They Write By Night: Spy Noir—First Blood
Blood on the page. Blood on the screen.
Spy Noir. It’s hardbitten and hardbiting. Cynical. Or maybe just realistic. About human nature, or — if we want to make a finer point of it (we do and we will) — humans. The Bad Guys are bad. In this movie, mostly, those’d be the Russians. And the Good Guys, most of ’em? Ain’t all that
Harry Palmer, civil servant and spy, doesn’t say Ain’t. He’s English, but not of the most fortunate class. He doesn’t say Ain’t but he doesn’t say R-a-a-ther. Either.
Michael Caine plays Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, based on the book by the smart spy writer, Len Deighton, who also cooks. (In real life he cooks. It’s not only Harry Palmer who cooks, like I tell you in the video. Len Deighton also cooks. He used to. Now he’s dead.)
Michael Caine is in his second major film role and about to have a big career as in: big, long career. Long as in L-o-n-g. Right now, for him, it all lies ahead. Meanwhile, Harry Palmer, he’s just trying to stay alive. He’s surrounded by Russians, and the Good guys. He’s gonna be tested.
I was 14 when I first saw The Ipcress File. For, me also, it all lay ahead. Stuff happened. I did stuff. These days, as you’ll find out in this episode, I’m still just trying to stay alive.
A sweet, dark, Red poem by Arminé Iknadossian, and Poetry.LA, made this possible — this iteration of They Write by Night. First Blood, Spy Noir. The Ipcress File, a valentine in a noir mood — to Michael Caine.
– Suzanne Lummis
Top image credit to www.Poetry.LA
By Suzanne Lummis on October 14, 2021
Suzanne Lummis, noted practitioner and exponent of NOIR POETRY, unpacks a genre infused with the ethos of mid-20th Century hard-boiled fiction and crime movies, presenting examples from poets both living and “quite dead.” An influential teacher through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and co-founder of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, Lummis produced a 2011 city-wide, 25-event series, “Night in the City: L.A. Noir Poetry, Fiction and Film.” Her 2012 essay “The Poem Noir — Too Dark to Be Depressed” (Malpais Review, Vol. 3, No. 3) is essential reading on the subject. Lummis was awarded a 2018/19 C.O.L.A. (City of Los Angeles) fellowship to create a series of new poems. Her most recent collection is Open 24 Hours (Lynx House Press). Her poems have appeared in three Knopf "Everyman's Poetry" anthologies, including Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem, and in The Antioch Review, New Ohio Review, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry and The New Yorker. She edited the anthology "Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond" (Pacific Coast Poetry Series/Beyond Baroque Books) named one of the Ten Best Books of 2015 in the Los Angeles Times. (Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)