Steve Fisher was a key figure in the development of film noir as a Hollywood genre, and one of the most important and influential screenwriters of the 1940s. Born Stephen Fisher in 1912, he was established as an author of short fiction by the time he was in his mid-twenties, including My Heart Sails Tomorrow, a mystery story in Liberty Magazine, and Shore Leave, which appeared in Cosmopolitan, and which he later transformed (in collaboration with Harvey Harris Gates) into the screenplay for Navy Secrets (1939). Fisher broke into films at Universal with the story for The Nurse From Brooklyn (1938), and he later wrote screenplays for Monogram and Paramount. Fisher's big break came, however, when his novel I Wake Up Screaming was purchased by 20th Century Fox and adapted by Dwight Taylor into the screenplay for the film of the same title, which is generally regarded as Hollywood's first film noir. H. Bruce Humberstone's I Wake Up Screaming was a stylishly dark thriller mixing romance and an unsettling mood of lurking doom on several levels into a compelling whole -- the film was actually somewhat less ominous in tone than Fisher's book, but it still established the film noir genre in American cinema. I Wake Up Screaming (which was issued at one point with the less jarring alternate title "Hot Spot") was not only a hugely popular success, as an unusual vehicle for Victor Mature, Betty Grable, and Laird Cregar, but it also opened up a whole new genre of psychologically centered crime thrillers, and also became one of the most heavily studied movies of its era. Fisher was next responsible for the screenplay of Fox's Berlin Correspondent (1942), a belated anti-Nazi thriller, and the flag-waving morale-boosting action-drama To the Shores of Tripoli that same year. The best of Fisher's wartime work was the screenplay (written in collaboration with future blacklistee Albert Maltz) for Destination Tokyo (1943), an epic-length submarine thriller starring Cary Grant. In 1945, Fisher and Frank Gruber would successfully adapt Charles G. Booth's novel Mr. Angel Comes Aboard into the screenplay for Johnny Angel, one of RKO's biggest hits of the year.
Fisher returned to the field of film noir in 1946-1947 with a series of beautifully wrought scripts that represented his most productive period in Hollywood. His script for the genre classic Dead Reckoning (1947), directed by John Cromwell and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott, was, at once, one of the most beautifully stylish and disturbing crime dramas of the period, filled with notably grisly snatches of dialogue worked offhandedly into the standard banter of these underworld/mystery thrillers, and nasty action (mostly involving fire), as well as hints of very dark psychology at work, even in the mind of the hero. He also wrote the screenplays to such notable low-budget efforts of the period as the Monogram drama The Hunted (1947); and he did the scripts to a pair of MGM classics, Robert Montgomery's dazzlingly experimental Lady in the Lake (1947), based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, and Edward N. Buzzell's moody, dark detective thriller Song of the Thin Man (1947), which closed out the long-running film series on a fascinating and compelling note. Those two films marked the pinnacle of Fisher's career in Hollywood in terms of prestige.