AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Here's a movie scene for you. Even if you haven't seen it, just stay with me. Picture it. A man staggers in fatally shot, and he begins to record his confession.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DOUBLE INDEMNITY")
FRED MACMURRAY: (As Walter) Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money and for a woman. And I didn't get the money, and I didn't get the woman.
CORNISH: That opening from 1944's "Double Indemnity" pretty much sums up film noir, the dark underbelly of the American dream populated by femme fatales and the tough-talking guys who fall for them. This month and next, the cable channel Turner Classic Movies is having a film noir festival, Summer of Darkness - 24 hours of the genre every Friday and also a free online class. Beth Accomando of member station KPBS says the idea is to expand the notion of what a film community means.
BETH ACCOMANDO, BYLINE: Film noir always involves a dame.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TOO LATE FOR TEARS")
LIZABETH SCOTT: (As Jane) What do I call you besides stupid?
ACCOMANDO: A tough dame who redefines pillow talk.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DOUBLE INDEMNITY")
BARBARA STANWYCK: (As Phyllis) No, I never loved you, Walter, not you or anybody else. I'm rotten to the heart. I used you just as you said after all you ever meant to me until a minute ago when I couldn't fire that second shot.
ACCOMANDO: Welcome to romance, noir style. Eddie Muller, the self-proclaimed czar of noir, describes the genre as the flip side of the all-American success story. It depicts a world that's merciless and unforgiving. He'll be introducing many of the films in Turner Classic Movies' Summer of Darkness.
EDDIE MULLER: It's very, very important that younger people understand why this stuff is valuable and are able to put it in a context where they understand not just its value as entertainment but its value as American history. I think it's very helpful and useful for people to understand all that because it will affect their appreciation for the films.
ACCOMANDO: Muller will be working in tandem with Professor Richard Edwards of Ball State University. Edwards is teaching the free online course in conjunction with TCM's Summer of Darkness. He says noir is fueled by something that never gets dated.
RICAHRD EDWARDS: There is a kind of dread in these films. These are not films that have particularly happy endings, and yet they're compulsively easy to watch.
ACCOMANDO: Edwards says the class is all about providing people with an informed experience.
EDWARDS: If people are fans of film, there is so much more you can get out of watching a film with even just a little bit of a background knowledge of how these films work, how these films were made.
ACCOMANDO: To help achieve this, Edwards offers "A Daily Dose Of Darkness," a short film clip delivered by email to the online class each weekday morning.
(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOT)
ACCOMANDO: Like this shocker opening from "The Letter" where Bette Davis shoots a man to death. The clip spurred online discussion. Twitter comments ran the gamut from praise for the lighting to quips about Davis's ruthlessness. Joel Williams pointed out that to her credit, she stopped pulling the trigger once she realized the gun was empty. Blogger Angela Englert calls herself a noir neophyte. She was excited to tweet with fellow classmates about "Dark Passage" last Friday.
ANGELA ENGLERT: It was a lot of fun. It's always fun to live tweet these things. It makes it dynamic. There's always a lot of great information along with snarky barbs and things here and there.
ACCOMANDO: Tonight, TCM Party, an online community of classic movie fans, will be live tweeting with the film "Gun Crazy." Blogger and journalist Will McKinley is one of TCM Party's 9,000 followers.
WILL MCKINLEY: Years ago, if you liked something that was unique, it could be a lonely experience. Nowadays, thanks to platforms like Twitter and Facebook, lots of people who like the same weird, crazy things that you like are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And it fundamentally makes the experience of liking unusual things less lonely and more fun.
ACCOMANDO: And when you're traveling down those dark noir streets, it's good to have a little company. For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.
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