Readers who love classic noir fiction and film noir will enjoy this PI tale where a forgotten incident from out of the past has deadly consequences in the present.
A subject with a hidden past. A client with a hidden agenda. A mysterious woman who holds the key to their deadly secret.
When the opening gunshots signal P.I. Walter Forbes he's too late to save the lives his investigation put in jeopardy, he's left wondering if another sleuth could have put the pieces together in time.
Forbes's assignment, recounted in flashback, is a twenty-first century variation on classic noir themes. A triangle involving two men and a femme fatale. A private investigator trying to live by his moral code. Movie-maker wannabes crushed by their Hollywood dreams. Noir fans know that one wrong turn can seal a man's (or woman's) fate. But in a tale where everyone's guilty of something, it's not easy guessing whose fate is sealed.
Readers will discover along with Forbes the challenge of being a private eye in a post-private, Edward Snowden, digital surveillance age. Sometimes the more information you have on your subject, the harder it is to get at the truth, and the more dangerous it is for everyone.
Last Heartthrob extras include online features for the movies that inspired it. The story is structured so that it can be enjoyed as a quick read or twelve individual short reads that are easy to fit into your busy schedule. The movie-loving characters directly refer to The Big Lebowski, The Narrow Margin, Double Indemnity, North by Northwest, In a Lonely Place, The Hitch-Hiker, and The Conversation. More subtle references include Laura, Vertigo, Night Moves, Mulholland Dr., and The Player.
"With a Hitchcock-esque flair for noir, Bruce Cantwell uses the rain-soaked city of Portland as the backdrop for a twisty tale with retro undertones and a bang-up finale. Highly recommended! " Cindy Brown, author of the Ivy Meadows mysteries
"Great story - Highly recommended for fans of noir. I look forward to more from Walter Forbes. " – Stephen Campbell, The Author Biz.
"Evokes memories of the past era of detectives, femme fatales, and action set pieces that grip the reader." – Robert Hellinger on Amazon Write On for Kindle
"I'm hooked!" – Femme Noir
Each episode's online extras feature a movie discussion either thematically related or referenced in the episode, music, and a local hangout nearby the Portland locations so that you can have a beer or a meal before or after inspecting the scene of the crime.
Scroll down for episode extras.
Our serial surveillance man Walter Forbes has a much more extensive toolkit than Harry Caul had in 1974. But he faces a similar dilemma: the one faced today by people working at the National Security Agency. In a world awash with information, how do you decide which information is important? How do you figure out what it all means?
This Cannes Palm d'Or winner was also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and Best Picture Edgar Allan Poe Award (losing out to The Godfather Part II and Chinatown respectively).
In terms of film history, this isn't strictly noir. But it certainly has the feel of post-Hays code noir. Gene Hackman was the everyman detective of his day. He won an Oscar for playing New York narcotics cop Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, and would play an old-school private eye in a confusing new age a year later in Night Moves.
The film begins with surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) deploying a team to record a conversation in a public square. Though the technology might seem quaint, the subject of clandestine surveillance has never been more timely.
This episode takes a look at an advertising world very different from the one inhabited by Laura Hunt.
There is one very obvious reference to one of the characters in Laura, but there are thematic echoes of the piece throughout the series. It's unavoidable, as Laura is prototypical noir.
"Otto Preminger's 1944 Laura marks an important transition in film history. Visually it harks back to Hollywood's Golden Era, flooding with light elaborate sets and the glamorous stars they hold--but at crucial moments a noir vision bubbles up to artfully blemish this smooth facade. It is a classic love story--except that it hinges on forbidden fantasy and murder. It at once gives a coy nod to the parlor psychology of the Thin Man variety of mystery, and looks forward to the dark Hitchcockian psychological thriller. It is a Janus of a film, and it may be eternally debated whether its double vision signals an end or a beginning." - Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast (A Must Listen)
This episode of Last Heartthrob refers directly to our memorable introduction to The Dude. Tom Kahane also has an unusual reaction to a drink, althought this time it's not a White Russian but a Sailor's Tattoo. Also, the City of Roses is as central to Last Heartthrob as the City of Angels is to The Big Lebowski.
No exploration of film noir would be complete without Raymond Chandler. So why is this episode's movie The Big Lebowski, not The Big Sleep?
If you're looking for a P. I., you might go with Philip Marlowe, but admit it, wouldn't you rather hang with "The Dude?"
