The Killers (1946) is an example of film noir that highlights many of the key features of the genre/style and its history.


The film is based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway and directed by German emigre Robert Siodmak. Like fellow director Billy Wilder, Siodmak was a Jew who fled Nazi Germany and eventually came to Hollywood to direct, with a penchant for noir. German (Jewish) directors found Hollywood less open to artistry and experimentation; there was a strong emphasis on the box office bottom line. So the emigres brought their expressionist sensibilities, a keen eye for social realism, and compromised, in many ways creating the noir genre.

Siodmak’s most lauded noir film is Criss Cross (1948), but he is also known for The File on Thelma Jordon (1949)  — which we’ve screened on BNoirDetour — and The Spiral Staircase (1946). Suspense is central to his take on noir, as is his casting of Burt Lancaster, who has his film debut in The Killers.

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Hemingway penned the original story on which The Killers is based, a film told mostly in flashback about the murder by two hitmen of a former boxer known as “The Swede” (Burt Lancaster). Why was he killed? What happened in his guilty past? And how is glamorous femme fatale Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) involved?

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In addition to Lancaster and Gardner, the film features noir staples Edmond O’Brien and Sam Levene. And you’ll even find William Conrad in his first credited role.

Please join us for the live tweet at #BNoirDetour on Sunday, 7/12 at 9p ET for The Killers!