Out of the Past (1947)

95-97 mins | Film noir | 13 November 1947

Director:

Jacques Tourneur

Producer:

Warren Duff

Cinematographer:

Nicholas Musuraca

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Jack Okey

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Build My Gallows High . In Sep 1945, RKO outbid Warner Bros. for the rights to Geoffrey Homes's as yet unpublished novel, according to a LAT article. The same article observed that the story was a "natural" for Warner Bros.' contract star Humphrey Bogart. Modern sources note that Homes did, in fact, request that Bogart play the part of "Jeff," but Warner Bros. refused to lend him to RKO. Modern sources also claim that James M. Cain rewrote Homes's script with Frank Fenton. Fenton is credited as a contributing writer by SAB , but Cain's contribution has not been confirmed by contemporary sources.
       HR news items and RKO production files contained in the UCLA Arts--Special Collections add the following information about the production: Pat O'Brien was first considered by RKO to play the film's lead. In Oct 1945, John Garfield was signed to play the lead as part of a one-picture per year contract with the studio, and the script was reportedly rewritten for him. Two months later, Dick Powell was announced as the film's star, and Edward Dmytryk was announced as the director. Because of a scheduling conflict with the British co-production So Well Remembered (see below), Dmytryk was replaced by Jacques Tourneur in the summer of 1946. In Nov 1945, J. Robert Bren was announced as producer, although Warren Duff, who is credited on screen in that capacity, had already been slated to produce. Lex Barker was tested for the role in the production. RKO borrowed Kirk Douglas from Paramount for the picture. Some scenes for ... More Less

The working title of this film was Build My Gallows High . In Sep 1945, RKO outbid Warner Bros. for the rights to Geoffrey Homes's as yet unpublished novel, according to a LAT article. The same article observed that the story was a "natural" for Warner Bros.' contract star Humphrey Bogart. Modern sources note that Homes did, in fact, request that Bogart play the part of "Jeff," but Warner Bros. refused to lend him to RKO. Modern sources also claim that James M. Cain rewrote Homes's script with Frank Fenton. Fenton is credited as a contributing writer by SAB , but Cain's contribution has not been confirmed by contemporary sources.
       HR news items and RKO production files contained in the UCLA Arts--Special Collections add the following information about the production: Pat O'Brien was first considered by RKO to play the film's lead. In Oct 1945, John Garfield was signed to play the lead as part of a one-picture per year contract with the studio, and the script was reportedly rewritten for him. Two months later, Dick Powell was announced as the film's star, and Edward Dmytryk was announced as the director. Because of a scheduling conflict with the British co-production So Well Remembered (see below), Dmytryk was replaced by Jacques Tourneur in the summer of 1946. In Nov 1945, J. Robert Bren was announced as producer, although Warren Duff, who is credited on screen in that capacity, had already been slated to produce. Lex Barker was tested for the role in the production. RKO borrowed Kirk Douglas from Paramount for the picture. Some scenes for the film were shot in San Francisco, the Lake Tahoe area and other parts of the High Sierras of California and Nevada, including Twin Lakes and Gull Lake. Other scenes were filmed in Bridgeport, Sherwood Lake and Sequit Point, CA, and at the RKO Ranch in Encino, CA. (Modern sources claim that background shooting was done in New York and Acapulco, Mexico.) As a result of Out of the Past , Tourneur was given a new term contract by RKO in Apr 1947. Out of the Past was the final collaboration between Tourneur and director of photography Nicholas Musuraca, who worked together on such films as RKO's 1942 Cat People (see above entry). In mid-Oct 1947, United Artists Corp. purchased the rights to Out of the Past and Station West , another RKO film.
       According to MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen rejected early drafts of the script in which "Kathie" is shown living with both "Whit" and "Jeff" without benefit of marriage. Noting in a 12 Jun 1946 letter that "such a brazen portrayal of gross illicit sex is in violation of the Code," Breen strongly recommended that the novel not be filmed. By Oct 1946, however, after changes had been made in two different scripts, Breen softened his objections and stated that, as long as Kathie does not appear to be living with Jeff, the story would be approved. In the film, Kathie and Jeff's living arrangements are left rather vague. Breen also objected to Jeff's "deliberate suicide" at the end, but agreed that his demise was morally necessary.
       Many modern critics consider Out of the Past to be a quintessential film noir picture. Modern sources credit Linwood Dunn with the film's optical effects. In 1983, Taylor Hackford directed Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods in Against All Odds , an updated version of Homes's novel. Jane Greer played Kathie's mother in the later version. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Nov 1947.
---
Film Daily
20 Nov 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 45
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 46
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 46
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 46
p. 30.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 47
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 47
p. 3.
Independent Film Journal
4 Jan 47
p. 34.
Los Angeles Times
27 Sep 1945.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Nov 47
p. 3942.
New York Times
26 Nov 47
p. 18.
Variety
19 Nov 47
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Fill-in photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Unit pub wrt
STAND INS
Stand-in for Robert Mitchum
Stand-in for Jane Greer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes (New York, 1946).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Build My Gallows High
Release Date:
13 November 1947
Production Date:
23 October 1946--9 January 1947
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
25 November 1947
Copyright Number:
LP1360
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95-97
Length(in feet):
8,696
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12032
SYNOPSIS

