Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 02:29:30 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: Film Noir; Hoosier; O.K. sign; Gay Life
"Where did the vogue use of this word...have its origin? The earliest use
found so far of _film noir_ in the O.E.D. is from a 1958 review in The
Spectator about a play that 'tries to be a parody of a _film noir_.' (That
can't be the coinage; the Lex Irreg who sends in a previous citation gets a
black look in print here.)"
--William Safire, "Film Noir Is My Bete Noir," Sunday New York Times
Magazine, 5 October 1997.
I'll take Fred Shapiro's suggestion and be perfectly calm about this.
The first place to look, obviously, would be in FILM NOIR: AN
ENCYCLOPEDIC REFERENCE TO THE AMERICAN STYLE. The book is edited by Alain
Silver and Elizabeth Ward. It was first published in 1979 (18 years ago),
the second edition came out in 1980 (17 years ago), and the third edition
came out in 1992 (five years ago). Many libraries must have it.
There in the introduction, on page one (I'm remaining calm):
To begin with, it may seem strange for a group of films indigenously
American to be identified by a French term. This is simply because French
critics were the first to discern particular aspects in a number of American
productions initially released in France after World War II. They also
noticed a thematic resemblance between these motion pictures and certain
novels published under the generic title of "Serie Noire." "Serie Noire" and
its later publishing competitior, "Fleuve Noire" use the French word for
"black" to designate a type of detective fiction. As it happens, the
majority of the "Serie Noire" titles were translations of American novels and
featured the work of such authors as Hammett, Chandler, James M. Cain, and
Horace McCoy. The association between such films as _Double Indemnity_,
_Murder My Sweet_, or _The Postman Always Rings Twice_ and the "Serie Noire"
novels--which was discussed in a typical article in 1946 under the title:
"Americans also make 'noir' films"(1)--was all the more apparent because such
films were adapted from, and occasionally by, authors who figured prominently
in the "Serie Noire" catalogue.
(1) Jean Pierre Chartier, _La Revue du Cinema_, V. I, no. 3 (November
1946). The actual invention of the term "film noir" is attributed to
cineaste Nino Frank earlier in 1946.
How difficult was that??
How long did that take us--half a minute??
Even a computer title search would turn up Borde and Chaumenton's
PANORAMA DU FILM NOIR AMERICAIN (1955).
I like solving things and I like to take credit for the things I
genuinely solve, but beating Safire and the OED by looking at page one of a