Cigarette and Film Noir

Cigarette In Movie


Detective films begin to bloom appearing in theaters or television screens. This film is usually called as ‘noir’ film. However, noir film is different from ordinary detective films.

Noir film is very easy to distinguish by its color tone. The tone shown is black and white complemented by low-key lighting based on German expressionist cinematography.

Apart from these things, it turns out that noir film is identic with cigarettes or cigars. You can find many smoking scenes in noir film by the male or female characters. Why is that so? The following is the explanation.


Before discussing the presence of cigarette in noir film, we need to know the background of the noir film itself. Noir film or often called as ‘black cinema’ is a term invented by Nino Frank in 1946 after seeing how dark and melancholy the American Criminal and Detective films were, shown in France during and before World War 2.

It is important to know, World War 2 is the point of the emergence of this noir film. This is because the war has affected the people’s psychology, thus the skeptical, pessimistic, and dark thoughts arose as illustrated in the noir film.

The impact during and after World War 2, namely depression, made the advertisement of tobacco companies used such sensationalism tactics, splashy headlines, escapism, and essentialism. This turned out to be interesting for people who underwent depression due to world war.

Thus, people at the time subjected the act of smoking as an escapist process to calm themselves from all kinds of mental stress. Therefore, pre and post-world war era in America were famous for its massive consumption of cigarettes.

The massive consumption of cigarettes makes the mindset of the people in America different. Cigarettes at that time became an inevitable trend. It even became a necessity for adult men and women in America. It was noted that the number of smokers continued to increase since before the crisis era of the malaise (Great Depression) until the 1960s.

Based on the explanation above, it is common to see a lot of smoking scene in noir film. This is because cigarettes at that time had become normal, so that smoking scenes could make the characters to be formed as natural as possible. Apart from those factors, the presence of cigarettes in noir film apparently can contain symbols and representations that are tightly bound to the characters.


For instance is a film entitled Gilda (1946), in which features a beautiful lady named Gilda. Just like blended by some magical things, the actress whose real name is Rita Hayworth looks very elegant; her sexy aura is very prominent when she smokes like the picture on the side.

The cigarette can unconsciously give the audience a mood, symbol, and representation. These elements become a unity that characterizes noir film. Continuing the previous discussion, the following is a smoking scene that does not give any elegance or sexual charm to the character.

In the film entitled Double Indemnity (1944); Walter Neff, played by Fred MacMurray, is no longer able to withstand the gunshot wound he got from Phyllis, so he lies weak before entering his office. During the last seconds of his life, Walter enjoys a cigarette lit by Keyes as the last pleasure of his life.

In noir film, cigarette is an essential item for the continuity of the plot and naturalness of the story. Cigarette itself represents the people of America who generally want to find peace from the pressures of world war and the crisis of malaise.

The cigarette itself in the film noir represents a variety of symbols such as the symbol of relief in Gilda (1946), or the symbol of calm in Double Indemnity (1944).

It can be said, the truly noir films were only produced around 1930 – 1960s since the term ‘noir’ is suitable for describing the conditions in that era.


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