The Narrow Margin: Convention as Deception

Part of the Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television book series (CRFT)


This chapter reads Richard Fleischer’s The Narrow Margin as a self-reflexive, quasi-modernist noir film that works to destabilize many of the thematic and stylistic tropes and conventions that have come to be associated with film noir. Building on George M. Wilson’s work on cinematic point of view and Doug Pye’s work on “suppressive narrative,” I situate the film in a larger tradition of similarly self-reflexive films in studio-era Hollywood. I show how the film uses stereotypical noir conventions, such as the femme fatale figure and chiaroscuro lighting to deliberately mislead the viewer about the nature of both individual character motivations as well as the broader narrative situation. In doing, I argue, the film calls attention to the constructed nature of these tropes and challenges the audience’s tendency to draw quick, unthinking conclusions based on received truths and stereotypes.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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