Day 24 of Noirvember: Comings and Goings

•November 24, 2019 • 5 Comments

Duff’s career began in radio.

November 24th was a significant day in the lives of three classic movie performers, each of whom had a prominent role in at least three films noirs – they were either born on the 24th of November, or that was date on which they died. Today’s Noirvember post pays tribute to these perfomers, and the noir films in which they appeared.

Howard Duff

Duff was born on November 24, 1913, in Bremerton, Washington, a day he once described as “so foggy, even the birds were walking.”

Duff started his career in radio, appearing on numerous radio serials before landing the title role in The Adventures of Sam Spade.

His first film was also his noir debut – Brute Force (1947), where he played one of five inmates who plan a risky prison break. Duff’s other noirs were The Naked City (1948), co-starring Ted De Corsia, Dorothy Hart, and Barry Fitzgerald; Shakedown (1950), a rarely seen, but absolutely cracking film noir where Duff plays an unscrupulous newspaper photographer; Private Hell 36 (1954), with Steve Cochran and Dorothy Malone; and While the City Sleeps (1956), starring Thomas Mitchell, Dana Andrews, and Ida Lupino.

Duff, Lupino, and their daughter, Bridget.

Speaking of Ida Lupino, Duff was married to the actress from 1951 to 1984. The two met while filming the noirish Woman in Hiding (1950). When they first met, Lupino declared that she “couldn’t stand Duff,” and Duff maintained that Lupino “scared” him.

During the HUAC witch hunt of the 1950s, Duff was jailed for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about Communism in the motion picture industry. His name was included in the publication Red Channels, which identified writers, directors, and performers suspected of Communist affiliations. Duff was removed from the cast of Sam Spade, couldn’t get a radio job for two years, and was able to land only a handful of screen gigs.

The actor died of a heart attack at the age of 76 in July 1990.

Geraldine Fitzgerald

Nobody Lives Forever with John Garfield.

Fitzgerald was born on the same day and year as Howard Duff, in Greystones, Ireland, the daughter of a prominent lawyer.

Encouraged to pursue acting by her aunt, she joined Dublin’s famous Gate Theatre, where her aunt was one of the leading stars. While there, she appeared in productions with future fellow luminaries James Mason and Orson Welles.

The actress was known for her combative nature, and she blamed herself for hampering her early career in Hollywood by fighting with studio heads over her roles. Her daughter, Susan Scheftel, once said, “My mother was just way too feisty to be in bondage to the Warner Bros.” (Incidentally, Susan’s father, Stuart Scheftel, was a businessman and grandson of the founder of Macy’s department store, Isidor Strauss, who, along with his wife, died on the Titanic. He and Fitzgerald were married from 1946 to Sheftel’s death in 1994.)

One of her best-known films was Wuthering Heights.

She appeared in three films noirs: The Strange Love of Uncle Harry (1945), a period piece with George Sanders and Ella Raines; Three Strangers (1946), the eighth of nine features starring Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre; and Nobody Lives Forever (1946), where she was a wealthy spinster who is targeted for a con by John Garfield.

Her best-known roles were probably the second female leads she played in Wuthering Heights, as the pitiable wife of Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Dark Victory, as Bette Davis’s best friend.

Fitzgerald died in 2005 at the age of 91, from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.

George Raft

Raft was born on September 26, 1895 (my older daughter’s birthday twin!) in New York City. His name at birth was George Ranft; one of 10 children, he grew up in the city’s rough Hell’s Kitchen area.

Raft was a dancer early in his career.

A school dropout at the age of 13, Raft was a professional boxer for a while, and then capitalized on his natural dancing ability by working as a “taxi-dancer” in local cafes.

His breakout role was Scarface (1932), a thinly veiled accounting of the exploits of gangster Al Capone. After the release of the film, Capone himself reportedly reached out to Raft to offer his stamp of approval. Over the years, Raft also hobnobbed with other gangland figures, like Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Owney Madden.

Raft claimed that he was “tricked” in 1923 into marrying Grace Mulrooney, who had once worked as one of his ballroom dancing partners. The couple separated soon after they wed, but Mulrooney refused to grant Raft a divorce – a stance that she maintained until her death in 1970.

Raft’s first noir was Johnny Angel (1945).

Under contract to Paramount, Raft was put on suspension for refusing to appear in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), starring Miriam Hopkins. Raft said, “It’s not that I mind being the guy on the wrong side of the law, but I won’t take a role that’s pure heel. The character has to have some ray of warmth, some redeeming quality – or it just isn’t real.” Raft also famously turned down the roles in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon that would be played to much success by Humphrey Bogart.

