Saturday, January 17, 2009

Out of the Past (1947) by the Numbers

Repeat viewings of Out of the Past (1947) have been part of my movie watching repertoire for years. It all started when I was an undergrad in college and decided it would be fun to watch movies for homework! So I took a film class. The Quiet Man (1952) almost made me turn my back on classic films forever when Out of the Past saved me. When I watched it, I was both captivated and confused. I swooned in the same way I do when in the presence of a highly charistmatic man. I was hypnotized. Repeat viewings have increased by love and adoration for the film. I've seen it in for homework and for fun. I've seen it alone and with other people. I've seen it at home and recently got an opportunity to watch it on the big screen for the first time at the Brattle theater with several Out of the Past virgins. That seminal film encouraged me to pursue my interest in classic films, to nurture a love for the past and to start this little blog, my little haven on this vast web that is the internet.

What I discovered about Out of the Past when I last viewed it on the big screen, was how many wonderful small details enrich the film. I thought it would be fun to do a project of listing some of these details by the numbers. It was quite an intense process and it was difficult to be so thorough, but I'm pleased with the results. Enjoy!
  • 10 alcoholic beverages not paid for
  • 2 manly chin dimples
  • 36 cigarettes
  • 9 matches lit
  • 11 lighters lit
  • 12 outfits worn by Jane Greer

  • 6 dead bodies
  • 2 slaps and several punches
  • 5 instances of women being man-handled
  • 10 beautiful metaphors
  • 4 shots with the Golden Gate bridge in the background
  • 6 scenes with Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum together (alone)
  • 2 fishing rods
  • 1 shot glass thrown into the fire
  • 11 kisses
  • 4 trenchcoats
  • 6 times in which the word "cute" is used
  • 131 lbs. - the weight of Eunice Leonard and the suitcases of Kathy Moffat
  • 1 mean river

I'm sure I'm off by a couple of cigarettes, a slap and maybe a trenchcoat, but there you have it!


  1. One of my life resolutions is to see some of the classic films on the big screen. It would be so thrilling to have Out of the Past be the first one. I can't believe that Jane Greer has 12 costumes in only ~2 hours! Every one is a winner, too!

    Okay- you have to explain about The Quiet Man. I'm having a hard time understanding how you could dislike such a sweet film. :)

  2. Nice concept here-- the film details list; very enjoyable read. Like caseykoester, I'd also be interested in your reasons for disliking "The Quiet Man."

  3. Next time you watch it, try counting how many variations of the Out of the Past theme are used. Mitchum even whistles it just before Whit and Joe surprise him in his Mexico hotel room...

  4. I agree about The Quiet Man.

    And I absolutely agree about Out of the Past.

    I first saw Out of the Past at a younger age than you were for your first viewing and I was hooked. A tough guy with a big heart, tough babe with not so nice a heart, black and white and a conclusion no so typical Hollywood.

    But there was something else more personal.

    The "mean river" was a favorite of my dad for fishing and we frequently camped in that area ... and we occasionally went into Bridgeport for supplies.

    Just imagine, going to a place that's the locale for a favorite movie... I was 8 or 12 when these trips happened.

    Have you visited the blog, "The Great Silence"?

    He did a three part series on Out of the Past - here's part 1.

  5. Raquelle,
    Essentially, what you have done here is transforming a movie into a recepie. Brilliant!

    I wonder if you can compare movies by their recepie? Interesting...

    Once again you have turned non-science into science. I'm amazed!

    You forgot one number...
    Number of times Raquelle had to watch the film to find all these things: 47

  6. Casey - Don't you just want to steal all of Jane Greer's outfits in that film? Except for the nun-habit looking one of course.

    Casey & John - I could do a whole post on my dislike for The Quiet Man. But to boil it down to the basics, to me the film is racist and misogynistic. And the myth that all classic films are both is just perpetuated by that film. My favorite line, "Here's a good stick, to beat the lovely lady." Please don't hate me!

    Dex- I hardly notice music in films unless it smacks me in the face (like in this one: So I didn't even know there was an "Out of the Past" Theme.

    Bill - Oh that's great that you got to visit the mean river! I actually went to the Athabasca River in Alberta where Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe shot River of No Return (1954). So beautiful. Thanks for the link for The Great Silence. I'll check it out.

    Jonas - You just gave me another great idea for a post! Muah! You are awesome.

