Things I Love About Out of the Past (1947)
Out of the Past has always been one of those features that I consider to be a near-perfect example of the film noir era. It has a lot to recommend it – the performances of Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas (as well as the supporting cast), the memorable and oh-so-quotable dialogue, the striking use of lights and shadows, a typically complex – but not too confusing – noir plot, and a great ending.
Here are a few of the other things I love about Out of the Past:
The gossipy café owner, Marny, who practically falls all over herself in her enthusiasm to tell Jim that his girl has been stepping out with the local gas station owner – yet seems completely oblivious to the reason why Jim abruptly decides to eat his sandwich elsewhere. She even shares details about Jeff and Ann with Joe Stephanos, a complete stranger!
Every scene with Kirk Douglas, and just about every word that comes out of his mouth. I love how Douglas’ Whit manages to keep Joe in check by issuing random directions – like telling him to smoke a cigarette, or think of a number. And how he seems to have a constant fiendish smirk lurking, even when he’s saying something nasty. And the cold, steely, calculating cast that comes over his eyes when you least expect it. And the tone of his voice when he says Kathie’s name.
The look on Jeff’s face after Kathie shoots Fisher. It lasts only a couple of seconds, but it registers so many emotions – disbelief, shock, dismay, revulsion. In just that moment, he manages to convey that sinking, sick feeling you get when you realize that a treasured idyll has come to an end.
When Jeff enters Baylord’s office and Baylord asks what he wants, then makes a move to answer the ringing phone. By way of reply, in one motion, as easy as breathing, Jeff moves the phone from Baylord’s reach, then knocks him cold with one good left hook. This move makes me chuckle out loud every time I see it.
The slap Whit delivers to Kathie. That was no fake movie slap. It was the real thing. I shouldn’t love seeing a man strike a woman, but it was so real, so intense, so well-deserved!
Speaking of slaps, the scene when Baylord slaps Jeff – and the follow-up punch that Jeff coolly blocks, telling Baylord, “That evens us. Now fold your hands or I’ll fold ‘em for you.” And a couple of seconds later, when Baylord looks like he’s contemplating another move, Jeff puts the kibosh on that with a few, well-chosen words: “I wouldn’t. I told you, I’m tired of getting pushed around. You’ll only get yourself out of breath.” Whoa!
When Whit makes a slight menacing gesture in Jeff’s direction, Jeff again uses his words instead of his hands to quell the idea: “I wouldn’t try it, Whit. You’re out of shape.”
Watching Whit’s growing realization and final acceptance of what Kathie really is. I never thought about it until recently, but Whit was pretty dense when it came to Kathie. After all she’d done – shooting him, taking his dough, running off with Jeff – he still continued to believe and trust her. Love is blind, sure, but is it stupid, too? Anyway, enough of picking on poor Whit – I love watching his face as he finally sees the real Kathie and makes up his mind that, in the words of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life: “One of us is going to jail – well, it’s not going to be me!”