Out of the Past

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(1947, directed by Jacques Tourneur)

- inducted 2018 –

“Although I couldn't name a favorite film noir, Out of the Past is nevertheless one of those movies that I would never, ever part with if consigned to the proverbial desert island. When I think of what we mean by the phrase “film noir,” chances are THIS is the film I'm thinking about. It’s got everything encompassed by “noir”: deep and telling shadows, an inescapable past leading to a bitter doom, and the most fatal of femmes fatale. Robert Mitchum’ Jeff Bailey is the very model of a morally compromised noir hero, one who is tangled in the web of a criminal past, one whose easy morals lead him into a downward spiral. The film builds him out of shadows and into shadows he is consigned.

“While you could make an argument that this is cinematographer Nicolas Musuraca’s film--never was the dangerous world of the post war era so beautifully shot--I think this is Jane Greer’s film. She totally dominates the men in the film. Her Kathie Moffat remains the gold standard for dangerous women. You can have your Barbara Stanwycks, your Audrey Totters, or your Jeanne Moreaus, Jane Greer is a dame to kill for. She devours Robert Mitchum AND Kirk Douglas. From the moment she appears, backlit by the Mexican sunlight, she's every promise ever made by duplicitous women. Men? They're pawns to her, a means to an end, and she plays them mercilessly. Here's the touchstone, though: One of my problems with Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity is that she’s such an obvious monster that I have a hard time believing that sad sack Fred MacMurray would kill for her. With Kathie Moffat, though, you believe it from the instant you see her. Kill, sell your soul, anything she asks.”

~ Christianne Benedict

Principal cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb, Steve Brodie, Virginia Huston, Paul Valentine, Dickie Moore, Ken Niles
Screenplay by Geoffrey Holmes (Daniel Mainwaring) based on his novel Build My Gallows High
Produced by Warren Duff
Executive producer: Robert Sparks
Director of photography: Nicholas Musuraca
Art direction by Albert S. D’Agostino, Jack Okey
Set decoration by Darrell Silvera
Gowns by Edward Stevenson
Film editing by Samuel E. Beetley
Original music by Roy Webb
Makeup by Gordon Bau
Sound by Clem Portman, Francis M. Sarver
Additional uncredited screenplay contributions by James M. Cain, Frank Fenton
Special effects by Russell A. Cully, with optical effects by Linwood G. Dunn (uncredited)

Duration: 97 minutes
Languages: English, American Sign Language
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (RCA Sound System)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Produced and released in USA by RKO Radio Pictures
Premiered in USA on 13 November 1947

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1991
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 18 July 2004