Raft appeared in five noirs: Johnny Angel (1945), where he played a ship’s captain investigating the death of his father and his crew; Nocturne (1946), with Lynn Bari and Virginia Huston; Red Light (1950), with Virginia Mayo and Gene Lockhart; Loan Shark (1952), in which he played an ex-con who goes undercover to infiltrate a loan sharking gang; and Rogue Cop (1954), where he played a syndicate boss.

Raft died of emphysema on November 24, 1980, at the age of 85.

Join me in saluting these November 24th illuminaries today . . . and join me for Day 25 of Noirvember tomorrow!


Day 23 of Noirvember: Top Seven in ’47

•November 23, 2019 • 4 Comments

If you were to ask a noir fan to name the greatest year for film noir, chances are that the answer would be 1947. Personally, I could also make a case for several other years – 1946 and 1950 come to mind most immediately – but when you take a look at the titles of the noirs released in 1947, you have to admit that it was a most awesome year.

I’ve never attempted to name my top films for 1947, but I thought I’d challenge myself today and pick out my favorite seven features of the year. I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t easy – here are just a few of the gems that didn’t make the cut: Railroaded, Possessed, Body and Soul, Kiss of Death, T-Men, Crossfire . . . and I could go on!

But I won’t keep talking about the movies I didn’t select for my top seven in 1947 – here, instead, are the ones I did!

Out of the Past

I know that many noir-heads consider this film to be the quintessential noir, and although I don’t (Double Indemnity would take that title, for my money), there’s no denying that it deserves a spot on any “best of” list.

Kathie may be the quintessential femme fatale.

What’s it about?

An ex-private dick, turned small-town gas station owner, finds his quest for a simple, quiet life upended after a chance encounter with someone from his past.

What I love best:

Kathie Moffat, brought to life by Jane Greer, is one of my all-time favorite femme fatales. She’s beautiful and intelligent and fun to be with, a rare combination in a fatal femme. You can totally understand why Robert Mitchum’s Jeff Bailey was such a fool for her. She’s also ruthless and fearless, which she demonstrates over and over throughout the film, starting before we even meet her, by shooting her lover and stealing his money.

My favorite quote:

“You know, a dame with a rod is like a guy with a knitting needle.” – Al Fisher (Steve Brodie)

Born to Kill

There are many noirs where the bad guys are really quite palatable – you may hate them, but you love to hate them, like Richard Conte’s Mr. Brown in The Big Combo or Clifton Webb’s Waldo Lydecker in Laura. But Sam Wild, the character played by Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill, is just plain scary – a complete psychopath without a single redeeming quality. The type of guy who is – dare I say it – born to kill.

Everybody needs a pal like Marty.

What’s it about?

A recently divorced woman is inexplicably drawn to a man who’s not only a murder (and she knows it), but who woos and marries her sister in an effort to improve his lot in life.

What I love best:

I’ve said before that every movie’s better with Elisha Cook, Jr., in it – and that axiom certainly holds true here. In Born to Kill, he plays Marty, the loyal best friend of Sam Wild. He’s the kind of pal that we all need, the very embodiment of the term “ride or die.”

My favorite quote:

“You can’t just go around killin’ people whenever the notion strikes you. It’s not feasible.” – Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook, Jr.)


Desperate. It’s a well-done little noir.

No one talks about this movie much, but I just love it. It’s a really simple story (none of your typical complicated noir machinations), there are no flashbacks or voiceovers, and there’s nary a femme fatale in sight. But it’s still a gripping, well-done little noir.

What’s it about?

A truck driver with a new wife and a baby on the way finds himself on the run from local gangsters and police when he’s inadvertently involved in a crime.

What I love best:

There’s a shootout in an apartment house stairwell near the end of the movie that is one of the most noirish things I’ve ever seen. It ends with the death of one of the characters that can best be described as beautifully terrifying. There’s a five-second clip of it below. (If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t click!)

My favorite quote: “I’m sorry I can’t give you a choice of food, Steve, but it won’t make much difference. You’re not going to live long enough to get any nourishment out of it.” – Walt Radak (Raymond Burr)

The Devil Thumbs a Ride

Lawrence Tierney had a banner year in 1947, with this film and Born to Kill forming a sort of cinematic tag team of psychopathy. This is another film that doesn’t get a lot of attention; it’s certainly no masterpiece, but it’s one of my personal guilty pleasures, and I just couldn’t exclude it from this list.