In the small town of Bridgeport, California, gas station owner Jeff Bailey is tracked down by Joe Stefanos, a former business associate, who tells him that his boss, Whit Sterling, wants to see him the next morning in nearby Lake Tahoe. After he reluctantly agrees to meet with Whit, Jeff reveals to his trusting girl friend, Ann Miller, his recent past: Three years earlier, while working as a private detective in New York, Jeff, whose real name is Markham, and his partner, Jack Fisher, are hired by gambler Whit to find Whit's girl friend, Kathie Moffat. According to Whit, Kathie shot him and then disappeared with $40,000 of his money. Assured by Whit that Kathie will not be harmed, Jeff locates her in Acapulco and immediately falls in love with her. Deducing Jeff's mission, Kathie insists that she did not steal Whit's money but was only trying to flee his romantic tyranny. Jeff and Kathie soon become lovers and are about to leave Acapulco together when Whit and Joe show up at Jeff's hotel. Jeff tells Whit that he was unable to find Kathie and offers to quit, but the suspicious gambler demands that he continue the search. That night, Jeff and Kathie board a north-bound steamship and begin a happy life together in San Francisco. Eventually, however, Fisher, who was to receive half of the $10,000 that Whit offered for Kathie's return, tracks the couple to a remote cabin and threatens Jeff. When the two detectives begin to fight, Kathie calmly shoots Fisher dead and leaves Jeff to bury him. The stunned and heartbroken Jeff then learns that Kathie had, in ... +


In the small town of Bridgeport, California, gas station owner Jeff Bailey is tracked down by Joe Stefanos, a former business associate, who tells him that his boss, Whit Sterling, wants to see him the next morning in nearby Lake Tahoe. After he reluctantly agrees to meet with Whit, Jeff reveals to his trusting girl friend, Ann Miller, his recent past: Three years earlier, while working as a private detective in New York, Jeff, whose real name is Markham, and his partner, Jack Fisher, are hired by gambler Whit to find Whit's girl friend, Kathie Moffat. According to Whit, Kathie shot him and then disappeared with $40,000 of his money. Assured by Whit that Kathie will not be harmed, Jeff locates her in Acapulco and immediately falls in love with her. Deducing Jeff's mission, Kathie insists that she did not steal Whit's money but was only trying to flee his romantic tyranny. Jeff and Kathie soon become lovers and are about to leave Acapulco together when Whit and Joe show up at Jeff's hotel. Jeff tells Whit that he was unable to find Kathie and offers to quit, but the suspicious gambler demands that he continue the search. That night, Jeff and Kathie board a north-bound steamship and begin a happy life together in San Francisco. Eventually, however, Fisher, who was to receive half of the $10,000 that Whit offered for Kathie's return, tracks the couple to a remote cabin and threatens Jeff. When the two detectives begin to fight, Kathie calmly shoots Fisher dead and leaves Jeff to bury him. The stunned and heartbroken Jeff then learns that Kathie had, in fact, stolen Whit's $40,000. After Jeff concludes his story, Ann pledges her love and promises to wait for him while he goes to Tahoe. At Whit's Tahoe vacation home, Jeff discovers that the double-crossing Kathie has returned to the gambler and has told him about their affair. Because of this, Jeff feels pressured to accept a job retrieving some tax documents that Whit claims are being used by Leonard Eels, a San Francisco lawyer, to blackmail him. As prearranged by Whit, Jeff accompanies Eels's secretary, Meta Carson, to Eels's apartment, where Meta is to steal the lawyer's briefcase and then pass the damning tax papers on to Jeff. After talking with the soft-spoken Eels, however, Jeff suspects that the revenge-hungry Whit is about to murder the lawyer and frame him for the crime. Although he is unable to prevent Eels's murder, Jeff does trick Kathie into revealing that she, Meta and Joe were involved in his demise. When confronted by Jeff, Kathie confesses that she told Whit that he, Jeff, killed Fisher and she was forced to sign an affidavit attesting to such. Kathie also reveals that, while Meta was stealing Eels's briefcase, she put the affidavit in his apartment safe. Thus implicated in two murders, Jeff pretends he is still in love with Kathie and learns from her the whereabouts of Eels's briefcase. After Jeff, who is now the target of a police manhunt, retrieves the papers, he informs Kathie that he will mail them to the Internal Revenue Service unless Whit gives him the affidavit. Instead of relaying Jeff's demands to Whit, Kathie orders Joe to follow The Kid, a young deaf-mute who works at Jeff's gas station, to Jeff's mountain hideout. As Joe is about to shoot Jeff from a cliff, however, The Kid ensares him in his fishing line and causes him to fall to his death. Jeff then sneaks into Whit's Tahoe home and reveals Kathie's subterfuge to him. After Whit agrees to Jeff's demands for $50,000, plus Kathie's admission of guilt in Fisher's murder and the implication of Joe in Eels's death, Jeff makes plans to leave with the still loyal Ann. When Jeff, who is being hunted by Jim, Ann's devoted childhood sweetheart, returns to Whit's to collect his money, however, he discovers that Kathie has killed the gambler. Knowing that the authorities are following The Kid south, Jeff agrees to flee to Mexico with Kathie, and deliberately drives into a police stake-out. As the police descend upon their car, Kathie angrily shoots and kills Jeff, then is killed by the police. Later, after The Kid tells her that Jeff had gone back to Kathie, Ann leaves Bridgeport with Jim. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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