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The Celluloid Gumshoe

Eddie Muller has dedicated his life to finding, restoring, and re-releasing lost films of the great Film Noir era of the 1940s and ’50s. His goal: the preservation of our cinematic history, well beyond film noir.

By BARBARA TANNENBAUM

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Each year, Eddie Muller develops a new theme to curate his picks for his increasingly popular Noir City film festivals. In 2015, at the the legendary Castro Theatre in San Francisco, Muller’s hometown, it was “Unholy Matrimony.” With 10 days of double features playing every January, the Castro is Noir City’s flagship venue. Photo by David Allen

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

As a writer, publisher, event producer, and film historian, Muller earned the nickname the “Czar of Noir” for his immersion in this hard-boiled crime genre. Photo by Barbara Tannenbaum

When Eddie Muller opened his email one day in 2012, he found an odd and brief message asking for his home phone number. He answered in one word: “Why?” The reply: “Fed-Ex requires it. I’m sending a check.”

The next day, Muller received a $10,000 donation to the non-profit Muller founded to rescue and preserve the old film noirs of the mid-20th century. Muller promptly called the guy, Joseph K. McLaughlin, inviting him to dinner when his next “Noir City” film festival rolled into the donor’s neighborhood, in Silver Springs, Maryland. Muller recalls standing in the lobby of the AFI Silver Theater as a lanky, silver-haired gentleman approached him. Without a word, the man pulled out an envelope from his suit pocket with another large check and stuffed it into Muller’s startled hands.

“For once, I didn’t do my advance work,” Muller admits. Over dinner, he couldn’t find a way to redirect the conversation. The donor raved on about Muller’s career. He’d read every one of his books on the film noir genre, listened to each DVD commentary.

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