Film Noir Quotes

A page happily devoted to words of misery, depression, melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, despair, desperation, cynicism, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt, desperation, paranoia, and existentialism.

Andy's Mini-Reviews

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Widmark Speaks

Click below to hear noir superstar Richard Widmark define the genre. Noir one is better qualified to do it than the late actor, who graced some of the best noir films ever made, including KISS OF DEATH, NIGHT AND THE CITY, and PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, and is mentioned many times on this page. www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/noir/media/noir.wav

SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948)

Henry Stevenson (Burt Lancaster) to wife Leona (Barbara Stanwyck): “I want you to do something. I want you to get yourself out of the bed, and get over to the window and scream as loud as you can. Otherwise you only have another three minutes to live.”

THE DARK CORNER (1946)

Hardy Cathcart (Clifton Webb): “How I detest the dawn. The grass always looks like it's been left out all night.”

Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens): “I can be framed easier than ‘Whistler's Mother.’”

Kathleen (Lucille Ball): “You should have William Powell for a secretary.”
Galt: “William Powell? Who's he?”
Kathleen (Lucille Ball): “Don't ya ever go to the movies? He's a detective, in ‘The Thin Man.’”

BRUTE FORCE (1947)

Gallagher (Charles Bickford) to Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster) on prison life: “Those gates only open three times. When you come in, when you've served your time, or when you're dead!”

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STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)

Senator Morton (Leo G. Carroll): “Poor unfortunate girl.”
Barbara Morton (Patricia Hitchcock): “She was a tramp.”
Senator: “She was a human being. Let me remind you that even the most unworthy of us has a right to life and the pursuit of happiness.”
Barbara: “From what I hear she pursued it in all directions.”

Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) to Guy Haines (Farley Granger): “I do your murder. You do mine. Criss-cross.”

TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)

Quinlan (Orson Welles): "I'm Hank Quinlan."
Tanya (Marlene Dietrich): “I didn't recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars.”

Quinlan: “Come on, read my future for me.”
Tanya: “You haven't got any.”
Quinlan: “What do you mean?”
Tanya: “Your future is all used up.”

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)

Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe): "Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one's all right, he turns legit."

THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)

Ruby (Patricia Farr) to Philip Raven (Alan Ladd): "What's the matter? You look like you've been on a hayride with Dracula."

THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946)

Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd): "You oughta have more sense than to take chances with strangers like this."
Joyce Harwood (Veronica Lake): "It's funny, but practically all the people I know were strangers when I met them."

SUSPICION (1941)

Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) to Lina (Joan Fontaine): "Well, well. You're the first woman I've ever met who said yes when she meant yes."

GUN CRAZY aka DEADLY IS THE FEMALE (1950)

Packett (Berry Kroeger): "Honey, I'll make money like you want me to. Big money. But it takes time, you gotta give me time."
Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins): "You'll never make big money. You're a two-bit guy."
Packett: "Honey, listen..."
Annie: "No guts, nothing! I want action!"

Packett:
"I saw the two of you, the way you were looking at each other tonight, like a couple of wild animals. Almost scared me."
Annie: "It should. He’s (Bart Tare) a MAN."

MILDRED PIERCE (1945)

Veda Pierce (Ann Blyth) to her mother Mildred (Joan Crawford): "You think just because you made a little money you can get a new hairdo and some expensive clothes and turn yourself into a lady. But you can't, because you'll never be anything but a common frump whose father lived over a grocery store and whose mother took in washing."

Ida (Eve Arden): "Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young."

Monte (Zachary Scott): "Oh, I wish I could get that interested in work."
Ida: "You were probably frightened by a callus at an early age!"

THE STRANGER (1946)

Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), figuring out the true identity of Prof. Charles Rankin (Orson Welles): "Well, who but a Nazi would deny that Karl Marx was a German... because he was a Jew?"

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953)

Cop to Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark): "You'll always be a two-bit cannon. And when they pick you up in the gutter dead, you're hand'll be in a drunk's pocket."

