The Best Laid Plans

People, shady people, up to no good–plotting, planning, and conniving to grab that one big elusive score. Some of film noir’s best movies tell the story of desperate men–and women–scheming to take someone else’s treasure. Here are some of our favorites.

Crime starts with a good breakfast–Reservoir Dogs (1992) (source)
Sterling Hayden stands lookout in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) (source)
Ryan O’Neal doesn’t like guns, but he knows how to use one in The Driver (1978) (source)
Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) and his gang at work in High Sierra (1941) (source)
Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle (2013) (source)
Sterling Hayden and his gang plot the perfect robbery in The Killing (1956) (source)
Ryan Gosling finds trouble in Drive (2011) (source)
Steve (Burt Lancaster) and his conspirators in Criss Cross (1949) (source)
Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) and compadres in The Usual Suspects (1995) (source)

Dangerous Women

The femme fatale is a staple in film noir: duplicitous, conniving, and of course, drop-dead sexy. She uses her looks to get what she wants. In the process, she wreaks havoc in the lives of men who are fully complicit in their own destruction. Here are just a few of the silver screen’s greatest portrayals of the ultimate dangerous woman.

Linda Fiorentino as Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction (1994) (source)
Barbara Stanwyk as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944) (source)
Kathleen Turner as Matty Walker in Body Heat (1981) (source)
Jane Greer as Kathie Moffat in Out Of The Past (1947) (source)
Annette Bening as Myra Langtry in The Grifters (1990) (source)
Lana Turner as Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (source)
Jennifer Tilly as Violet in Bound (1996) (source)
Mary Astor as Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941) (source)
Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark in Angel Heart (1987) (source)
Claire Trevor as Helen Grayle in Murder, My Sweet (1944) (source)
Martha Vickers as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep (1946) (source)
Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet in Devil In A Blue Dress (1995) (source)

New York At Night

New York City, ca. 1948. Andreas Feininger, photographer. (source)
52nd Street, NYC. Circa 1948. Andreas Feininger, photographer. (source)
New York City, ca. 1948. Andreas Feininger, photographer. (source)
Times Square, ca. 1948. Andreas Feininger, photographer. (source)
Harry’s Bar, NYC. Photograph by Andreas Feininger. (source)
Photo booth, NYC. Photograph by Andreas Feininger. (source)
Beefsteak Charlie’s, NYC. Andreas Feininger, photography. (source)
New York City, photographed by Andreas Feininger. (source)
New York City street, photographed by Andreas Feininger. (source)

Staircases and Shadows

Joseph Cotten in The Third Man (1947) (
Peter Lorre in Stranger On The Third Floor (1940) (
Harrison Ford in Blade Runner (1982) (
Ben Gazzara in The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (1976) (
Murder My Sweet (1944) (
Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1972) (
John Garfield in Force Of Evil (1948) (

Gangland Violence: The Two Tonys Murders (warning: graphic)

August 7, 1951. Hollywood. USC Digital Collections
LAPD lab man dusts for prints. USC Digital Collections
The bodies of Kansas City mobsters Tony Brancato and Anthony Trombino, still in their car. USC Digital Collections
Police officers, news men, and onlookers view the crime scene. USC Digital Collections.
Normally, it was a quiet street. USC Digital Collections.
Police flashlights provide the perfect noir lighting. USC Digital Collections.
The grim aftermath of a mob hit: Anthony Brancato’s career comes to an end. USC Collections.
Bagging the bodies. USC Collections.
The two Tonys, toe-tagged in the morgue. USC Digital Collections.

Anthony Brancato and Tony Trombino were two Kansas City mafioso who decided to make a name for themselves looking for action out west. Their first move was robbing the mob-owned Flamingo Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. They were promptly arrested, made bail, then headed to L.A. where they cheated a mob bookie out of $3000.

According to author Allan May, mob boss Jack Dragna had had enough. “‘You know, Jimmy,” said Dragna (to hitman Jimmy Fratianno), “these guys are no good. We’ve gotten a lot of bad reports on them. The way I see it, we’ve got to clip them. Set something up, will you.’    In the few seconds it took to utter those words, the fates of Anthony Brancato and Anthony Joseph Trombino were sealed. It was that simple.” ( The Two Tonys certainly made a name for themselves; just not the way they expected.

Charles Cushman’s L.A.

Main Street, 1952. Charles Cushman Collection
City Hall, visible from Main Street, circa 1952. Cushman Collection
2nd Avenue Tunnel, from Hill Street. 1952. Cushman Collection
3rd Avenue and Grand Street, Bunker Hill, 1952. Cushman Collection.
Main Street, Los Angeles 1952. Cushman Collection.

Charles Cushman, businessman and talented photographer, meticulously documented his travels, offering us time-capsule glimpses of locations worldwide from the late 1930s up to the mid-1960s. He bequeathed 14,500 Kodachrome negatives to his alma mater Indiana University upon his death in 1972. You can view the entire archive here, courtesy of the Indiana University Digital Libraries Program. His photographs of Los Angeles can be seen here.