New York Noir (1945-1948)

Three films portray the city as a postwar Gotham with endless crime and intrigue.

New York was a frequent setting for films embracing the cinematic style that came to be defined as film noir. Starting with The House on 92nd Street, directors interwove documentary techniques into the storytelling, wanting to “film where it actually happened.” These films portrayed the city as a postwar Gotham with endless crime and intrigue.

Cry of the City

Robert Siodmak | U.S. | 1948 | 95m | English

Full-fledged noirist Robert Siodmak directs this gritty crime drama about two childhood best friends who take divergent paths: one becomes a cop (Victor Mature), and the other a cop-killer (Richard Conte). The killer must grapple with confessing to a murder he did not commit in order to save his girlfriend from being framed for the crime. Shot mostly on location in New York City, the film features a thrilling score by Alfred Newman and is based on a script by uncredited master screenwriter Ben Hecht.

The House on 92nd Street

Henry Hathaway | U.S. | 1945 | 88m | English

A twisted tale of espionage in the Big Apple. While newly recruited FBI double agent Bill Dietrich is training in Hamburg, a mysterious street accident victim proves to have been spying on atom bomb secrets. Dietrich is assigned to the New York spy ring stealing these secrets, which operates from a house in the Upper East Side. Dietrich’s mission is to track down the “Christopher” before his ruthless associates unmask and kill him. This first of the so-called “docudramas” to be shot entirely on location, The House on 92nd Street would influence a number of contemporary productions, including The Naked City.

The Naked City

Jules Dassin | U.S. | 1948 | 96m | English

Shot entirely on location, The Naked City exposes a raw and menacing New York from its darkest alleys to its tallest skyscrapers. Allegedly inspired by Weegee’s photographs of crime scenes and Italian neo-realism, blacklisted director Jules Dassin magnificently captured the city’s street life. The film, winner of two Academy Awards for cinematography and another for editing, depicts a police investigation that follows the murder of a young model in her Upper West Side apartment, and features many a memorable chase through the city, including a heart-stopping scene at the top of the Williamsburg Bridge. Special thanks to UCLA Film and Television Archives.