Out of the Past (1947)

Relax - I'm not going to shoot you... yet.
Robert Mitchum realizes he's in deep doo-doo.

We love it when you can’t tell how a movie is going to end.

Out of the Past is one of those movies. There’s not one thing about the storyline that you can predict – nope, not one. But, with actors like Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, you can tell you’re in for a great ride.

Mitchum, a retired private eye with a shady past, tries to reform and make a respectable life in a small town. He opens a business; he meets a nice girl. But sometimes the past has a long reach, and soon he is re-embroiled in a gangster’s underworld.

That gangster is Kirk Douglas. This was Douglas’ second film role, and it’s obvious he was destined to become a big star. He plays Whit Sterling, a well-dressed hoodlum who laughs and smiles easily – characteristics that make you uneasy each time he appears on screen.

In our opinion, a good example of film noir has three characteristics, and Out of the Past has ’em “in spades” as they say.

  1. It makes you suspend disbelief, so that any twist of plot seems entirely plausible. A dead body moves from spot A to spot B without aid or explanation? Why not! It happens all the time!
  2. It has memorable lines. Example: “It was the bottom of the barrel and I was scraping it.”
  3. It has an ending that makes the rest of the movie make sense. We believe Out of the Past has a perfect conclusion, and to say any more would give too much away.

If you are unfamiliar with film noir and are looking for a movie that embraces the best of the genre, this is one to watch.

Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. Written by Geoffrey Homes. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. RKO Radio Pictures, 1947, 97 mins.



  1. OUT OF THE PAST, like THE KILLERS (1946), is a pure noir throughout- and thus a depaved character study of doomed protagonists. One of the greatest noir films.


  2. Ruth, I’ve always found OUT OF THE PAST to be both compelling and maddening, and it’s all the cast and script’s fault for making me care about these crazy noir folks! 🙂 Even parts like the missing corpses have me on tenterhooks, even when I long to smack the characters bedeviling Robert Mitchum & Company (nice to see Rhonda Fleming, too)! What do you suppose the odds for typical film noir character to live long enough to join the AARP? 🙂 All kidding aside, I totally enjoyed your OUT OF THE PAST post — great fun, my friend, as always! 😀


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