"When The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, Ethan and Joel Coen claimed its 'episodic' narrative structure found its source in the work of Raymond Chandler. In this super-sized double-feature podcast, Richard and Shannon examine The Big Lebowski against Howard Hawks's 1946 noir The Big Sleep, and both films against Chandler's 1939 novel The Big Sleep. Beyond their similar narrative structures, these works all present consummate dialogue, a panoply of memorable characters, and crimes and anxieties impossible to imagine outside Los Angeles--the city of angels, and noir." – Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast
This episode of Last Heartthrob offers its own variation on the Hollywood cautionary tale, a potent sub-genre of film noir. Madeleine's aspirations draw her toward the business while Tom can't run away fast enough.
Keep an eye out for other parallels to emerge as the serial unfolds.
"David Lynch loves movies, genres, archetypes and obligatory shots. Mulholland Dr. employs the conventions of film noir in a pure form. One useful definition of noirs is that they're about characters who have committed a crime or a sin, are immersed with guilt, and fear they're getting what they deserve. Another is that they've done nothing wrong, but it nevertheless certainly appears as if they have. The second describes Hitchcock's favorite plot, the Innocent Man Wrongly Accused. The first describes the central dilemma of Mulholland Dr. Yet it floats in an uneasy psychic space, never defining who sinned. The film evokes the feeling of noir guilt while never attaching to anything specific. A neat trick. Pure cinema." – Roger Ebert
The obvious noir choice for a Hollywood cautionary tale would be Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd., but this film has a horror backstory of its own.
In this episode of Last Heartthrob two characters meet inside a theater after a screening of this film and soon find themselves discussing it, and another Hollywood dream, over a cup of coffee. This is no accident.
"Among the greatest and leanest of forgotten noirs, Richard Fleischer's 1952 micro-crucible runs only 71 minutes and is a model for visual and narrative concision...Every shot counts because there's no time to piss away: Hardhead detective Charles McGraw must take mob widow Marie Windsor to court on an overnight train, and every car and station stop harbors potential assassins. Based on an unpublished story co-written by Detour's Martin Goldsmith and therefore ripe with noir dialogue written to be remembered ("You make me sick to my stomach!" "Well, use your own sink. And let me know when the target practice starts!"), Fleischer's movie also stands as a testament to McGraw's blistering, cliff-faced genuineness. An undervalued character star even in the '50s, McGraw makes lead actors then and now look like terrified schoolchildren"– Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
n this episode of Last Heartthrob two characters Sternwood misses bumping into Laurel Gray at a screening of Double Indemnity and goes to seek her out. She questions his motive. So does Forbes.
"Double Indemnity is the standard against which other film noirs and thrillers are judged, but it’s not just interesting in an academic sense. The film’s themes of betrayal, murder, and lust don’t go out of style, and this film still sucks you in seventy years after it was made. It somehow strikes a weird balance between highly stylized, very 'of-its-time' but also timeless, which not many films manage." - Cameron, The Blonde at the Film a fresh look at old films
Cameron quotes Carl Freedman:"Though the genre is too varied and complex for any particular film to be completely typical, it would be difficult to name another that comes closer to providing a paradigm for noir" ("The End of Work: From Double Indemnity to Body Heat" in Neo-Noir). Billy Wilder brought the German expressionist style. James M. Cain's fiction stories were hugely influential in the genre (Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice). Raymond Chandler was the undisputed master of hard-boiled dialogue.What is the most memorable moment in Double Indemnity? Is it visual, plot-driven, or dialogue?
In this episode Philip Sternwood and Laurel Gray meet to discuss her "budding film career." In the previous episode, he specifically told Laurel to look at Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker. Her response: "Is it okay if we talk about Ida Lupino? The Hitch-Hiker blew me away!"
Ida Lupino recognized that women directors weren't getting a fair shake in Hollywood and decided to show the guys what film noir looked like when a doll was in charge.
"Well before Kathryn Bigelow made Point Break (1991) let alone becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for directing with The Hurt Locker (2008), there was Ida Lupino. Ida was a well regarded actress appearing in High Sierra and They Drive by Night both in 1940 with Humphrey Bogart among many others. She had plenty of sex appeal like the other ladies on the silver screen but she also appeared to be something of a tough broad. She always retained an alluring femininity but looked like she could take it and dish it out, too. That was no mere screen persona as the actress constantly fought for roles that had more meaning balking at parts that just exploited her. During one of those career hiatus points she and her husband formed a production company. They set out to make films with a social consciousness and were attracted to the pressing issues of the day. Ida Lupino fell very naturally into directing. She stepped in for a director on one of their pictures who had taken ill. Soon after she directed Outrage (1950), a controversial film that dealt realistically with the impact of rape." – Steven Ruskin, AVManiacs.com.
