Moseby Confidential

book cover

Arthur Penn's Night Moves and the Rise of Neo-Noir

Matthew Asprey Gear

There is little doubt that Moseby Confidential will become an essential resource for anyone with an interest in Night Moves, as well as neo-noir, and the seventies film more generally. Diligently researched with close attention to the existing literature, archival material and supplemented by new interviews (including with Clark and Warren, and relatives of Penn and Sharp), Gear uncovers information about the movie’s development, production, and post-production that will be eye-openers for even the most avid fans of the film.                      – Jonathan Kirshner, Mid Century Cinema

This definitive study of Arthur Penn’s Night Moves is the first extended monograph on the cult classic, which is often singled out as one of the great irreverent neo-noir movies of mid-1970s New Hollywood, alongside Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye and Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

Author Matthew Asprey Gear draws on a wealth of new and unpublished archival interviews with key cast and crew members and witnesses to the production of one of the last radical private eye films of the period, starring Gene Hackman, Melanie Griffith and Jennifer Warren.

Moseby Confidential tells the story of the fraught collaboration between two artists of very different sensibilities – Scottish scriptwriter Alan Sharp, the hopeless fatalist; American director Arthur Penn, the agitating progressive. They came together in 1973 to make a dark film about an America bereft of answers. Everything seemed in place for a triumph. Finally, in careers plagued by compromise, there was both an adequate budget and artistic freedom.

Gene Hackman’s performance would expertly particularize an archetype fracturing before our eyes – the knightly private detective unable to solve his case, the macho American male desperate for certainty but lost at sea. But neither Penn nor Sharp was satisfied with the resulting movie and disagreed over its final form.

After a long delay, Warner Brothers cut its losses and dumped Night Moves into cinemas with a half-hearted publicity campaign. The movie’s reviews were mixed and it failed to make a profit in the summer of 1975. That season was dominated by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, which provided Hollywood with a new and super-profitable model of film production.

Yet Night Moves is now recognized as one of the defining films of the 1970s, both as a profound human drama and as an enduring evocation of the zeitgeist. This Technicolor neo-noir helped reinvent and redeem the private detective movie, while offering deep and disturbing insight into the moral ambiguities of the Watergate era.

Title: Moseby Confidential:
Arthur Penn’s Night Moves and the Rise of Neo-Noir
ISBN-13: 978-0-9863770-8-2
Publication date: May 15, 2019
List Price: US $18.95; UK £14.95; EU €16.95
Size: Trade paperback, 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
178 pages; Black & White; Illustrated
BISAC: Film & Video: History & Criticism

Matthew Asprey Gear

Matthew Asprey Gear is the author of At the End of the Street in the Shadow: Orson Welles and the City. His writings on film and literature have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Senses of Cinema, and Bright Lights Film Journal, and his fiction in many publications, including Crime Factory. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“The final word on Night Moves

One reads far too many monographs on films that are barely worth a capsule review, let alone thousands of words. This is why Moseby Confidential is so refreshing: the importance of the subject matches the quality of the work. Not only does the author intimately reconstruct the forces that came together to create this seminal film, he did it in a highly readable, authoritative way. This is not some navel-gazing pedant’s analysis, it’s an adventure story about making a key film in the detective genre. It catches and explores the cultural and cinematic overtones of Night Moves and confirms the quality of the talent that Arthur Penn, Alan Sharp, Dede Allen, and their collaborators devoted to this complex film.” 
Nat Segaloff, author of Arthur Penn: American Director
"Matthew Asprey Gear sharply and smartly captures both how this key film of the 1970s tapped into a critical, even cynical or downbeat tone of the times and how it served thereby as a marker of how far cinema had progressed as a form of social, existential, and self-reflexive investigation. Great research matched by passionate and consequential analysis."
Dana Polan, Professor of Cinema Studies, New York University