Noted film noir authority and writer James Ursini (The Film Noir Reader series, L.A. Noir, and many DVD commentaries) has just published a new book, Directors on the Edge: Outliers in Hollywood, analysing the work of émigré b-noir directors Hugo Haas, Reginald LeBorg, Ida Lupino, Gerd Oswald, and Edgar G. Ulmer. Ursini argues that as ‘outriders’ working outside the Hollywood mainstream these auteurs were the best observers of their adopted culture – of the zeitgeist of their times – and purveyors of an alternative cinema, ‘transgressive’ films critical of the mainstream. Ursini says that hopefully the book will lead to a greater appreciation of these directors “who used limited budgets to create thoughtful and critical films within a system that encouraged conformity and repetition”, and who were forerunners to the American independent film movement.
Edgar G. Ulmer is the best known of the group for his cult b-noir Detour (1945). To my mind his best movie was the Black Cat (1934) – an erotic expressionist masterpiece. Ida Lupino has a reputation as the only female noir director of the classic film noir cycle, with The Hitch-Hiker (1953), considered her best picture. Gerd Oswald is best known for the late-cycle A Kiss Before Dying (1956), and TV productions in the 50s and 60s. Reginald LeBorg had a long journeyman career in movies and television from the 30s to the 70s. It will certainly be fascinating to see how Ursini weaves these film-makers into his thesis!
The book is available from Amazon for US$8.95.