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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Darkness in the Desert: Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

Thanks to the Warner Archive Collection I just learned about a film festival I've never heard of before. At the very bottom of their news letter I saw a post about the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Film Festival. Of course I just had to click on the link to see what this was all about, especially since I've been living in the LA area since 1998 and had never heard of this cinematic celebration that beat TCM to the punch by ten years.

The festival was founded in 2000 by the late Arthur Lyons, a crime novelist who wrote a number of detective novels set in California. He also wrote several nonfiction books, including "Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir," in 2000 (obviously this guy really knew what he was talking about when it came to Noir). And since Lyons had strong connections to Palm Springs, having lived there since the time he was eleven, and in adulthood served as a Palm Springs city councilman, it made perfect since to base an annual celebration of his favorite genre in his own town. Along with co-founder Craig Prater, Lyons co-founded the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival.

Although Lyons passed away in 2008, the festival continues in his honor, boasting a lineup of beloved favorites, lost classics, and overlooked gems, often spotlighting collectors who screen prints from their private collections. As the host of the annual film noir festival, Lyons went so far as to wear "gangster" suits and fedoras that encouraged audiences to dress up like gun molls and mob hit men. "I try to make it a happening," Lyons said of the festival in a 2003 interview with the Desert Sun newspaper. The original

schedule included movies and interviews with Old Hollywood

actors, including Rhonda Fleming, and writers, among them Mickey Spillane. Photography exhibits were also included that displayed

vintage cars, and a temporary "noir" bookstore rounded out the program. Sounds like a pretty immersive experience.

All film screenings take place at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E.

Baristo Road in Palm Springs (for more information about Camelot Theaters, visit Although the festival is scheduled over the course of four days, Thursday has just one screening for opening night. Friday and Saturday have four to five films and Sunday finishes out with just three films, leaving plenty of time in the evening for people to travel back home the same day. And now, every year the desert goes dark with an eclectic mix of Film Noir "B" movies in the heart of Palm Springs featuring special guests and other surprises - like Warner Archive discs! This year is no exception with the big screen shimmering with Warner Archive Noir including Desperate (1947), Side Street (1949) and Split Second (1953). Q&As scheduled with special guests include Monika Heinried (daughter of Paul), Richard Duryea (son of Dan), Andy Robinson (side kick to Walter Matthau in Charley Varrick), and Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris).

It's important to note that the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Film Festival wouldn't be possible without the generous gifts of corporate sponsors and individual donors who believe that Palm Springs should be the home of one of the best Film Noir Festivals in the world! For more information on how you or your company can support the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival email Michael C. Green or The Palm Springs Cultural Center.

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