Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Out of the Past (1947)

Wow, that Kirk Douglas fellow can act.

This super film noir offers an early glimpse of Douglas' talent. It's only his second role after making his debut a year earlier in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.


Douglas never lays a hand on anybody as Whit, a rich gambler in Out of the Past. But he's a menacing presence on the screen. Mess with him at your peril.

"I fire people, but nobody quits me," he suggests.

Whit and his dame, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer), have a disagreement. It ends with the lady taking a few shots at Whit. Some connect.

"It amazes me how she missed so often," Whit recalls when he hires gumshoe Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) to find her and the $40,000 she took.

"Maybe you were moving," Jeff suggests.

Bailey finds Moffat in Mexico. They fall in love. Bailey decides he's not so eager to report her whereabouts to Whit. The pair slip away to San Francisco to start their lives together until Bailey's old partner, Fisher (Steve Brodie), finds them.


That discovery, and Bailey being found again three years later and tapped for another job by Whit, drive this powerful film from director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, Wichita).

Mitchum smokes up a storm as the private eye who's messed up with a woman of suspect loyalty and a gambler eager to escape the attention of the U.S. Treasury. He looks great in a trenchcoat and fedora as he tries to figure out how he can get himself out of a mess from his past and return to be with his lady love, Ann (Virginia Houston). Jeff gets into one good slug fest. Otherwise, he uses his brains and his mouth as his weapons of choice.

RATING: 9/10

FUN FACTS: Director Jacques Tourneur directed a Twilight Zone episode, Night Call, in 1964.

Virginia Houston's Hollywood career was brief, from 1946 to 1954. Out of the Past was her second film. She died in 1981 at age 55.

Out of the Past was one of six films released in 1947 featuring Steve Brodie. Others included Thunder Mountain and Crossfire.

Lee Server's work, Robert Mitchum: 'Baby, I Don't Care', was published in 2001. He dedicates 12 pages of Mitchum's biography to the making of Out of the Past.

Some interesting facts:

a) Daniel Mainwaring, author of Build My Gallows High, which was the basis of Out of the Past, suggested Humphrey Bogart for the leading role;

b) Kirk Douglas, with a pay stub of $25,000, was the highest paid actor who worked on Out of the Past. Mitchum earned about $10,300;

c) Jane Greer was sought after by Howard Hughes, but married Rudy Vallee;

d) Director Jacques Tourneur worked with cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca on Cat People. Musuraca also shot Stranger on the Third Floor, often considered to be the first film noir.

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