One dreadful thing after another.

What’s it about?

A traveling salesman gets more than he bargained for when he picks up a homicidal hitchhiker.

What I love best:

A potent feeling of dread is a staple of film noir, and this movie has it in spades. The plot is fairly brimming with one dreadful thing after another.

My favorite quote:

“I’m glad to have company. I hate driving alone.” – Jimmy Ferguson (Ted North)

Nora Prentiss

I’ve loved this movie since the first time I saw it. I was blown away by the story and captivated by the performances. Plus, it’s got Ann Sheridan in the title role. Period.

What’s it about?

A doctor with a wife and two children falls in love with a nightclub singer and turns his life upside down to be with her.

The plot of Nora Prentiss is everything.

What I love best:

The plot is unlike any other noir that I’ve seen – it’s just so unique and inventive, with a great noirish twist at the end.

My favorite quote:

“I could never prove my innocence. You know that. They’d never believe me. If a man commits one crime, it’s easy to suspect him of another.” – Richard Talbot (Kent Smith)

They Won’t Believe Me

This movie has a perfectly framed flashback that comprises the greater part of the movie, and when it comes to perfect noir endings, this film has one of the best.

What’s it about?

A philandering husband falls in love with a co-worker and finds himself falsely accused of her murder.

My favorite Robert Young role.

What I love best:

My introduction to Robert Young was in Marcus Welby, M.D., a popular hour-long television show from the 1970s in which Young played the title role. It wasn’t until a few decades later that I discovered Young’s classic movie career, and They Won’t Believe Me contains my favorite Robert Young performance. His Larry Ballentine is charmingly appealing, but he’s really a pretty awful person – a serial philanderer, not to mention a liar and a thief. But Young’s portrayal evokes your sympathy and somehow gets you on his side.

My favorite quote:

“She looked like a very special kind of dynamite, neatly wrapped in nylon and silk. Only I wasn’t having any. I’d been too close to one explosion already. I was powder shy.” – Larry Ballentine (Robert Young)

Odd Man Out

Unlike every other movie on this list, I’ve only seen Odd Man Out once, just a few months ago. The fact that out of all the first-rate noir features that were released in 1947, I chose this film as one of my top seven, is a testament to just how good this movie is. Incidentally, it stars James Mason – that’s pretty much all you need to know.

It’s just good. That’s all.

What’s it about?

A group of Irish revolutionaries attempt a robbery, but one of them is injured during the getaway and finds himself the subject of a citywide manhunt.

What I love best:

The overwhelming sensation of doom that covers this film almost from the beginning is absolutely riveting. I watched Odd Man Out over a span of several days, and there was something about it that stayed with me – I found myself thinking about it and looking forward to be able to get back to the story – I was fairly itching to find out what would happen.

My favorite quote:

“I believe in everything we’re doing, but violence is getting us nowhere.” – Johnny McQueen (James Mason)

What are your favorite noirs from 1947? Let me know!

And join me tomorrow for Day 24 of Noirvember!

Day 22 of Noirvember: Someone’s in the Kitchen

•November 22, 2019 • 6 Comments

I don’t know if classic film stars spent as much time in the kitchen as the movie magazines of the day would have you believe, but I quite like to think of my favorite performers whipping up a three-layer chocolate cake or tasty batch of fried chicken.

Today’s Noirvember post takes a peek inside the kitchens of some of our favorite shadowy actors and actresses – and serves up my recommended noir for each!

Veronica Lake: The Glass Key (1942)


Richard Widmark: Night and the City (1950)


Dorothy Malone: The Big Sleep (1946)


Ava Gardner: The Killers (1946) (duh)


Raymond Burr: Desperate (1947)


Jeanne Crain: Leave Her to Heaven (1945)


Victor Mature: Cry of the City (1948)


Rita Hayworth: Gilda (1946)

Bon appetit, y’all! Join me tomorrow for Day 23 of Noirvember!

Day 21 of Noirvember: Trivia Thursday

•November 21, 2019 • 4 Comments

This ain’t just acting.

If you know anything at all about me, you know that I love trivia. Today’s Noirvember post serves up some trivial tidbits about some of my favorite film noir actresses. Here goes . . .

Hope Emerson made her feature film debut in Cry of the City (1948), where she played a jewel-stealing masseuse. In one scene in the film, she strangles the character played by Richard Conte. Emerson’s determination to infuse the scene with realism reportedly caused Conte to seek medical treatment.

