November 15, 1947 [Out of the Past]

And what a treat, there was Dickie Moore in Jacques Tourneur's heartbreaking Out of the Past, once a Little Rascal but now all grown up--and he'd better be in this picture, which does not forgive innocence. Robert Mitchum's Jeff tries to hide in the mountain-framed fishing holes near Lake Tahoe, but the city finds him, drags him back, where the past isn't over yet--it moves, you see, and becomes the present--no longer in Mexico, where Jeff enjoyed himself with the gangster's moll, but now paying for his vacation.

The gangster is Kirk Douglas, playing nice--but with that hatchet face and those dead little eyes, don't get your hopes up. The moll is Jane Greer, yet another Vamp, the Dark Lady who bends over the sleeping form to draw lifeblood. Like Douglas, she smiles, but only around the mouth. The two of them bat around Jeff like the half-asleep melancholic he is--and what perfect casting: No matter how tough Mitchum has to be, there is something--again, about the eyes and mouth--that gives him away, lets us know he's not nearly as cocksure as he'd like--but still, the guns go off, the trap closes in, and he keeps his head up, ready to take it.

And he does, square in the heart, spilling out of the open car door like the catch of the day, there in the road--while the mountains look down, still the same. Jeff sacrifices himself, and the nice woman he leaves behind shoulders her way through those mountains, having to live herself. And Dickie Moore helps her, deaf but knowing it all, and lies to her so that she can leave Jeff in the past where he belongs.


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