For fans of the Film Noir genre, including myself, there is little doubt that the 1940’s produced a wealth of noir directed by many of the greatest film noir directors in the genres history. It was these early noir efforts that would take the genre well into the 1950’s.
The success of the following directors is not in any way limited to the 1940’s, or to film noir exclusively. Many started earlier, and/or continued with their directorial success for decades to come in numerous film genres.
They are listed alphabetically and I’m sure you will find some of your own favorites included. I will also suggest for viewing some of their most notable film noir for the decade.
Here are my favorites:
Edward Dmytryk – From studio messenger, to top director, to university professor, Dmytryk directed two of the more classic film noir titles of the 40’s. However, there was a black side to the directors career as he was one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals during the McCarthy era.
Murder My Sweet – 1944
Crossfire – 1947
Alfred Hitchcock – A London import whose name and films are familiar to everyone. A master of psychological thrillers, many of which are film noir, Hitchcock had a career that spanned over five decades earning him the distinction of being considered one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.
Suspicion – 1941
Shadow of a Doubt – 1943
Spellbound – 1945
John Huston – The son of actor Walter Huston, John’s career as a director, actor, and screenwriter left a monumental impression on the motion picture industry. Huston was considered to be a rebel as well as an ardent supporter of human rights. Huston’s offscreen exploits garnered as much attention as his films.
The Maltese Falcon – 1941
Key Largo – 1948 (close to noir)
Fritz Lang – American filmmaking lucked out when Lang fled Germany and the Nazis (even leaving his wife behind) to Paris and eventually to America in 1934. He directed films in America for over 20 years before a combination of factors – an economic decline for the film industry, his reputation for being hard to work with and abusive to actors ended his career on American soil.
Moontide – 1942 (though uncredited)
Scarlet Street – 1945
The Woman in the Window – 1945
Anatole Litvak – Also forced to flee Germany and the Nazis, Litvak went to the United Kingdom, and then France, before finally landing in the Hollywood in 1937. His work was at its best when directing taut and suspenseful crime/noir films.
City for Conquest – 1940
Out of the Fog – 1941
Sorry Wrong Number – 1948
Nicholas Ray – During World War II, Ray worked on radio assisting with propaganda efforts. His first directorial work was for RKO Radio Pictures in 1949; however, Ray’s best contribution to film noir would come in the next decade.
Knock On Any Door – 1949
They Live by Night – 1949 (this film provided Ray’s directorial debut, but was released later in the yesr).
Robert Siodmak – His early work was also in Germany, and like many others, was compelled to leave with the rise of Nazism. Early success with B-movies provided the opportunity to direct bigger budget pictures. Siodmak’s contribution to noir during the 1940’s is very impressive.
Phantom Lady – 1944
Christmas Holiday – 1944 (Don’t associate Christmas with noir? Try this.)
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry – 1945
The Spiral Staircase – 1945
The Killers – 1946
The Dark Mirror – 1946
Cry of the City – 1948
Criss Cross – 1949
Jacques Tourneur – Born in Paris, Jacques first began his American directing career for RKO horror movie legend Val Lewton. This early experience in the horror genre provided the basis for Tourneur’s command of mood and atmosphere, both essential in film noir.
Out of the Past – 1947
Berlin Express – 1948
Raoul Walsh – This Hollywood legend developed his skill as a front-line director during the silent screen era and would continue for over 50 years. In the 1930’s, Walsh would begin working for Warner Brothers where he was introduced to and would become a master director of both crime drama and film noir.
They Drive by Night – 1940
High Sierra – 1941
Pursued – 1947 (one of just a handful of Western noirs)
The Man I Love – 1947
White Heat – 1949
Orson Welles – Referred to as a “boy genius’ for his work directing, co-writing, starring, and producing the classic Citizen Kane, Welles is thought by many to be one of the most creative figures in film history.
Journey Into Fear – 1943
Tomorrow Is Forever – 1946
The Stranger – 1946
The Lady From Shanghai – 1947
The Third Man – 1949
There they are my list of favorite film noir directors of the 1940’s. If you are a noir fan, or simply a movie fan, you owe it to yourself to see as many of these films as possible.