Lauren Bacall dated Kirk Douglas for a while, when both were students at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. The two starred opposite each other in the 1950 film Young Man With a Horn.

Joan Bennett’s first marriage was when she was 16 years old.

At the age of 16, Joan Bennett married John Marion Fox, who was 20 years her senior. She was thrilled (at first) to be “a married women, and therefore, an adult.”

Lana Turner was married seven times. Her seventh and final marriage was to Ronald Dante, a 39-year-old nightclub hypnotist whom Turner dated for around three weeks before she married Dante in May 1969. The union lasted less than a year, with Turner charging that Dante defrauded her of $34,000.

While a student at Northwestern University, Jean Hagen’s roommate was fellow aspiring actress Patricia Neal.

When Gloria Grahame won the Academy Award for her role in The Bad and the Beautiful, she tripped on her way up to the podium and muttered a curse word, causing a rumor that she was drunk. “I don’t drink,” she later told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. “I think I was emotionally druink.”

At the age of seven, Susan Hayward suffered a fractured hip when she was hit by a car. Despite doctors’ forecast that she would probably never walk again, the future actress was able to get around on crutches after six months, and she returned to school after a year.

Emma Matzo.

Born Emma Matzo, Lizabeth Scott chose her last name in honor of one of her favorite plays, Mary of Scotland.

Ruth Roman’s parents were owners of a carnival sideshow in Boston. Roman recalled that although the sideshow “wasn’t very big or very fancy . . . it was the most exciting thing in the world to me. I still get weak with nostalgia whenever I look at a merry-go-round.”

Agnes Moorehead made her first stage appearance at the age of three, singing on a church program. She was such an imaginative and talented youngster that her mother greeted her each day with the question, “Well, Agnes, who are you today?”

Join me tomorrow on Day 22 of Noirvember!

Day 20 of Noirvember: The Dark Page – Part II

•November 20, 2019 • 4 Comments

Two years ago, during Noirvember, I wrote about one of my book collection treasures, a beautiful coffee table tome called The Dark Page: Books That Inspired American Film Noir, by Kevin Johnson. The Dark Page shares beautiful photos of books that were the basis of film noir features in America, and provides trivia tidbits (my favorites!) about both the books and the movies.

My post back then focused on Part I of this double-volume set; this year, I thought I’d write about some of the books in Part II, which covers 1950 to 1965.

Book: Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong

Movie: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), starring Richard Widmark, Anne Bancroft, and Marilyn Monroe

Originally, Dorothy McGuire was cast in the starring role in the film, and Jules Dassin (who would go on to direct a top-notch heist movie, Rififi) was tapped as director. Both were replaced for the final film, McGuire by Anne Bancroft, in her big-screen debut, and Dassin by Roy Baker.

Book: The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein

Movie: While the City Sleeps (1956)

Author Charles Einstein is the older half-brother of comedian/actor/director Albert Brooks (who was born Albert Einstein) and actor-comedian Bob Einstein (better known as Super Dave Osborne). The story was based on the William Heirens serial killings that took place in Chicago in the mid-1940s.

Book: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Movie: Strangers on a Train, starring Farley Granger, Robert Walker, and Ruth Roman

Famed writer Raymond Chandler worked on the screeplay, but director Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t happy with the work he did and he wound up hiring Czenzi Ormonde, one of Ben Hecht’s assistants, to finish it. “Whenever I collaborate with another writer who, like myself, specializes in mystery, thriller, or suspense, things don’t seems to work out too well,” Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut in his 1967 interview. “We’d sit together and I would say, ‘Why not do it this way?’ and he’s answer, ‘Well, if you can puzzle it out, what do you need me for?’”

Book: The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg

Movie: The Harder They Fall (1956), starring Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger, and Jan Sterling

The book was based on the Primo Carnera boxing scandal. This was Bogart’s last film; he was dying of cancer during production, but he was so close-mouthed about his illness that even the film’s producer didn’t know.

Book: The Condemned by Jo Pagano

Movie: The Sound of Fury (AKA Try and Get Me), starring Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, and Richard Carlson

The novel was based on the case of two killers in San Jose, California who were hanged by a lynch mob in November 1933. The 1936 Fritz Lang film Fury, starring Spencer Tracy, was also based on this incident.

Book: Sudden Fear by Edna Sherrry

Movie: Sudden Fear (1952), starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, and Gloria Grahame

The role of the husband in the film was first offered to Marlon Brando, and Clark Gable was also considered (the director, David Miller, put the kibosh on the Gable casting, saying that Gable was too old for the part). Both Joan Crawford and Jack Palance earned Academy Award nominations for their performances.

