Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
Out of the Past
A MAN - Trying to run away from his past... A WOMAN - Trying to escape her future...
Jeff Bailey seems to be a mundane gas station owner in remote Bridgeport, CA. He is dating local girl Ann Miller and lives a quiet life. Town lawman Jim is in love with Ann and unsure about Jeff, who is secretive about his past.
How big a chump can you get to be? I was finding out.
Jacques Tourneur made his Hollywood feature film debut under contract with MGM Studios but was released after a few unsuccessful films. He went to work for RKO Pictures, but was relegated to the B-list. It's here that his career dramatically turned around as Tourneur was able to make a few true classics under the B-movie structure (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie) which caused him to soon be promoted to the A-List and on track to direct the greatest film of his career.
While Daniel Mainwaring (working under the pseudonym Geoffrey Homes) is credited with adapting his own novel, Build My Gallows High, it's…
''Let's go down to the bar. We can cool off while we try to impress each other.''
One would be hard pressed to name a more effective example of film noir than Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past and it's all served up on a silver platter; hard-boiled, double-talking detective (Robert Mitchum), seductive femme fatale (Jane Greer), girlfriend with a heart of gold (Virginia Huston), the slick and slippery gangster (Kirk Douglas), a tangled web of a plot that requires full attention to grasp (thanks Wikipedia plot synopsis), shadowy photography and lots of cigarette smoke.
Tourneur brings his Cat People cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca along for the ride and together they manage to capture the true essence of the genre in…
David's Movie entry #18: May 5th, 2014
In Memory of David Eisen
Tourneur, the man who began his fame with high class b-movies that he turned into an art form all on their own had gained so much recognition with his work at the bottom of the studio barrel that he had climbed his way to the top. Out of the Past is a A grade picture all the way with a stellar cast in Mitchum, Douglas, and Greer. Jacques Tourneur had succeeded where one of my favorite Japanese filmmakers Seijun Suzuki did not. Whereas Suzuki was continually forced to work on lower scale studio controlled pictures in which he tried to apply his own aesthetic to the same way…
The noiriest noir? Give Robert Mitchum a hat and a cigarette, and he can turn the lyrics to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" into hard boiled dialogue. Give Tourneur a title and a movie camera, and he'll make poetry. The final scene is a real gut punch.
One of the best of the Film Noir. Robert Mitchum plays Jeff Bailey a private eye who gets mixed up with (actually between) gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) and his girl Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). Bailey is sent to find the Sterling’s girl who has shot the gangster and run off. Not sure if Sterling wants the girl back to kill her or to make-up, Bailey finds her. But, Bailey decides he loves her and he runs off with her. After realizing just what deep trouble he is in, he tries to leave that life behind and live a quiet, simple life with a nice girl.
However, his past finds him out and he is sent on one more job…
This movie is perfect, but I am not - I think I missed a lot, and I need to watch it again. I also have trouble getting invested in such an anti-woman story, not because I am morally opposed to it or whatever but because it's hard for me to root for good guy/bad guy (I know, I know, everyone's bad in a noir and this is a grey area but you get what I'm saying) and hard to feel satisfied when someone gets their comeuppance if the someone is just a lady trying to get by and play the game in a dirty man's world. But for now:
- shot of Jane Greer pulling a gun in and out…
"I don't know why I don't slap your face and send you home."
-Robert Mitchum is a player.
Kathie Moffat: Don't you see you've only me to make deals with now?
Jeff Bailey: Build my gallows high, baby.
Tourneur plays with time so well that a film told almost entirely in flashbacks feels like it's constantly moving forward, a style that culminates in a marvelous shot where Tourneur films Mitchum sitting at a bar, he then pans across the room in one shot to find Mitchum now sitting across the other side of the room and we have jumped forward in time one day. The dialogue and acting are high in realism, the dialogue is spoken normally and slowly with the odd witty one liner thrown in here and there. There's a decent balance between plot and story but the film suffers when the plot tries to take over and occasionally it does and Tourneur loses control.
[This is part of a retrospective of Jacques Tourneur in the "Internet Film Club" Facebook group. The discussions referenced are from previous posts]
This was my second Tourneur, and I loved it. I was lucky enough to see it in a theater too. The greatest example of noir style I’ve seen. As Bobby Beksinski III has discussed, Greer expertly plays the femme fatale. In the cabin scene, we stop believing her. Her joy in the two men fighting was beautifully sinister, and our first time seeing her true character. But as to her motives, we are always left guessing.
Tourneur guides our view on the morality of her character starting off with wholesome white clothes, slowly turning into only black…
Bloody loved this. Hell yeah. It has the title 'Build My Gallows High' in the UK but 'Out of the Past' allows you to work out what the film is about before watching. Bailey (Robert Mitchum) is tracked down in a standard US town and told that a guy from his past wants to speak to him. It's about the whole fiasco where he was meant to go and find Kirk Douglas' femme fatale ex and reclaim $40,000 but then said nah and decided to fall in love with her instead. Oh yeah, that. Damn.
What with this being a film noir, nothing is as it seems and the story twists and turns nicely with a decent use of flashback…
I'm still trying to work out how much I love Film Noir as a genre, but I've definitely worked out that I love Robert Mitchum. He carries such a fantastic and unique screen presence, it's impossible to not get drawn in to whatever he's doing, especially the scenes he shares with Kirk Douglas.
Checks every box for what you're looking for in a noir picture. Tourneur works with intensity and a camera that always stays involved with the action.
The dialogue is poetic, lyrical, and delivered in most scenes with a dualing sense of one-upmanship (particularly between Mitchum and Douglas)
This might just be helped by age as it stands as such an exemplary work for the genre.
Out of the Past a film-noir screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring and directed by Jacuqes Tourneur (Cat People). Starring, Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas and Jane Greer. It is adopted from the novel called 'Build My Gallows High'
Most of the story is told in New York is told in flashback: Jeff (Robert Mitchum) was formerly a private-eye in New York and then working for a gangster named Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas), he is now running a pump-station in small town and spending days with his sweetheart Ann (Virginia Huston) by the lake fishing. In those days, Jeff was hired by Whit to track down a woman named Kathie (Jane Greer) - an irresistible beauty full of sexiness and treachery in her.…
Directed by Jacques Tourner this film based on the novel “Build My Gallows High” stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas and Rhonda Fleming. The past catches up with a man trying to start over in a small town with a new girlfriend.
The plot of this film is your classic film noir set up with private detectives, femme fatales, crime and plenty of double crossing. At times the dialogue has some serious crack to it but I do not think that the story offers anything beyond being a genre piece. I found the cinematography a little bit of a let down here, it is passable but not evocative of German expressionism like the big names of the noir genre.
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