Robert Mitchum once commented to Arthur Lyons about his movies of the 1940s and 1950s: “Hell, we didn’t know what film noir was in those days. We were just making movies. Cary Grant and all the big stars at RKO got all the lights. We lit our sets with cigarette butts.” Film noir was made to order for the “B,” or low-budget, part of the movie double bill. It was cheaper to produce because it made do with less lighting, smaller casts, limited sets, and compact story linesabout con men, killers, cigarette girls, crooked cops, down-and-out boxers, and calculating, scheming, very deadly women. In Death on the Cheap, Arthur Lyons entertainingly looks at the history of the B movie and how it led to the genre that would come to be called noir, a genre that decades later would be transformed in such “neo-noir” films as Pulp Fiction, Fargo, and L.A. Confidential. The book, loaded with movie stills, also features a witty and informative filmography (including video sources) of B films that have largely been ignored or neglectedlost” to the general public but now restored to their rightful place in movie history thanks to Death on the Cheap.
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