If you can, check out some of these books and films — you won’t be sorry.

Join me tomorrow for Day 21 of Noirvember!

Day 19 of Noirvember: Happy birthday to Laura and Waldo!

•November 19, 2019 • 2 Comments

November 19th was quite a day in the world of noir – it gave us two of the stars of the film noir Laura (1944) – Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb. Today’s Noirvember post celebrates this shadowy birthday duo and their road to the well-loved noir that they gave us.

Gene Tierney

Gene Eliza Tierney was born in 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, the second of three children of an affluent family. After the family moved to Connecticut, Tierney was educated at private schools in Farmington and in Lausanne, Switzerland. Although she had no ambitions to become an actress (she wanted to “do good and . . . be something like a social worker”), she changed her mind during a family visit to Hollywood when she was 17. While touring Warner Bros. studio, Tierney’s delicate beauty caught the eye of director Anatole Litvak, who arranged a screen test. The successful test resulted in a contract offer from the studio, but Tierney’s father, Howard, refused to let her accept it. Instead, he insisted that she make her planned society debut and, if his daughter were still interested in acting after three months, he promised to help her find work on Broadway.

True to his word, a few months after Tierney’s debut, Howard began accompanying her to the offices of New York agents and producers. Before long, she won a small part as an Irish orphan in George Abbott’s production Mrs. O’Brien Entertains, and a walk-on in another play, What a Life. After this exposure, Hollywood came calling again, and Tierney signed a contract with Columbia. But soon after being cast in her first film, Coast Guard (1939), Tierney was replaced by actress Frances Dee. “I was hurt and began to have doubts,” Tierney said in her memoirs. “[But] I became all the more determined to work hard, and study, and develop as an actress.”

Rejecting Columbia’s offer to renew her option after six months, Tierney returned to New York, appearing in several plays, earning a series of favorable notices from critics, and landing a number of spreads in Life, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue magazines. The attention attracted Hollywood once again, and this time, after turning down an offer from MGM, Tierney signed with Twentieth Century-Fox. The terms of the agreement provided that she would be allowed to appear each year on Broadway, that she would not be required to alter the color or length of her hair, and that her slightly crooked teeth would not be straightened. She made her screen debut soon afterward, in The Return of Frank James (1940), starring Henry Fonda. But she was singled out by reviewers for her wooden and “colorless” performance, and after another lackluster appearance in her next picture, Hudson’s Bay (1940), Tierney was voted “The Worst Female Discover of 1940” by the Harvard Lampoon. (Yikes!)

Tierney didn’t give up, though, and in her next film, Tobacco Road (1941), where she played a dim-witted farm girl, she proved that she was more than just a pretty face. Over the next few years, she appeared in her first film noir, The Shanghai Gesture (1941), Son of Fury (1942), the first of three teamings with Tyrone Power, and Heaven Can Wait (1943), a box-office hit starring Don Ameche. Next, Tierney was cast in the part for which she is perhaps best associated, the title role in Laura. Interestingly, Tierney was initially unenthusiastic about the part, and she objected to the fact that it had originally been offered to and turned down by Jennifer Jones. “If Jennifer Jones doesn’t want it, why should I?” she later recalled asking Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck. But Zanuck convinced Tierney that the role would be good for her career – and he wasn’t wrong.

Clifton Webb

Impeccably groomed, elegant, and urbane, Webb Parmalee Hollenbeck was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, but sources disagree on the year, reporting a range from 1889 to 1896. His mother, Mabelle, reportedly left Webb’s father when he failed to share her attraction for show business (“We never speak of him,” Mabelle once said. “He wasn’t interested in the theater.”) After moving to New York, Mabelle enrolled her son in dancing school, and he later attracted the attention of Malcolm Douglas of the Children’s Theater, making his professional debut in The Brownies at Carnegie Hall in 1900.

Following Webb’s graduation from grammar school, he went to art school (he gave his first exhibition at the age of 14), and later studied voice, making his grand opera debut with the Aborn Opera Company in Boston. Then, “after I’d mastered some 24 operative roles in various languages,” Webb said later, “the dance craze came along. I ditched the opera to make a reputation as a dancer.” Over the next several years, Webb toured the country in a ballroom dancing act, opened the Webb Dance Studio (with his mother as secretary-manager), and appeared in a number of musicals, including She’s My Baby with Beatrice Lillie, and Treasure Girl with Gertrude Lawrence. After appearing in the successful musical-comedy As Thousands Cheer, Webb was labeled by one critic as “the most versatile of all American revue artists.” During these years, he also found time to appear in small parts in such silent films as Heart of a Siren (1925), which starred the “too beautiful girl” Barbara LaMarr. A friend of Webb’s once joked, “Short of a dog-and-pony show, there isn’t much he hasn’t successfully essayed.”

