The Real Humphrey Bogart
Ed here: I want to thank Richard Wheeler for the link to this amazing review-essay about Stefan Kanfer's book on Humphrey Bogart. Jenny Diski writes not just about Bogart (whom she puts into the first realistic perceptive I've come across) but also the cultural and sociological influences that inspired noir and how the icons of the Thirties and Forties were of their time and can't be duplicated today. This appeared in London Review of Books.
"After the war, in books but most of all in old movies, these reluctant action heroes became perfect modern exemplars for the likes of Camus, who saw in them a stoic refusal to be held back by the status quo. Men who behaved as if there was a point in trying to right wrongs, even if they knew the world better than that. Mostly, in the early 1960s, we sat passively in the dark, in oversized black sweaters and tight jeans, watching the furious activity and dialogue, and then went home to read Being and Nothingness (or perhaps just its popularisation in Colin Wilson’s The Outsider). And maybe, later on, it was Marlowe and Spade who gave us the courage and foolheadedness to take to the streets. We were young and had energy to expend, so movies and books weren’t quite enough. We couldn’t all be private eyes. And the lurking socialism in Chandler and Hammett fitted well with a postwar generation’s fidgety need to blow holes in the self-sustaining establishment. I think they were part of the equation for the brief explosion of political and social activity."