REVIEW by Willard Manus

FILM NOIR READER 3 is the best in this continuing series if only because it explores its subject through interviews rather than essays. Edited by Robert Porfirio, Alain Silver and James Ursini, the book (subtitled INTERVIEWS WITH FILMMAKERS OF THE CLASSIC NOIR PERIOD) includes q & a sessions with such directors as Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Robert Wise and Samuel Fuller, and such producers as Dore Schary. Screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, cinematographer James Wong How, actresses Lizabeth Scott and Claire Trevor also contribute reminiscences and comments.

Though some of what's said in the book is self-serving puffery, that's
not the case with Mainwaring, who lashes out at one of his fellow-contributors, director Edward Dmytryk. Here is what Mainwaring (who died
in 1977) had to say about the director of two noir classics, "Murder, My
Sweet" and "Cornered."

"...Dymytrk is a miserable director...and he's a shit, anyway, because of the whole Hollywood Ten thing. He was a liar. He was one of the reasons I got in trouble. He came to me and asked for money, and I gave him quite a lot to take care of the wives of 'The Ten' who were in jail. Well, he later told the FBI all about this, and that was why they, the FBI, started following me around, just because of Dmytryk and the other directors I knew from RKO. I was there from 1944 to 1949, and many of those who were eventually blacklisted had come to my house: Joe Losey, John Barry, Cy Enfield."

Billy Wilder also weighs in with some uncensored observations. Here he
is on Raymond Chandler, whose private-eye novels inspired many a
film-noir writer and director.

"...Chandler was a weirdo...he was an ex-alcoholic, and he really hated me. He was not used to the kind of discipline, every morning whether you are in the mood or not; you are not waiting for the muses, you know, to come and kiss your lips, just write. By the time I was through with him, I think he had started nipping again. I drove him back to drinking. That's the only time we ever worked together. But he sure was an extraordinary man. Extraordinary talent."

Wilder on F. Scott Fitzgerald, another novelist struggling to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter:

"...I remember days at Paramount when we would have coffee every afternoon with him. He was burned out. He was just hopeless, you know,
and many of these novelists worked in movies with a sense of derision....They just did it for money. It was not their great love. It was like having sex with a 50-cent whore."

One of the masters of film noir, Samuel Fuller, even pooh- poohs the genre itself:

"When I was making these damned pictures, I never knew about film noir. If you had asked me about it then, I probably would have pointed to something like Bill Wellman's The Oxbow Incident, the best Western I ever saw and very much in the style of film noir....I don't care if it's a mystery story, a Western, or the story of Julius Caesar. To me, it's the emotion, the lies, the double-cross, whether it's Brutus doing it to Caesar or Bob Stack doing it to Robert Ryan (In the House of Bamboo) that defines what kind of drama it is."

Actress Lizabeth Scott, who starred in several noir movies, rejects the very label itself. "What you call film noir I call psychological drama....It reflects the fact that there are so many facets in human beings. And that's why I don't know if anyone else calls it psychological drama, but I do. At that time, to myself, it was psychological and dramatic, because it showed all these facets of human experience and conflict: that these women could be involved with their heart and yet could think with their minds."

(Limelight Editions, $22.50 ppbk.)