  7. I don't hate you, Raquelle! Actually, I've never even seen the film, tho I always thought I might.... I was just curious, so thanks for answering.


  8. I don't hate you either Raquelle! I think when you're dealing with a broad topic like classic film, people are bound to disagree. And that's a good thing. Shows that everyone has a mind of their own.

    I haven't seen The Quiet Man in the past couple of months, so my memory is not very clear, but I can't remember any racism. I'm not saying it's not there, just that I can't remember where it is. I'll agree that it is misogynistic, but I always see those aspects as more tongue-in-cheek. I just can never bring myself to believe that John Wayne would actually have used that good stick on Maureen O'Hara.

    A lot of the humor is related to the Irish aspect, poking fun at the culture, etc. I'm part Irish, so I can understand where that comes from.

    Tell you what: let's each do a post on The Quiet Man, explaining the likes and dislikes. I bet we won't disagree much on that scale.

    On Jane Greer's outfits: Yes, yes, yes!! I wish so much I was in Hollywood at the MGM prop auctions with millions of dollars for that same reason. All those wonderful dresses would be in my closet right now, if I had been. ;)


  9. I love it just because I love Bridgeport...well, I love Mitchum too (grin)...I have gone camping just outside Bridgeport every summer for most of my life. We were last there in August and will be going back at the end of this coming June. Bridgeport is one of my favorites places on earth and it's so neat to see it as it looked decades ago, even though they're just brief glimpses. It's an amazing little town, a slice of heaven.

    According to an interview with George Stevens, Bridgeport (particularly the cemetery on a hill just outside town) strongly influenced how he designed the look of SHANE.

    Love your by the numbers list, very fun!

    Best wishes,

  10. I have such love for that film, and one of the films that made me interested in Film Noir, AND Robert Mitchum.

  11. That's quite a list. I haven't seen Out of the Past yet, but I'm waiting for it to air on TCM.

    It's interesting, I think, to hear about which classic movies really hooked people. And I completely understand how much work goes into trying to share those discoveries with other people -- when I started my blog, I first set out to take a good hard look at All About Eve and wound up just about writing a full essay on one scene alone. Kudos to you for putting this post together.

  12. John - Unless you have an overwhelming desire to watch The Quiet Man, just plain avoid it!

    Casey - Oh if I had millions, I would wear the best in classic fashions! ::sigh::

    Laura - Now I kinda want to visit Bridgeport. Sounds wonderful.

    Maiden - Same here! I feel in love with a genre and an actor at the same time.

    Princess - Thanks! I think you'll enjoy Out of the Past and luckily TCM has that one on regular rotation since it's RKO and very popular. All About Eve is definitely a great one. It's a film I like to show to non-classic film fans because everyone ends up enjoying it.

  13. Hi Raquelle:

    I think I'll be able to restrain myself!


  14. If you haven't stumbled across it yet, someone put together a mini-documentary (video only) on YouTube comparing clips from OUT OF THE PAST with Bridgeport today. The town has changed very little. The gas station's gone, but the cafe is still there, although it's no longer a cafe, it's part of Ken's Sporting Goods. The beautiful 1880 courthouse still stands right next door.

    If you search Bridgeport at my blog you will also find some photos of the general area which might be of interest, given how much you like OUT OF THE PAST. :) Among other things, Bridgeport has what is said to be the oldest continuously observed Independence Day celebration in the U.S. We'll be there for it this year.

    Best wishes,

  15. Raquelle, a very entertaining post--the list made me laugh out loud several times. And thanks for explaining where you got the name of your blogsite. "Out of the Past" seems to be one of those movies that are highly rewatchable--it just gets better every time you watch it. Next time I'll be looking for all the things you listed. Have you ever seen a list of all the actors who turned down the lead before it was offered to Mitchum (and thank God they did)? As for "The Quiet Man," I didn't find any racism, but Ford's blarney does get a bit cloying after a while. By today's standards it might be considered sexist, but then so might "The Taming of the Shrew," which it resembles in a lot of ways.

  16. Out of the Past is my all-time favorite noir, and the reason I was originally attracted to your blog! It is one of the smokingest movies ever. I love the line when Kirk offers Mitch a cigaret and he holds up the one he is already smoking. It is almost an in joke, as if they realize how over the top the smoking is.

