Out of the Past

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Out of the Past (originally released in the United Kingdom as Build My Gallows High) is a 1947 film noir directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. The film was adapted by Daniel Mainwaring (using the pseudonym Geoffrey Homes), with uncredited revisions by Frank Fenton and James M. Cain, from his novel Build My Gallows High (also written as Homes).

The film is considered by film historians to be a superb example of film noir, due to its convoluted, dreamlike storyline and its chiaroscuro cinematography (cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca also shot Tourneur's Cat People). In 1991, Out of the Past was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[1]

Contents

Plot

Jeff Bailey (Mitchum) seems to be a mundane gas station owner in remote Bridgeport, California. He is dating local girl Ann Miller (Virginia Huston) and lives a quiet life. Town lawman Jim (Richard Webb) is in love with Ann and unsure about Jeff, who is secretive about his past.

A man named Joe Stephanos (Paul Valentine) passing through town recognizes Jeff. He returns and tells Jeff that their mutual acquaintance Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) has been looking for him. Jeff agrees to go to Lake Tahoe to meet with Whit.

Before he leaves, Jeff decides it's time to tell Ann about his mysterious past. His real name is Jeff Markham. He and partner Jack Fisher (Steve Brodie) worked as private investigators in New York. They took on a job for Whit Sterling, a rich gambler.

In a flashback to that time, Whit hires Jeff to find his girlfriend, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). She has run away after shooting Whit and stealing $40,000 from him. Whit wants both the woman and money back.

Jeff is told by her former maid, Eunice, that Kathie packed for warm weather, was vaccinated and left for Florida. Jeff knows that vaccinations aren't needed for Florida, but they are for Mexico. He tracks the luggage to Mexico City and, from there, the trail leads to Acapulco.

He finds Kathie there. At first he doesn't mention that he's been hired to find her. They begin to fall in love. Jeff ultimately tells her the truth, that Whit is alive and wants her back. She denies taking Whit’s money. They decide to run away together the next day.

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