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952)

Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner): "Jonathan, will you marry me?"
Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas): "Not even a little bit."

KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker): "You're never around when I need you."
Velda (Maxine Cooper):
"You never need me when I'm around."



THE KILLERS (1946)

Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien): "How much time has he [dying stoolie] got."
Lt. Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene):
"He's behind schedule now."
Jail Ward Doctor:
"He's dead now, except for he's breathing."

THE SET-UP (1949)

Stoker (Robert Ryan): "Top spot. And I'm just one punch away."
Julie (Audrey Totter): "I remember the first time you told me that. You were just one punch away from the title shot then. Don't you see, Bill, you'll always be just one punch away."

LITTLE CAESAR (1930)

Rico/Little Caesar (Edward G. Robinson), dying on church steps: "Mother of God, is this the end of Rico?"

DARK PASSAGE (1947)

Doctor: “Ever see any botched plastic jobs? If a man like me didn't like a fellow... he could surely fix him up for life. Make him look like a bulldog, or a monkey. I'll make you look as if you've lived.”
Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart):
“I have, doc.”


Back to the Top

LADY IN THE LAKE (1947)

Adrienne (Audrey Totter): “Do you fall in love with all of your clients?”
Philip Marlow (Robert Motgomery):
“Only the ones in skirts.”

THE BIG COMBO (1949)

Mr. Brown (Richard Conte), preparing to torture Diamond: “I think Mr. Diamond needs a drink. Got any liquor?”
Hoodlum:
“How about some paint thinner?”
Mr. Brown:
“No, that'll kill him. Anything else?”
Hoodlum:
“Hair tonic, 40% alcohol.”
Mr. Brown:
“Fine.”

Rita (Helene Stanton):
"A woman doesn't care how a guy makes a living, just how he makes love."





THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden): "Tell you what we're gonna do, Marlboro. You're gonna take that goddamn J.C. Penney tie off and we're gonna have an old fashioned man to man drinking party."
Philip Marlowe (Eliot Gould): "Well, that's okay, but I'm not taking off the tie."

Marlowe's oft-repeated retort: "It's okay with me."

D.O.A. (1950)

Cop: "Can I help you?"
Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien)
: "I want to report a murder."
Cop
: "Where was this murder committed?"
Bigelow
: "San Francisco, last night."
Cop
: "Who was murdered?"
Bigelow:
"I was."

THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

Vivian (Lauren Bacall), not talking about horses: “Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first, see if they're front runners or come from behind, find out what their whole card is, what makes them run.”
Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart): “Find out mine?”
Vivian: “I think so.”
Marlowe: “Go ahead.”
Vivian: “I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.”
Marlowe: “You don't like to be rated yourself.”
Vivian: "I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?"
Marlowe: “Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how far you can go.”
Vivian: “A lot depends on who's in the saddle.”


Marlowe: (to Vivian’s father, about his younger daughter Carmen): “She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up.”

Strange things happen in ...

The Dark Room

THE THIRD MAN (1949)

Opening narration (by Joseph Cotton or Carol Reed, depending on version): “I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. Constantinople suited me better. I really got to know it in the classic period of the black market. We'd run anything if people wanted it enough and whom had the money to pay. Of course a situation like that does tempt amateurs but, well, umm, you know they can't stay the course like a professional. Now the city is divided into four zones, you know, each occupied by a power: the American, the British, the Russian and the French. But the centre of the city that's international policed by an international patrol. One member of each of the four powers. Wonderful! What a hope they had! All strangers to the place and none of them could speak the same language. Except a sort of smattering of German. Good fellows on the whole, did their best you know. Vienna doesn't really look any worse than a lot of other European cities. Bombed about a bit. Oh, I was going to tell you, wait, I was going to tell you about Holly Martins, an American. Came all the way here to visit a friend of his. The name was Lime, Harry Lime. Now Martins was broke and Lime had offered him, some sort, I don't know, some sort of job. Anyway, there he was, poor chap. Happy as a lark and without a cent."