    And not only is Jane Greer terrific, but Rhonda Fleming almost stole the show from her. Fleming is at least as attractive, and Meta is at least as deadly. Two femme fatales for the price of one. Plus I can't think of another doomed character that I wanted to see defy their fate more than Jeff.

    Finally, regarding The Quiet Man, which is another favorite of mine, I understand your viewpoint entirely. It is exuberant in its lack of political correctness. I can't imagine any modern woman not being appalled at how women, especially Mary Kate, are treated. But you have to admit that she gives as good as she gets for most of the movie. I always thought that Wayne and O'Hara made McLintock in order to capture the same charisma and fun (equally politically incorrect though it may be). As to the characterization of the Irish, that's stereotypical as well. But given the heavy involvement of Irish in the movie, expecially Ford's himself, you have to think they didn't mind very much at the time. Still, I respect your opinion and understand it.

  17. Well, thanks to you, Out of the Past has found its way to the top of my Netflix queue. You had me at "6 scenes with Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum together (alone)"

    The Quiet Man was my first view of John Wayne outside his iconic cowboy persona...who knew?!

  18. Laura- I wasn't terribly interested in Bridgeport at all until you and others started talking about it. I searched your blog as you suggested and took a look at that wonderful YouTube clip. Thank you!!!

    RD Finch - Oh gee, I wonder how many people turned down the role? These days I can't see any other classic film actor besides Robert Mitchum doing it. Dick Powell? Fred MacMurray? Nah.

    Brad K - Oh yes I love that scene. When Kirk Douglas says "Cigarette?" and Mitchum says "Smoking." Ha ha! And you were dazzled by Rhonda Fleming huh? She is very seductive.

    Litabuff - Oh yes, my favorite moments are when the screen holds both Douglas and Mitchum alone. Such a delight for me since they were at their most beautiful there. Hope you enjoy the movie. Please write back and tell me your thoughts.

    Thanks to folks for their imput on The Quiet Man. Granted it's been 9 years since I've seen it. Maybe I'm just suffering from PTSD.

  19. Take my word for it, the Irish don't mind The Quiet Man. The town of Cong -- where it was filmed -- remains a tourist destination for fans, and several establishments are named after characters from the film. It's based on a short story by an Irish writer, and as near as I can tell the Irish people take particular delight in lampooning themselves. It's refreshing, actually.

    The location work in the film excels. It is full of blarney, but I enjoy it in spite of myself.

  20. K - I'm less concerned about the Irish reaction to it than I am how the film perpetuates the myth of classic films being backwards. Which this film, and others like it do. Which is a shame, because there are so many wonderful thoughtful, provoking and progressive films from the 1950s.

  21. Raquelle, I've heard that besides Powell, the role was turned down by Bogart, Cagney, and George Raft because they all saw it as just another run-of-the-mill crime thriller. Man, were they mistaken! The producers probably thought they were scraping the bottom of the barrel by offering the part to an ex-con pothead. Were they wrong too!

  22. I love this post, Raquelle. :)

    Good job, as always, in making your love of classic film, Mitchum, and OUT OF THE PAST even more delightful and visible.

  23. I watched Out of the Past last night on TV (following straight on from the Caine mutiny - nice double!). I found the plot rather intricate, and was confused by one aspect: who shot the thug Joe? He is shown at the top of a cliff about to shoot Jeff, as Jeff, down be the river, watches "the kid" fishing. A shot rings out and Joe falls down into the river, dead. Who dunnit? Hope someone can enlighten me.

  24. Gerry - I think I can help you out. Joe wasn't shot at by anyone. He was about to shoot Jeff Bailey when the deaf/dumb teenager spots him and hooks him with his fishing line pulling him over the clif and onto the rocks of the "mean river" below. That's how he's killed. The shot you hear was the one Joe was intending to aim at Jeff but because he was pulled by The Kid, it just ends up being a stray bullet shot into the wind.

    This film is confusing. It begs for repeating viewings, explanation, studying, reading, etc. That's why I love it so!

  25. Thanks Raquelle, that certainly clears it up. It wasn't obvious to me that the kid had cast his line to the top of the cliff. That would be some cast! But the means of death makes sense of the plan, briefly discussed in the film, to make out that Joe's death was suicide. It would have been suspicious if he'd had a bullet in him that wasn't from his own gun!

    J'aime ces films noirs vieux.


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