Victory was looking more and more likely in the final year of the Second World War. Americans’ attention began shifting to life in peacetime, and their support for the war began to wane.
The government wanted to remind them of the risks that their soldiers still faced and the need to continue buying war bonds. So government censors began allowing the media to show images of wounded and dead G.I.s, according to Richard Lingeman’s book, The Noir Forties. Hollywood began producing war movies that were more grim, brutal, and realistic, although the endings were nearly as happy as they’d been earlier in the war.
Out of this new sensibility came fiction and movies with a darker, more menacing side. At the same time that heartwarming films like It’s a Wonderful Life (1945) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) were released, theaters were showing films with a more sinister air, like Double Indemnity (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Out of the Past (1947).
A French movie critic described this new look in movies with the French word for black – noir. It became a genre in film and fiction, an outgrowth of the gritty tales found in pulp fiction magazines.
Some of these atmospheric crime stories appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. And, as Bob Sassone says in his recent article in Noir City magazine, they were made into movies.
He mentions several artists of noir stories, including John Henry Crosman, who illustrated “Prescription for Murder.”
Another Post illustrator was William A. Smith, who was a veteran of the Office of Strategic Services and the president of UNESCO International Association of Art. He was considered a “serious” artist as well an illustrator, and his works are hung in several major galleries.
Austin Briggs illustrated advertisements for years until he got a chance to do magazine illustration. His work appeared in popular magazines like Colliers, Red Book, and The Saturday Evening Post. Briggs also drew the comic strip Flash Gordon.
Artist Perry Peterson was known for his illustration of mysteries.
The work of these illustrators marked a new era in the Post’s illustration of its fiction. From this point on, story illustration would show a new emphasis on drama and atmosphere.
Featured image: Perry Peterson illustration for “Stolen Goods” in the June 25, 1949, issue
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