Major Calloway (Trevor Howard): “That sounds like a cheap novelette.”
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten): “Well, I write cheap novelettes.”

Lime (Orson Welles) to Martins on ferris wheel: “You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. [looking down] Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax."

Lime to Martins: "Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock! So long, Holly.”

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957)

J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) ordering lackey Sydney Falco (Tony Curtis) to light his cigarette: "Match me, Sydney."

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), at their first meeting: "There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour."
Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray):
"How fast was I going, officer?"
Stanwyck:
"I'd say around 90."
Neff: "Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket."
Phyllis: "Suppose I let you off with a warning this time"
Neff: "Suppose it doesn't take."
Phyllis: "Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles."
Neff: "Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder."
Phyllis: "Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder."
Neff: "That tears it."

DETOUR (1946)

Al Roberts (Tom Neal): “When this drunk gave me a ten spot, I couldn't get very excited. What was it? A piece of paper crawling with germs.”

Al: “That's life. Whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you.”

THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook, Jr.): "Keep on riding me, Spade, and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver."
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter, eh?"

Mary Astor: “Mr. Archer was so alive yesterday, so solid and hearty.”
Spade: “Stop it! He knew what he was doing. Those are the chances we take."
Astor: "Was he married?”
Spade: “Yeah, with ten thousand insurance, no children, and a wife that didn't like him.”

Cop, picking up the falcon: “Heavy. What is it?”
Spade: “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)

Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell): “I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in. It had no bottom.”

CASABLANCA (1942)

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart): "I came to Casablanca for the waters."
Capt. Renault (Claude Rains): "But we’re in the middle of the desert."
Rick: "I was misinformed."

Maj. Strasser (Conrad Veidt): "Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?"
Rick: "It's not particularly my beloved Paris."
Strasser: "Can you imagine us in London?"
Rick: "When you get there, ask me."
Strasser: "How about New York?"
Rick: "Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

Ugarte (Peter Lorre): "You despise me, don't you?"
Rick: "If I gave you any thought I probably would."

Rick to Renault: "Louie, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

THE BIG STEAL (1949)

Halliday (Robert Mitchum): “I don’t usually make it a habit to butt into women’s affairs, but what’s this guy Fisk to you?”
Joan/'Chiquita' (Jane Greer): “Don’t change your habits on my account.”

Joan to Halliday: "What I like about you is you’re rock bottom. I wouldn’t expect you to understand this, but it’s a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower."

CHAMPION (1949)

Connie Kelley (Arthur Kennedy), on boxing: "Oh, this rotten business!"
Midge Kelly (Kirk Douglas): "Awwww, lay off the business. It's like any other business, only here the blood shows."

GILDA (1946)

Ballin Mundson (George Macready), knocking on door: "Gilda, are you decent?"
Gilda (Rita Hayworth) : Me?

Shadows and Cigarettes on Celuloid

Dark rooms with sunlight slicing through Venetian blinds, alleyways littered with garbage, abandoned warehouses where dust fogs the air, rain-slickened streets, seedy detective offices overlooking bustling streets, and cigarettes, always cigarettes: this is the stuff film noir is made of – a perfect blend of form and content, where the desperation and hopelessness of the situations is reflected in a visual style that drenches the world in shadows and only occasional bursts of sunlight. Occasionally acerbic, usually cynical, film noir gives us characters forever trying to elude some mysterious past that continues to haunt them, hunting them down with a fatalism that teases and taunts before delivering the final blow.

OUT OF THE PAST is an archetypal noir about a man trying to escape his past (he ran away with his partner's girlfriend). Jeff (Robert Mitchum) is a seemingly good guy, but one bad turn has made his life a hell from which he can never completely free himself. His nemesis is a racketeer (Kirk Douglas) who needs to use Jeff and does so by baiting him with one of the great femmes fatales, Jane Greer. And she consumes him.

