Louise Wilford

Every British Film Noir I Can’t Quite Remember

This is how it starts:

[Early monochrome evening. A street.]
Fog creeps along its gutters like curls of smoke.
Children’s voices ‒hopscotching ‒hum quietly off-screen,
in sweet and distant counterpoint to the echoing hush.

Stiletto heels gunshot against the cobbles ‒
slimwaisted, tailored raincoat; smoothed-off hair
beneath a tiny hat; handbag tucked beneath her elbow.

Sounds are crisp, distinct: feet climbing five steps to a
door,
gloved hand rapping against the wood, ta-ta-tat.
Rag-faced woman in overalls, head in a turban,
edge of door suspicion in her weasel eyes.

Enquiry [voice clipped, with an edge of London smog.]
Response [vowels round and fast]
She frowns [hint of trembling lip, wild sway of eyeball],
half-turns, turns back. [Close up.] Enquires again,
voice thin with the tightness of grief or guilt.
He ain’t home, I’m sure!’
Pulling her raincoat tight, defeated, she descends,
click-clacks along the pavement and is swallowed
by the junction at the end.
A pub, sea of chatter,
steamy windows. A car outside backfires, just as a man
flings open the door. Trilby [low over his eyes]. Broken
nose.
You know he’s wearing a stained vest beneath that coat.
He’s looking around, searching with lighthouse eyes,
cigarette limp between thin lips, an unshaved chin.

She’s in a phone booth near the counter, pushing in coins,
pressing levers, ‘Could you connect me to Mayfair 3110,
please?
’. Voice nervous, proto-posh. [Close-up of fingers
twisting the hem of her sleeve.] He spots her, jabs the
spent butt into a saucer, pushes roughly past the tables –
Hey! Watch it, chum!’ ‒grabs her by her wrist. ‘Thought
you could run out on me, eh?’ She tries to twist away, step
round him. Lets out a bleat of sound. Fear trembles in the
shadows. ‘I never meant it, Ron. Please, let me go!’. He
glances round, sees they’re being watched, young eyes
staring at them, a tide of gossip rising and falling. ‘Come
on, we’re leaving!’ Pulls her between the tables, through
the door, out into the misty street. [Traffic passes by:
museum cars. Vintage street lights flicker on. A woman
at an upstairs window pulls a shutter closed. A baby
wails.]

He drags her by her elbow over busy roads,
darts down an alley between buildings, pushes her
against the bricks. ‘Ron, Ron, I never meant…’
Shut your mouth, bitch!’ A blow across that powdered face
smears lipstick across her chin, splits her lip.

[Camera pans away down silver-grey streets –we only
hear the slap and her scream, quickly cut off].

And later there’ll be flashbacks: an older man with
money –
a slippery trusted friend ‒a house much poorer
than her clothes imply ‒a hoodlum with a hold,
an ex-wife with a grudge ‒a murder plot, a set-up –
she’s been framed, he’s been plugged.

And this is how it ends:
A shot of Big Ben, smoke-black against a putty-coloured
sky.
[Camera pans down over the river, past wharfs and ferries,
to Waterloo Bridge] A woman throws herself into the
Thames.
[Slow motion fall, scream dopplering behind, the final
splash repeated,
and a lingering shot of her open handbag sinking,
contents drifting away on the grey waves ‒
train tickets, a match-book, an opened letter ‒
as the chords rise for
[‘The End’.]

Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford teaches and examines GCSE and A Level English, and has been writing since she was a child. Her poetry and short stories have been published in a variety of journals. She has won or been shortlisted for many competitions. She is currently working on a children’s fantasy novel and is about to embark on an MA in Creative Writing.