In this episode, Laurel Gray meets Tom Kahane at a gala screening of Paging Mr. Kaplan, a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest.
HAMLET I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.
Since our last comedy, The Big Lebowski, we got in a wicked car accident on Mulholland Dr., took a tense train ride in The Narrow Margin, bought some accident insurance and bumped off a spouse in Double Indemnity, and were held at gunpoint by a psychopath in The Hitch-Hiker. I don’t know about you, but I need a vacation.
There are no discussion questions. This movie is all too silly to discuss. It’s also one of my favorite movies.
This is the movie that inspired us to visit Mt. Rushmore. Have you ever been there? It's hilarious!
“I promise you nothing but entertainment, a vacation from all your problems, as it was for me.” – Alfred Hitchcock
This episode of Last Heartthrob shows how decisions made by Hollywood executives can disrupt people's lives.
No one knows that better than Robert Altman, who directed this satire.
The tagline for this film: "Making Movies Can Be Murder."
We've seen how loosely film noir can be plotted. The Player is one of the most tightly constructed puzzles there is.
It would be hard to choose between Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye and this film if Raymond Chandler weren't already represented in the screenplay to Double Indemnity and misrepresented in The Big Lebowski.
"The Player opens with a very long continuous shot that is quite a technical achievement, yes, but also works in another way, to summarize Hollywood's state of mind in the early 1990s. Many names and periods are evoked: Silent pictures, foreign films, the great directors of the past. But these names are like the names of saints who no longer seem to have the power to perform miracles. The new gods are like Griffin Mill -- sleek, expensively dressed, noncommittal, protecting their backsides. Their careers are a study in crisis control. If they do nothing wrong, they can hardly be fired just because they never do anything right." – Roger Ebert
This episode of Last Heartthrob episode contains some following, the way that James Stewart follows Kim Novak in Vertigo.
You might watch for other parallels, too.
"'Did he train you? Did he rehearse you? Did he tell you what to do and what to say?'
"This cry from a wounded heart comes at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and by the time it comes we are completely in sympathy. A man has fallen in love with a woman who does not exist, and now he cries out harshly against the real woman who impersonated her. But there is so much more to it than that. The real woman has fallen in love with him. In tricking him, she tricked herself. And the man, by preferring his dream to the woman standing before him, has lost both." – Roger Ebert
In his conversation with Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock explained why he wanted to make a movie of D'Entre Les Morts."I was intrigued with the efforts to create a woman in the image of a dead woman." That's the plot side.
In a very meta moment from this episode of Last Heartthrob, Tom Kahane makes a connection between the name of one of the characters in the story and one of the characters in this film.
“In a Lonely Place has been described by the critic Kim Morgan as ‘one of the most heartbreaking love stories ever committed to film,’ and love is indeed what it's really about. It has the look, feel and trappings of a film noir, and a murder takes place in it, but it is really about the dark places in a man's soul and a woman who thinks she can heal them.
As carefully constructed by Bogart, who produced it, and directed by Nicholas Ray, from a great noir novel by Dorothy Hughes, it's at pains to make its man and woman adults who know their way around. Neither is a victim, except of their own natures: Dixon Steele a drinker with rotten self-esteem, Laurel Gray a woman who should know better than to invest in him.” – Roger Ebert
1. "I believe [Gloria Grahame] played this part of...an aspiring actress and heartbroken hopeful so well because she already got it. She knew deep down a romance with the movies would use her up. But she was still fresh enough that she couldn't stop herself from hoping." –Shannon Clute, Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast Episode 48: In a Lonely Place
In the Last Heartthrob finale, we come full circle, returning to the gunshots of the prologue and discovering what they mean.
"I was reminded of another Gene Hackman character named Harry. That would be Harry Caul, from Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). Caul is a high-tech investigator who bugs people and eavesdrops on conversations and is fanatic and paranoid and, like Moseby, not nearly as clever as he needs to be. Harry Caul has his workplace invaded by a competitor, he's fooled by a hidden microphone in a ball-point pen, he gets calls on his unlisted number, his landlord walks right past the security system in his apartment, and although he has a tape recording of a crucial conversation, he has no idea what it means...
"What [Gene Hackman] brings to Night Moves is crucial; he must be absolutely sure of his identity as a free-lance gumshoe, even while all of his craft is useless and all of his hunches are based on ignorance of the big picture. Maybe the movie is saying that the old film noir faith is dead, that although in Chandler's words 'down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,' when this man goes down those streets he is blind-sided by a plot that has no respect for him."–Roger Ebert
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