8.1/10
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Out of the Past (1947)

A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

Director:

Jacques Tourneur

Writers:

Daniel Mainwaring (screenplay) (as Geoffrey Homes), Daniel Mainwaring (novel) (as Geoffrey Homes)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Mitchum ... Jeff
Jane Greer ... Kathie
Kirk Douglas ... Whit
Rhonda Fleming ... Meta Carson
Richard Webb ... Jim
Steve Brodie ... Fisher
Virginia Huston ... Ann
Paul Valentine ... Joe
Dickie Moore ... The Kid
Ken Niles Ken Niles ... Eels
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Storyline

Jeff Bailey, small-town gas pumper, has his mysterious past catch up with him one day when he's ordered to meet with gambler Whit Sterling. En route to the meeting, he tells girlfriend Ann his story. Flashback: Once, Jeff was a private eye hired by Sterling to find his mistress Kathie who shot Whit and absconded with $40,000. He traces her to Acapulco...where the delectable Kathie makes Jeff forget all about Sterling... Back in the present, Whit's new job for Jeff is clearly a trap, but Jeff's precautions only leave him more tightly enmeshed... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A MAN - Trying to run away from his past... A WOMAN - Trying to escape her future! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Release Date:

December 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Build My Gallows High See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming got off to a rocky start with a near-fatal plane accident at the Bridgeport (CA) airport landing field. The pilot, accompanied by Robert Mitchum, a studio accountant and an assistant to executive Walter Duff, realized his brakes didn't work when they touched down, causing the plane to crash through a fence, over a ditch and through an outhouse before coming to a stop. Although the two men in the back seat were knocked unconscious, Mitchum and the pilot were not hurt. Typical of Mitchum's nonchalant attitude, he quickly crawled out of the wreckage, dusted off his clothes and thumbed a ride into town to begin filming. See more »

Goofs

When Jeff drives up to the cabin to meet Kathie, not only does he say it's getting dark but as he turns off the main road into the forest, headlights are shining on Kathie. But minutes later, after Fisher is dead, Kathie leaves with the car and there are no headlights on to guide her through a supposedly-dark forest. In actuality, it was probably filmed in daylight then filtered to look dark, but someone forgot to show the headlights that were needed in the false evening. See more »

Quotes

Jeff: You say to yourself, "How hot can it get?" Then, in Acapulco, you find out.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Jake Spanner, Private Eye (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

The First Time I Saw You
(uncredited)
from 'The Toast of New York' (1937)
Music by Nathaniel Shilkret
Used as main theme in score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Scheming dame
20 January 2005 | by jotix100See all my reviews

Jacques Tourneur will probably be remembered best for this film, even though he had an extensive career in Hollywood. Working with Daniel Mainwaring, the author of the novel in which this movie is based, he created one of the best pictures of this genre, one that will be a perennial favorite. Mr. Tourneur and his cinematographer, the brilliant Nicholas Musuraca, made a stunning looking film that looks as good today, as when it was originally released.

If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading now.

Jeff Bailey has reinvented himself as the owner of a gas station in California. His past comes to haunt him at the beginning of the movie. Jeff has found peace and love in the small town where he has taken refuge. He can change his identity, but he can't hide from the people that want to see him dead.

We watch in the beginning how Jeff is sent away by Whit Sterling to look for the disappearing Kathie Moffat, who has stolen forty thousand dollars and gone hiding. Jeff finds her in Acapulco. Kathie gives a bad name to any other dames in the movies of this genre. She is totally ruthless; she will do anything to double cross Whit as well as have Jeff do whatever she wants.

Comparisons have been made between "The Maltese Falcon" and "Out of the Past". Both have plots that are twisted; when we feel we know everything, there is a new twist to the story. We are constantly misled into thinking one way, when in reality, something else has happened.

This is a film that combines all the elements of the classic film noir and juxtaposes it against the serene surroundings of where Jeff is now living. Black and white photography was used to great advantage in the movie. It has a style that makes it one of a kind. The music by Roy Webb plays neatly in the background without interrupting the action.

The acting is first rate. Mr. Tourneur got a brilliant performance from Robert Mitchum. His Jeff, is the epitome of coolness. It's hard to understand the mentality of American cinema of the times not paying Mr. Mitchum his due. He was a much better actor than he was given credit for. His presence looms large in this movie and it's a tribute to him that he makes his character dominate the movie.

Jane Greer was also excellent in her take of Kathie Moffat. She is pure evil, a sensuous woman who will do anything to get her own way. When we see her in Acapulco she is a seductress that no man can resist. She leads Jeff on by the sheer power of the desire he feels for her. Ms. Greer was not a beauty, by Hollywood standard, but yet, she makes an incredible contribution to the movie. Her textured performance is exquisite in its economy. We all see right through her, yet, she takes us for an incredible ride, up to the end of the picture.

The others in the cast do an excellent job. A young and dashing Kirk Douglas is perfect as the dubious Whit. He shows such a magnetism, even then, at the start of his career in movies. Rhonda Fleming had a small role and she makes most of it. Also Virginia Huston, as Ann, makes a great contribution to the film.

The film, ultimately, is a tribute to the talent of the director. This is Mr. Tourneur's best movie.


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