RARA-AVIS: Out of the Past

From: Dick Lochte ( dlochte@adelphia.net)
Date: 21 Aug 2004

I haven't had a chance to get the "Out of the Past" DVD but there's something in it I've always wanted to check out. Years ago, I spent the better part of an afternoon with Robert Mitchum, mainly talking about his movies -- from the Hopalong Cassidys to his then current "The Friends of Eddie Coyle." When he got around to "Past," he was just as dismissive of it as he was of all his films, "Coyle" included. I found myself in the position of defending his own movie, talking about Tourneur's direction and the great camerawork and lighting. "Well, this whole thing about so-called noir lighting," he said, "that was because the budgets were so low we were down to candlepower. And as far as Jacques' direction, I guess you didn't see the prop guy's arm stick that phone on Betty Jane Greer's table." Tourneur didn't notice it? I asked. "Oh, hell yeah he noticed it. Betty Jane called it to his attention. Jacques just said (in French accent): 'Doan worry. They weel all be looking at you.'"

Assuming Mitchum wasn't making the whole thing up (which was not inconceivable), Tourneur must've been right, because as often as I've seen the movie, I've never seen the arm. A frame-by-frame check of Greer's telephone scenes should provide the answer.

Dick Lochte

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