One of the many lures of the film noir genre is its taut, no nonsense dialogue. There’s no room here for flowery speech, not when the bullets and fists are flying. Terse yet evocative, dialogue from film noir also rings with the pistol crack of truth. And in noir films it's the rapid-fire back and forth between characters, usually dames and their dupes, that shows the form off in all its gritty glory.
It helps, of course, that the dialogue was often scripted by hardboiled masters like Raymond Chandler, and spoken by tough guys like Bogart and Mitchum. In a world of brass knuckles, characters need to get down to brass tacks. Their lives may depend on it, and besides, dames like it. And delivering this patter is an art, not unlike reciting Shakespeare, or hitting a bullseye. For fans of movie mysteries, it’s a pleasure that never pales.
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Here then, is our roundup of great lines with hearts like a twelve-minute egg.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Tough Talkers- Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Wilmer Cook)
Tough Talk- Wilmer Cook: "Keep on riding me and they’re going to be picking iron out of your liver."
Sam Spade: "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
Tough Talker- Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell)
Tough Talk- "Okay Marlowe," I said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on."
Double Indemnity (1944)
Tough Talkers- Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray).
Tough Talk- Walter: "I was thinking about that dame upstairs, and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us."
Tough Talker- Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price)
Tough Talk- "I can afford a blemish on my character, but not on my clothes."
The Big Sleep (1946)
Tough Talker- Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart)
Tough Talk- "You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling."
Tough Talkers- Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) and Gilda Mundson (Rita Hayworth)
Tough Talk- Johnny: "Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?"
Gilda: "What I want to know is, does it bother you?"
Tough Talker- Frank Chambers (John Garfield)
Tough Talk- "With my brains and your looks, we could go places."
Lady From Shanghai (1947)
Tough Talker- Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles)
Tough Talk- "Maybe I’ll live so long that I’ll forget her. Maybe I’ll die trying."
Brute Force (1947)
Tough Talkers- Inmates Collins (Burt Lancaster) and Gallagher (Charles Bickford)
Tough Talk: Gallagher: "It’ll only make things tougher for everybody else."
Collins: "I don’t care about everybody else."
Gallagher: "That’s cemetery talk."
Collins: "Why not? We’re buried, ain’t we? The only thing is, we ain’t dead."
Out of the Past (1947)
Tough Talkers- Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) and Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer)
Tough Talk- Jeff: "That’s not the way to win."
Kathie: "Is there a way to win?"
Jeff: "There’s a way to lose more slowly."
Key Largo (1948)
Tough Talker- Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart)
Tough Talk- "When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses."
The Big Clock (1948)
Tough Talker- Louise Patterson (Elsa Lanchester)
Tough Talk- "Isn’t it a pity? The wrong people always have money."
The Killing (1956)
Tough Talker- Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden)
Tough Talk- "You like money. You’ve got a great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart."
Body Heat (1981)
Tough Talkers- Ned Racine (William Hurt) and Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner)
Tough Talk- Ned: "Maybe you shouldn’t dress like that."
Matty: "This is a blouse and skirt. I don’t know what you’re talking about."
Ned: "You shouldn’t wear that body."