First of all, what do we mean when we talk about film noir? It is easier to identify as a style than define as a genre, but during the golden age of noir (roughly 1940 to 1959) Hollywood produced a number of movies that depicted familiar themes - murder, crime, mystery, romance - in a new and unsettling manner. This was formed by three main streams of influence coming together: German Expressionism, American gangster movies, and anxiety about gender roles and loyalties brought about by the war.
The Expressionists used cinematography techniques, stylised lighting and set design to convey a sense of the inner life of their characters. Skewed camera angles and alternating patches of light and shadow suggest a world in which no-one has clarity of vision -appearances cannot be trusted, and nothing is quite what it seems. (Much of the action in noir films typically takes place at night or in pouring rain, to further obscure perceptions.) Simple distinctions between the good guy and the bad guy had been undermined by the popularity of gangster movies, where audiences often found themselves rooting for the criminal, particularly during the era of Prohibition and police corruption. Lastly, while men were away on active service during WWII the lengthy separation of spouses and partners created anxieties about loyalty: could you trust your lover to remain faithful? How could you really know what was going on? While the men were away, women subverted gender roles by taking on men's work and showing an independence that would have been unthinkable earlier. And when the men returned from the horrors of wartime, many had changed; lovers had become strangers.
Filming began on 5 February 1946, with a screenplay by Edward Chodorov based on 'You Were There', Thelma Strabel's three-part serialised story in Woman’s Home Companion. Katharine had a soft spot for Chodorov because of the support he had given her during the difficulties surrounding her Broadway appearance in The Lake. She was also delighted to be working again with Pandro Berman, her old RKO producer who was also now at MGM. Mitchum himself was on loan from RKO, and was in fact still involved in shooting two other films at the time. For about three weeks Mitchum worked on Undercurrent at MGM in the morning, returned to RKO for filming The Locket in the afternoon and then came back to MGM to work on Desire Me in the evenings. It was hardly surprising he had bags under his eyes.
The character of Ann goes through several phases, her progress marked by appropriate costume changes. When she first appears, it is in a casual outfit of jersey and slacks. The Hamilton's housekeeper despairs of Ann's behaviour and apparent lack of interest in the attention of eligible bachelors, expressing concern that she will end up an 'old maid.' Our first introduction to her in the film is as a tomboyish character, experimenting in her father's chemical lab and chasing her dog under tables - classic Kate, in other words!
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