Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas and Virginia Huston. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. 1947.
Chosen for the National Film registry in 1991, (along with King Kong, Chinatown and others) this noir classic features Mitchum as Jeff Bailey, a private detective hiding from his past in a small California town, running a gas station and in love with a nice girl named Ann. But his past catches up to him when a man shows up at his station and directs him back to gambler/gangster Whit Sterling, his last client. Sterling feels Bailey owes him a debt, and forces the former detective to do one more job for him, but Bailey can see it’s a frame-up. Douglas plays superbly against type as the gambler Sterling, but it’s Jane Greer, as Sterling’s femme fatale girlfriend, who becomes the movie’s focus. She’s ruthless, amoral, enticing and dangerous. Jacques Torneur, who directed the moody, 40’s icon, The Cat People, brings a pitch perfect eye to this incredible film.