Richard Webb

Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)

Out of the Past always has at least two things going on at once. Not just the double crossings, which is so prevalent lead Robert Mitchum even taunts the bad guys with it, but how the film itself works.

Daniel Mainwaring’s script–which gives Mitchum this lengthy narration over a flashback sequence–gives the impression of telling the viewer everything while it really leaves the most important elements out. The whole plot has the bad guys coming out of Mitchum’s past (hence the title), but the way he deals with them has all these elements from between that past and the present. It means Mainwaring and Past can surprise the viewer, but it also gives Mitchum this rich character. As much exposition (not to mention the flashback) as he gets about his past, the complications all come from the unexplained things.

And Tourneur’s direction matches this narrative style. He, cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca and editor Samuel E. Beetley have foreground and background action. A scene will focus intensely one character, but in contrast to the scripted character emphasis. The visual disconnect pulls the viewer, causing a palpable, beautifully lighted edginess.

And Mitchum and his nemesis slash alter ego Kirk Douglas also have that edginess; they’re uncomfortable with one another but reluctantly. It’s wonderful.

All the acting is great–especially Paul Valentine and Rhonda Fleming–and, of course, femme fatale Jane Greer and good girl Virginia Huston.

The narrative tricks–while always beautifully executed–aren’t necessary. Past would be better without them.



Directed by Jacques Tourneur; screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring, based on his novel; director of photography, Nicholas Musuraca; edited by Samuel E. Beetley; music by Roy Webb; produced by Warren Duff; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Robert Mitchum (Jeff Bailey), Jane Greer (Kathie Moffatt), Kirk Douglas (Whit Stefanos), Rhonda Fleming (Meta Carson), Steve Brodie (Steve Fisher), Virginia Huston (Ann Miller), Paul Valentine (Joe Stefanos), Wallace Scott (Petey), Richard Webb (Jim), John Kellogg (Lou Baylord), Ken Niles (Leonard Eels) and Dickie Moore (The Kid).

This post is part of the 1947 Blogathon hosted by Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina Of Speakeasy.

O.S.S. (1946, Irving Pichel)

Pichel does such a good job with the majority of O.S.S., it’s a surprise how ineptly he handles the jingoistic last scene. It’s a WWII patriotism picture (is there a proper term for this genre?), so that last scene is requisite, but Pichel could have at least made it work. Instead, he hangs the film out to dry.

O.S.S. runs long, but in a good way. It takes almost a full half hour before Alan Ladd and his fellow espionage agents are dropped into occupied France. The film opens with Ladd, but quickly shift gears to follow Patric Knowles as he puts together the team. When it does bring Ladd back in, it’s after leading lady Geraldine Fitzgerald is introduced.

While Ladd holds the film (and he’s the one most injured by Pichel’s wrong-headed finale, right after his best scene), Fitzgerald is sort of the secret weapon. She’s absolutely fantastic, making some of the creakier scenes work. Ladd–we learn twenty-five minutes in–is sexist. It’s contrived and writer Richard Maibaum never quite makes it work, but since the scenes are with Fitzgerald, she brings them through.

Pichel’s direction is great; he’s able to handle the thriller elements, the repetitious spy scenes but also the dramatic ones. His composition is strong and he makes great use of the sets. Lionel Lindon’s photography helps.

There are a couple great supporting performances–John Hoyt as an odious Nazi and Harold Vermilyea as an opportunistic one.

The film very nearly works.



Directed by Irving Pichel; written and produced by Richard Maibaum; director of photography, Lionel Lindon; edited by William Shea; music by Daniele Amfitheatrof and Heinz Roemheld; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Alan Ladd (John Martin), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Elaine Duprez), Patric Knowles (Cmdr. Brady), John Hoyt (Col. Paul Meister), Gloria Saunders (WAC Operator Sparky), Richard Webb (Partker), Richard Benedict (Bernay), Harold Vermilyea (Amadeus Brink) and Don Beddoe (Gates).

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