Film Noir Style – Leading Ladies

Leading Hollywood actresses performed in the 1940s and ‘50s film noir classic films. Often as ‘femme fatales’ leading men to ruin or as innocent victims caught in a desperate situation. The film noir movies excelled in style, fashion, and glamour, often set in high-end nightclubs with jazz singers.

I grew up watching film noir movies at the theater and on TV. I love the retro vibe, the fashion and décor, the jazz music, and the drama and intrigue of noir films. The leading A-list actors of the 1940s and ‘50s starred in these films, especially some of my favorites, such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Robert Mitchum, and Bette Davis; and directors Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and John Huston.

Film Noir is an American crime movie genre in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. It is about crime stories told from the criminal’s point of view. The films use black and white cinematography with dark shadows, symbolism, angle shots, twisted perspectives, and stylized scenes. Film noir expressed the doom, fatalism, and cynicism of the apocalyptic era of World War Two and the Cold War. Characters are helplessly trapped by forces beyond their control, paranoid, and are driven toward a tragic end. Heists that go wrong.

Stylish fashion and decor, night clubs, vintage cars, jazz and singers, dark alleys, and lonely cityscapes at night are all elements of the noir style.

Noir characters usually portray beaten down and desperate criminals who cannot escape their fate. Characters include con-men, mob bosses, hard-nosed police detectives and private eyes, femme fatale ladies who lead men to a tragic end, and innocent women who try to reform the wayward criminal hero.

Leading ladies include Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Gloria Graham, Janet Leigh, Ida Lupino, Marilyn Monroe, Yvonne DeCarlo, Joan Bennett, Susan Hayward, Rhonda Fleming, Collen Gray, Loretta Young, Lizabeth Scott, Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Tierney, Jan Sterling, Shelley Winters, Marie Windsor, Claire Trevor, and others.

Leading men in film noir movies included Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Alan Ladd, Glenn Ford, Dana Andrews, Burt Lancaster, Orson Welles, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Sterling Hayden, Richard Widmark, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Dan Duryea, Dick Powell, William Bendix, Lee J. Cobb, Kirk Douglas, Ray Milland, William Holden, Joseph Cotton, Broderick Crawford, Raymond Burr, John Garfield, Peter Lorre, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brian, and others.

Film noir leading directors included Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, Nichols Ray, and many others.

Film noir movies are often based on crime and pulp fiction novels, by such popular writers as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, Mickey Spillane, W.R. Burnett, James M. Cain, Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, W. Somerset Maugham, Cornell Woolrich, and others.

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Rita Hayworth (1918-1981), film noir: Gilda, The Lady From Shanghai

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Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), film noir: Double Indemnity, Clash By Night, Witness to Murder, Crime of Passion, Sorry Wrong Number, The File of Thelma Jordon, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

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Bette Davis (1908-1989), film noir: Beyond the Forest, The Letter, Petrified Forest, Marked Woman, Kid Galahad, Another Man’s Poison, Bordertown, Deception, Phone Call From a Stranger

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Ava Gardner (1922-2014), film noir: The Killers, The Bribe

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Ida Lupino (1918-1995), film noir: High Sierra, Road House, On Dangerous Ground, Beware My Lovely, The Big Knife, When the City Sleeps, Private Hell 36

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Grace Kelly (1929-1982), film noir: Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Fourteen Hours

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Veronica Lake (1922-2019), film noir: This Gun for Hire. The Blue Dahlia, The Glass Key, Saigon

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Lizabeth Scott (1922-2015), film noir: Dark City, Dead Reckoning, I Walk Alone, Pitfall, The Racket, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Too Late for Tears

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Jane Greer (1924-2001), film noir: Out of the Past, The Outfit, The Big Steal, They Won’t Believe Me

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Joan Crawford (1908-1977), film noir: Mildred Pierce, The Damned Don’t Cry, Possessed, Sudden Fear, Woman’s Face, Female on the Beach, Flamingo Road

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Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), film noir: Asphalt Jungle, Niagra, Clash by Night

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Lauren Bacall (1924-2014), film noir: The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, Key Largo

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Lana Turner (1921-1995), film noir: The Postman Always Rings Twice, They Won’t Forget, Portrait In Black, Johnny Eager

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Kim Novak (b. 1933) film noir: Vertigo, Deadline USA

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Gene Tierney (1920-2000), film noir: Laura, Night and the City, The Shanghai Gesture, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Leave Her to Heaven

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Yvonne DeCarlo (1922-2007), film noir: Criss Cross, Brute Force, This Gun For Hire

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Claire Trevor (1910-2000), film noir: Murder My Sweet, Key Largo, Crack-Up, Raw Deal, Born to Kill

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Janet Leigh (1927-2004), film noir: Psycho, Touch of Evil, The Manchurian Candidate, Act of Violence, Rogue Cop

Gloria Graham (1923-1981), film noir: The Big Heat, In a Lonely Place, Macao, Human Desire, Crossfire, Odds Against Tomorrow, Sudden Fear

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Colleen Gray (1922-2015), film noir: Nightmare Alley, The Killing, Kiss of Death, The Sleeping City, Kansas City Confidential

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Shelley Winters (1920-2006), film noir: The Night of the Hunter, Odds Against Tomorrow, Cry of the City, He Ran All the Way, The Gangster, A Double Life, The Big Knife, I Died a Thousand Times

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Jan Sterling (1921-2004), film noir: The Harder They Fall, Mystery Street, Appointment With Danger, Union Station, The Big Carnival, Caged


Bruce J. Wood
Bruce J. Wood
Bruce J. Wood, founder of AOIDE Bruce J. Wood has worked on Wall Street in business finance and strategy, and has written hundreds of finance business plans, strategic plans, economic feasibility studies, and economic impact studies. Bruce has lectured on creativity and strategic thinking, as well as worked on the development of numerous publishing, film, television, and performing arts projects, along with downtown revitalizations, using the arts as an economic catalyst. As an aficionado of music, art, and dance, Bruce is also a writer and an outdoor enthusiast. He has written poetry, blogs, articles, and many creative project concepts. He lives in the Metro Detroit area and enjoys writing poetry, backpacking, and ballroom dancing.

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