandler, even the plot feels like genuine imitation; Foster a carbon-copy of the incorruptible Phillip Marlowe. The Falling Star is an homage to powerful men in their prime, and how they become victims of their own success and desires. Trying themes of adultery, homosexuality, pornography, violence, and murder coalesce in a novel that feels straight from Chandler’s pen.

Gilplaine moved his mouth like he had just tasted something sour. “My men tell me you tried to bring a gun into my club.”
I shrugged. “I thought I might need it.”
“And what do you think now?”
“I was right.”

The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter

Shem Rosenkrantz by Charles Pyle (via edrants.com)

Book 3- Police at the Funeral

She faked shock, raising her hand to her mouth in the perfect oops pose. “I’m not that kind of girl,” she said, and then she made herself ugly by laughing.

Another ten years pass, and we’re nearing the only possible conclusion; the inevitable one that keeps us turning the pages and feeds the gloomy pit in our guts. 1951, and Shem Rosenkrantz is our narrator. He’s a picture of paranoia, on and off the wagon and bleeding from debt, a pattern that perpetually forces him into greater feats of lunacy. His deranged wife is now a shut-in at the Enoch White Clinic in California, but Shem’s back home in Calvert Maryland– attending to the will of his recently dead ex-wife Quinn, desperate for a piece of her inheritance. Forget the family- man slant–he’s brought along his prostitute girlfriend Vee, and you can bet her eye is on the dough while she’s working the week for the local mob boss. When Shem sees his son Joe for the first time in years, he realizes that he’s more desperate for his affection than anything else- a yearning that may not be fulfilled this late in his life. Act 3 in The Twenty-Year Death is the darkest tonally of the trio, and Shem’s pained narration is loaded with gravitas. I felt that Police at the Funeral was vaguely Brubaker-ian (new word anyone?)– we watch Shem make poor decision after poor decision, and his self destructive choices constrict all hope from the plot.

“All you care about is that somebody’s read your damn books. Well nobody has.”
She said that just to hurt me. And it worked every time. We were like a broken record, having the same fight over and over, and still each word squeezed me tighter and tighter.

Upon completing all three novels, the final product felt magnetic and beautiful– a torturous picture of a life destroyed. Police at the Funeral was my personal favorite, but Malniveau Prison and The Falling Star were essential to its construction. Each novel added to the last, strangely without feeling like sequels, each a self contained and wildly different narrative. Cheers to Mr. Winter on what is sure to be considered an instant noir fiction classic. He spent so much time imitating the prose stylings of different authors, I can’t wait to read his own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Noir Crime Fiction

Noir Quote of the Week # 6

Noir Quotes The Adventures of Philip Marlowe Radio Spirits Raymond Chandler

“Get this, and get it straight: crime is a sucker’s road and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison or the grave. There’s no other end—but they never learn.”
— Opening words from radio’s The Adventures of Philip Marlowe

Noir Quotes Raymond Chandler

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond Chandler

Leave a comment

Filed under Noir Quotes

Noir Crime Fiction | Killer in the Rain & The Big Sleep

Noir Crime Fiction The Big Sleep Pulp Cover

pulp cover

Raymond Chandler is heralded as one of the fathers of American noir crime fiction, and after reading some of his work I agree wholeheartedly. His prose is calculated and cool, confident in handling the taboo, and always on point with unique descriptions and phrasing. In January of 1935, Mr. Chandler published his first noir crime fiction story in the pulp magazine Black Mask. The story was called “Killer in the Rain.” Later he expanded and adapted the story for his first novel The Big Sleep. I recently read both works, and I was delighted by their caliber.

“You’re awfully tall,” she said. Then she giggled with secret merriment. Then she turned her body slowly and lithely, without lifting her feet. Her hands dropped limp at her sides. She tilted herself towards me on her toes. She fell straight back into my arms. I had to catch her or let her crack her head on the tessellated floor. I caught her under her arms and she went rubber-legged on me instantly. I had to hold her close to hold her up. When her head was against my chest she screwed it around and giggled at me. “You’re cute,” she giggled. “I’m cute too.” -pg-6

Noir Crime Fiction The Big Sleep Me

my copy from Amazon

Possibly the most rewarding aspect of reading both of these noir crime fiction tales one after another was seeing Raymond Chandler’s writing process in action. I’ve never had that opportunity with any author before, and it was so interesting to see which aspects of his story he kept and those that he cut.  There were certain descriptions that he kept verbatim, and others that he reworked and reworded to greater impact. Also, where there were plot points that were confusing or lack-luster he trimmed and polished to streamline the story. For instance, in “Killer in the Rain,” his main character (the private detective) was never given a name. In The Big Sleep, the same main character became his most famous, the P.I. Philip Marlowe.

Noir Crime Fiction The Big Sleep Vintage Cover

another vintage cover

The essential components of the story remain basically the same, yet he added an additional femme fatale to the noir crime fiction (2 is better than 1 I guess?). The main plot still revolves around a pornographer who is attempting to extort a wealthy gentlemen with a wild pair of daughters (Vivian Rutledge and Carmen Sternwood) by producing lude photos of the youngest. Phil Marlowe is brought into the case to protect the reputation of the family while simultaneously unraveling the web of lies that entangles them. Really great noir.

I agreed with Captain Gregory that Eddie Mars would have been very unlikely to involve himself in a double murder just because another man had gone to town with a blonde he was not even living with. It might have annoyed him, but business is business, and you have to hold your teeth clamped around Hollywood to keep from chewing on stray blondes.-pg. 128

Noir Crime Fiction The Big Sleep Humphrey Bogart Lauren Bacall

Film Noir : "The Big Sleep" : Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe & Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge

I would highly recommend both of these noir crime fiction tales, the pacing is dynamite, the characters memorable, and the plot tangled. A couple of things that are worth mentioning: Phil Marlowe is barely an Anti-Hero (per our noir definition). He is a model of honesty, loyalty, and self-control. In two scenes back-to-back, both of the wild daughters attempt to seduce him, and he denies them both. This refusal/denial of sexual urges was very akin to what I have previously discussed in The Maltese Falcon. If he were to succumb to their advances, he would be surrendering that power and control that makes him the masculine ideal. Also, this hits on the misogynist theme of noir crime fiction, because it is showing that the female gender is wicked and lacks self-control. It espouses the idea that women are only powerful when they can use sex to subdue a man. Intriguing stuff.

Image from : http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcclaverty/.

Image from : http://www.moviepostershop.com/the-big-sleep-movie-poster-9999/.

Image from : http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/movie-heaven-anthony-quinns-100-best-films-day-4-4021-1788393.html?action=Gallery&ino=20

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Noir Crime Fiction