This is a 4 star classic film noir that you MUST-SEE! Out of the Past reminded me of A History of Violence. It has snappy dialogue, interesting characters, twists and turns, and gorgeous lighting. Because of censorship laws of the ’40s, some events are (cleverly) hinted at, instead of shown outright. This adds to the originality of the film!
Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) has lived for 2 yrs in a small California town running a gas station. His assistant is a deaf/mute teen boy. Jeff (a seemingly normal, quiet guy) often goes fishing w/ a pretty, sweet local lady- Ann Miller. He plans to marry her in the near future. One day, a big-city guy drives into this little community and starts asking questions about Jeff. This stranger (from Jeff’s old life) is surprised to learn about his (now ordinary) life.
Jeff confides in Ann after seeing the man from his past. No so long ago, he was a sort of private detective in San Francisco. Jeff and his partner, Brodie, got in over their head when they started working w/ crime boss Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). Whit paid them to look for his runaway girlfriend, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer), even AFTER she tried to kill him!
Jeff traveled to Mexico, met the mysterious/beautiful Kathie, and quickly fell in love w/ her. After 2 weeks, Whit showed up w/ a group of his men. Jeff met w/ them, but then ran away w/ Kathie. But that’s NOT the end of this story!
Unlike the song, Kathie was not “easy to love,” but Jeff went out of his way to protect her from Whit. We find out in the last 1/3 of the story that Kathie is NOT as defenseless as she seems. Even after 2 yrs, she’s NOT completely out of Jeff’s system! Can Jeff have a normal life w/ Ann, or will Kathie cause the undoing of him? This was (no doubt) a juicy role for Mitchum, who we know has the tough guy exterior, but also a sly humor and normal guy demeanor. Just a magnetic actor!