Shortly after his success in As Thousands Cheer, Webb was lured to Hollywood by MGM, where he was slated to star in a picture with Joan Crawford. The movie never materialized, though, and Webb remained in California for nearly two years, earning $3,500 a week. The actor wasn’t happy with his idle existence, though (he was “conscience-stricken over the king’s ransom they were paying”), and he returned to New York. Once back in the Big Apple, Webb snagged roles in productions like Blithe Spirit, which played more than 650 performances in New York and London. During the nationwide tour of this play, Webb received an offer that would be a turning point in his career – director Otto Preminger tapped him for the part of Waldo Lydecker in Laura (1944).

“I was all set to take the show up to Vancouver, B.C.,” Webb said, “when this marvelous thing came up and there was simply no turning it down.”

And the rest is history.

In Laura, Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb created memorable characters that are among the most recognizable in all of film noir, and together, helped to make Laura into a stylish, highly acclaimed feature. I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to celebrate their birthday!

And join me tomorrow for Day 20 of Noirvember!

Day 18 of Noirvember: Inside Out of the Past

•November 18, 2019 • 3 Comments

Ask any noir fan to name their top 10 movies from the film noir era, and chances are very good that Out of the Past (1947) would be among them. Some would even call it the quintessential noir, with its flashback structure, exquisite use of lights and shadow, one of the era’s most dangerous femme fatales, Kathie Moffat, and a cynical private detective turned small-town gas station owner, who falls for the femme like the proverbial ton of bricks. The stellar cast includes Jane Greer, Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Steve Brodie, Rhonda Fleming, and Dickie Moore.

Today’s Noirvember post serves up my Top 10 trivial tidbits about this well-loved noir.

Three writers worked on the screenplay for Out of the Past. Novelist James M. Cain – author of such gems as Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity – wrote two drafts, but few of his contributions made it into the final film. Next up was screenwriter Frank Fenton, who was responsible for several key plot points and much of the film’s excellent dialogue. The script was finished by Daniel Mainwaring, the author of the 1946 book on which the film was based, Build My Gallows High. Mainwairing was credited in the movie with the same pseudonym he used for the novel, Geoffrey Homes.

Speaking of Mainwairing, he once said that the film and the book were “entirely different. The film is better, a lot less confused.”

Greer was a model at the start of her career.

A native of Washington, D.C., Jane Greer began cultivating her acting career at an early age, participating in talent contests, beauty pageants, and professional modeling. Her budding interest in the arts appeared to be forever thwarted at the age of 15 when she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder that paralyzed the left side of her face. She overcame the disorder through strenuous physical therapy and resumed her modeling activities the following year.

The plane carrying cast and crew members from L.A. to Bridgeport, California, crashed while attempting to land. Mitchum got out, hitched a ride into town, and headed for the nearest bar.

Boyd Cabeen was the stand-in for Robert Mitchum, and in later movies he stood in for Lee Marvin. Noir was a family affair; Boyd’s wife Carmen was a stand-in for Katharine Hepburn in Undercurrent, and for Jane Russell in His Kind of Woman.

Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, and John Garfield were all considered for the role of Jeff Markham/Bailey before Mitchum was chosen.

Dickie Moore learned sign language for his role.

Dickie Moore learned sign language for his part as The Kid, Jeff’s deaf-mute gas-station helper. (Incidentally, Moore was married for nearly 30 years to actress Jane Powell, from 1988 to Moore’s death in 2005 at the age of 89.)

Out of the Past was remade in 1984 as Against All Odds, starring Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward as the woman who flees to Mexico. Jane Greer was in the remake, playing Ward’s mother.

Paul Valentine made his screen debut in the film as Joe Stephanos. Previously, he made his living as a classical ballet dancer. He also had a cameo appearance in Against All Odds.

In 1987, Robert Mitchum served as the guest host on NBC’s long-running comedy show Saturday Night Live. During the broadcast, a short comedy film aired called Out of Gas – a mock sequel to Out of the Past that was written and directed by Mitchum’s daughter, Trina. In the comedy short, Jane Greer reprised her role from the original film.

Join me tomorrow for Day 19 of Noirvember!