Disillusionment & paranoia descended on the American Dream in the 40s just as the titular characters in The Killers descend on the Swede as he lay in the shadows awaiting his fate. The Killers (1946) was directed by Robert Siodmak, one of a handful of German emigre directors that brought expressionism to Hollywood to add to the black & white rain-soaked visuals that came to be known as “film noir”. Based on a Hemingway story (1927) of the same name, which is also thought to be the inspiration for Nighthawks (1942), the iconic painting by Edward Hopper, The Killers delivers the existential goods that defined the postwar noir sensibility.
One finds many such nighthawks & diners in the noir landscape; they go hand in hand with the bleak outlook of their cynical heroes & disaffected anti-heroes. As the Swede (Burt Lancaster) says in the opening sequence of The Killers: “I did something wrong…once.” That’s all it takes to doom an otherwise good man, his downfall often aided by a bad woman (Ava Gardner in this case), who’s just trying to stay alive in a hostile man’s world. It’s a story audiences couldn’t get enough of as they grappled with the wide-spread angst & despair following & preceding two wars (WW2 & Cold).
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