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Written by Timothy Sexton
Tough-guy Robert Mitchum was not the first choice to play the former PI known as Jeff Markham who chases his name and gives a go at denying F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum that there are no second acts in American lives. In fact, Mitchum wasn’t the second choice, either. Or the third, for that matter. Only after the legendary Bogey, the HUAC murder victim John Garfield and the smooth crooner turned gritty noir star Dick Powell turned down the role did it fall into the stoic hands of Mitchum who still managed to be less menacing than Kirk Douglas.
Kirk Douglas was the type of actor who was everything that Mitchum was not. While it could often as appear as though Mitchum was a somnambulist who just happened to bet caught buy the camera, Douglas was physical, expressive and not used to handling his female co-stars with care. According to Jane Greer, Douglas really did roughly grab her arm and slap her face. He fully inhabits the psychotic aggressiveness in his character and as result comes across as far more prone to violence than Mitchum’s character.
Greer had only been acting in Hollywood for two years by the time she was cast, yet had already appeared in nine movies. This film was her introduction to the big wide world of trying to get used to filming major scenes with two actors of wildly different approaches. She also had to deal with a director not particularly giving of advice. Basically, she was told to act like a good girl in the first half and a bad girl in the second half. Nearly 40 years later she would appear as her character’s own mother in the 1984 remake Against All Odds.
Although Jane Greer had the far juicier role, Rhonda Fleming’s character had the much cooler name. And although Greer and Fleming were roughly the same age and came into the movie with roughly the same amount of experience, it would actually be Fleming who would leave the set and go on to the more impressive career. While Greer was already predominantly relegated to TV land less than a decade following the movie’s release, Rhonda Fleming would still be landing plum roles in movies into that decade. Of unusual note: both Greer and Fleming essentially seemed to disappear from movie and TV screens between 1965 and 1973. Must be some kind of story to that coincidence.
Out of the Past was only the second movie that Huston made, but of greater interest, perhaps, is that she would only make ten more (including an appearance as Tarzan’s mate, Jane) before retiring from the screen for good.
Even though he’s referred to only as “The Kid” the truth is that the actor playing the “The Kid” was just a year younger than Jane Greer and a mere eight years the junior of Mitchum himself. That being said, he already had more credits under his belt than all the stars listed above combined. Moore was a kid star and member of the Our Gang team whose first appearance came in 1927. In quite the contrast, he retired just a couple of years after Huston with over 90 more credits to his name.
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