RED BAILEY (JEFF in the film) is the world-weary private eye who just wants to forget in the classic film noir Out of the Past. He heads for the sleepy little town of Bridgeport, California, where he shucks the gumshoe game and runs a small gas station with the aid of a mute kid. Heck, he even courts local good gal Ann.
But this is noir, baby. His past soon catches up with him, a past that features a ruthless mobster, a two-timing and treacherous femme fatale, missing loot and an assortment of thugs, all wrapped up in a morass of lies and doublecrosses. No wonder he wanted out.
Out of the Past is simply a film noir classic, potent amd powerful, the stuff that nightmares, if not dreams, are made of, with masterful performances by Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas and particularly Jane Greer as the "dame," with noirmeister Jacques Tourneur handling the director's chores. The screenply was by Daniel Mainwaring, based on his novel, Build My Gallows High using the pseudonym Geoffrey Homes.
Mainwaring did the first draft of the screenplay, which stuck pretty closely to the novel. James M. Cain was called in to rewrite Mainwaring's version, and added several plot elements and a happy ending, all of which were discarded. but Cain's second draft did introduce the two-part, flashback-and-present structure that the film would ultimately employ. Frank Fenton wrote the final draft, contributing many of the film's best lines and several key plot elements. Unfortunately, neither Cain or Fenton received any screen credits."
Cain, of course, was the author of such noir classics as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, but Fenton was no slouch either. A regular writer for RKO's Falcon movies, he was also involved in the writing of Nocturne, Station West, Walk Softly, Stranger, River of No Return and Garden of Evil, as well as a character actor who appeared in everything from Gun Fury and Buffalo Bill to The French Key and Lady of Burlesque.
Meanwhile, Mainwaring himself, under the Homes pseudonym, wrote two detective series of interest to visitors to this site: one featuring Robin Bishop, a newspaper reporter, and another featuring milk-drinking private eye Humphrey Campbell.
In 1976, Jerry Bick and John Ptak announced plans to remake Out Of The Past as Build My Gallows High, to be directed by Jerry Schatzberg from a screenplay by Marilyn Goldin. It eventually made it to the screen as 1984's Against All Odds, starring Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward, with Jane Greer dropping in to add bit of retro-credibility (it didn't work). Far more successful were some of the other crime screenplays Mainwaring wrote, including They Made Me a Killer (1946), The Big Steal (1949) and Roadblock (1951). He also wrote a ton of gangster flicks and westerns.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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