Greer is one of many femme fatales who populate film noir - others include Rita Hayworth in LADY FROM SHANGHAI, Veronica Lake in THE BLUE DAHLIA, Joan Bennett in SCARLET STREET, Peggy Cummins in GUN CRAZY, Gloria Grahame in HUMAN DESIRE, Lizbeth Scott in DEAD RECKONING, Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS, and Barbara Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. These women are black widows who slowly draw in men with come-hither looks and breathless voices. Communicating a danger of sex, the femme fatale knows how to use men to get whatever she wants, whether a little murder between lovers (DOUBLE INDEMNITY) or a wild, on-the-run lifestyle (GUN CRAZY). And in one case (MILDRED PIERCE) we even get a femme fatale-tte, a teenager (Ann Blyth) who threatens to destroy her mother (Joan Crawford).

The protagonists of film noir (usually males) forever struggle to survive. Some learn to play by the rules of film noir and survived by exposing corruption (Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP, Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET). But more often than not, they're simply poor saps done in by love (Fred MacMurray in DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Edward G. Robinson in SCARLET STREET), a past transgression (Robert Mitchum in OUT OF THE PAST), or overly ambitious goals (Richard Widmark in NIGHT AND THE CITY and Sterling Hayden in THE KILLING).

Film noir first appeared in the early '40s - STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR is often cited as the first full-fledged noir, but others say that title goes to THE MALTESE FALCON. So while soldiers fought a war on foreign soil and dreamed of returning to pretty wives, cute houses and peaceful lives, film noir introduced tales about characters fighting the dark side of life back home, balancing the optimism of Hollywood musicals and comedies with seedy, two-bit criminals and doom-laden atmospheres. While Hollywood sought to help keep public morale high, film noir gave us a peek into the alleys and backrooms of a world filled with corruption, sporting evocative titles like PITFALL, NIGHTMARE, KISS OF DEATH, EDGE OF DOOM, NIGHT AND THE CITY, SIDE STREET, HILL'S ISLAND, and THE ASPHALT JUNGLE that convey in just a few words the very essence of film noir: an overpowering force that can't be avoided.

Film noir remained an important form in Hollywood until the late '50s. Films such as Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) closed out the cycle. By then, the crime and detective genres were playing out their dramas in bright lights, while film noir had become fodder for film buffery.

WHITE HEAT (1949)

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney), while eating a chicken leg, to Parker in the trunk of the sedan:
How ya doin', Parker?
Parker: It's stuffy in here, I need some air.
Jarrett: Oh, stuffy, huh? I'll give ya a litte air.
(pulls a gun from his pants and shoots four times into the trunk)

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney), as he dies in a fiery explosion: "Made it to the top of the world, Ma!"

DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID (1982)

Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin): "Carlotta was the kind of town where they spell trouble T-R-U-B-I-L, and if you try to correct them, they kill you."

Juliet Forest (Rachel Ward) to Reardon: "If you need me, just call. You know how to dial, don't you? You just put your finger in the hole and make tiny little circles."

THE KILLING (1958)

Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden): “A friend of mine will be stopping by tomorrow to drop something off for me. He's a cop.”
Joe: “A cop? That's a funny kind of a friend.”
Johnny: “Well, he's a funny kind of a cop.”

OUT OF THE PAST (1947)

Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum): “I sell gasoline, I make a small profit. With that I buy groceries. The grocer makes a profit. We call it earning a living. You may have heard of it somewhere.”
Kathie Moffett (Jane Greer): “Oh Jeff, you ought to have killed me for what I did a minute ago.”
Jeff: “There's still time.”

Ann Miller (Virginia Huston): “She can't be all bad. No one is.”
Jeff: “Well, she comes the closest.”

Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas): “He couldn't find a prayer in the Bible.”

Jeff: “It was the bottom of the barrel, and I was scraping it.”