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Title: Artistry in noir : the use and representation of jazz in film noir
Author: Butler, David George
ISNI:       0000 0004 2690 3806
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2000
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Jazz has been associated with crime and immorality since early forms of the music were heard in. the brothels of New Orleans and the gangster-owned clubs of the "Jazz Age. " This association encouraged the use of jazz in film noir: tales of anxiety and urban decay that flourished in American cinema during the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, the extent to which jazz was used in film noir is the source of some confusion. The collaboration between the two idioms has often been alluded to but seldom explored in detail. Contemporary noirs, such as Body Heat (1981) and the series Fallen Angels (1993), have used jazz to evoke the classic period of film noir thus contributing to a "retrospective illusion" of the relationship between these idioms. Literature which refers to this relationship tends to discuss jazz and film noir in general rather than distinguishing between widely differing styles and periods of production. This lack of specificity, particularly regarding jazz, has resulted in considerable misunderstanding. This thesis seeks to determine the true extent of the involvement of jazz with film noir and why it has often been "taken for granted. " The thesis adopts an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates film theory, specifically work concerned with racial and gender discourses, sociology and music history. Beginning with a discussion of the relevant literature, the thesis suggests that the association of jazz with the noir themes of sex, crime and immorality stems from an understanding of black culture as being expressive of primitivism and irrationality that was prevalent in white imperialist ideologies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although contemporary writing and film noirs often refer to the modernist jazz style of bebop, which emerged in the mid-1940s at the same time as film noir, as the sound of the classic noir period, the thesis suggests that prevailing racial attitudes and conventions of 1940s film meant that the fundamentally black and intellectual nature of bebop could not be represented in noir of this time. The thesis places the films discussed in their historical context and makes considerable use of archival sources and documentation for extended studies of Phantom Lady (1944), Young Man with a Horn (1950) and I Want To Live! (1958). The tensions created by the involvement of jazz in these productions become more evident as a result of this archival material. The emergence of the jazz or jazz inflected score in films of the 1950s is examined as is the proliferation of jazz scores in television noir of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The penultimate chapter considers the use of jazz in neo-noirs of the last twenty-five years, particularly Taxi Driver (1976) and The Last Seduction (1994), before offering thoughts for further work and a summary of the thesis in the conclusion
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available