Western Noir

Western Noir

12 Episodes

A new breed of westerns emerged after World War II, stained by film noir’s anxious, disenchanted mood and enriched by its psychological and moral complexity. Romantic myths of the frontier gave way to tougher tales of ruthless outlaws, corrupt cattle barons, gold-crazed prospectors, mercenary gunfighters, and lonely, damaged men obsessively pursuing vengeance for past wrongs. Essential noir actors found a home on the range: Robert Mitchum brings his cool, world-weary pessimism to BLOOD ON THE MOON and MAN WITH THE GUN, while Robert Ryan’s tortured tension anchors the gripping DAY OF THE OUTLAW. Women, long marginalized in westerns, wielded newfound power, but not without getting their hands dirty; the femmes fatales of western noir include Barbara Stanwyck (THE VIOLENT MEN), Ida Lupino (LUST FOR GOLD), and Marlene Dietrich (RANCHO NOTORIOUS). From brooding black-and-white dramas like STATION WEST and I SHOT JESSE JAMES to the harrowing, elegiac masterpieces of Anthony Mann, the West’s wide-open spaces prove as haunted and dangerous as any dark city.

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Western Noir
  • Introducing Western Noir

    Episode 1

    This new introduction with critic and series programmer Imogen Sara Smith was recorded in 2020.

  • Blood on the Moon

    Episode 2

    Directed by Robert Wise • 1948 • United States
    Starring Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Preston

    This taut western thriller marries the mythology of the frontier with the shadowy style and dark psychological undercurrents of film noir. Out on the Texas range, Jim Garry (Robert Mitchum)...

  • Station West

    Episode 3

    Directed by Sidney Lanfield • 1948 • United States
    Starring Dick Powell, Jane Greer, Agnes Moorehead

    A western mining town, a fortune in gold, a beautiful lady crime boss, and the undercover investigator sent to flush her out: lust, deceit, and greed collide violently on the range in this dynami...

  • I Shot Jesse James

    Episode 4

    Directed by Samuel Fuller • 1949 • United States

    After years of crime reporting, screenwriting, and authoring pulp novels, Samuel Fuller made his directorial debut with the lonesome ballad of Robert Ford (played by Red River's John Ireland), who fatally betrayed his friend, the notorious Jesse...

  • The Walking Hills

    Episode 5

    Directed by John Sturges • 1949 • United States
    Starring Randolph Scott, Ella Raines, William Bishop

    Genre specialist John Sturges lends considerable tension and excitement to this taut tale of gold fever and the desperate lengths to which it drives men. Western icon Randolph Scott is one of eig...

  • Lust for Gold

    Episode 6

    Directed by S. Sylvan Simon • 1949 • United States
    Starring Ida Lupino, Glenn Ford, Gig Young

    The search for a legendary fortune unleashes tragedy in this dark, gripping saga of gold and greed. Glenn Ford is Jacob Walz, a young man determined to track down the fabled Arizona gold mine known as t...

  • Devil’s Doorway

    Episode 7

    Directed by Anthony Mann • 1950 • United States
    Starring Robert Taylor, Louis Calhern, Paula Raymond

    Directed in shadow-etched, expressionist style by Anthony Mann, this groundbreaking revisionist western was one of the first Hollywood films to portray Native Americans with empathy and complexit...

  • Rancho Notorious

    Episode 8

    Directed by Fritz Lang • 1952 • United States
    Starring Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer

    Bandits, gunslingers, outlaws: they know they can find refuge at the remote frontier outpost known as Chuck-a-Luck. There, in exchange for a 10 percent cut of any loot, former barroom belle Altar ...

  • The Naked Spur

    Episode 9

    Directed by Anthony Mann • 1953 • United States
    Starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan

    James Stewart sheds his nice-guy image with his dark, complex turn in this intense psychological western, the third of his five celebrated forays into the genre under the direction of Anthony Mann. H...

  • Man with the Gun

    Episode 10

    Directed by Richard Wilson • 1955 • United States
    Starring Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling, Karen Sharpe

    Clint Tollinger (Robert Mitchum) is a “town tamer,” a hired gun who, for a price, will eliminate any outlaws disturbing the peace of a frontier outpost. When his wife (Jan Sterling), exasperated...

  • The Violent Men

    Episode 11

    Directed by Rudolph Maté • 1955 • United States
    Starring Glenn Ford, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

    Barbara Stanwyck is a frontier femme fatale in this simmering psychosexual western, in which she plays the scheming, faithless wife of a greedy landowner (Edward G. Robinson) who uses his in...

  • Man of the West

    Episode 12

    Directed by Anthony Mann • 1958 • United Kingdom
    Starring Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb

    In one of his last and finest performances, Gary Cooper plays the reformed outlaw Link Jones, who is unwittingly drawn back into his criminal past when his train is held up by his former gang. One of...