Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas bring the noir genre to roaring life on the big screen with this 1947 adaptation of the novel by Geoffrey Holmes. It’s also the first recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Point Blank.
Mitchum is Jeff Bailey. He lives in a small town, and runs a gas pump. But he was a private investigator. And his past has come looking for him. He left the city, but is soon pulled back into a world mired in corruption, double-crosses, trouble and dangerous women.
The beauty and the serenity of the small town and its surrounding wilderness is juxtaposed by the grimy city streets, the shadows, and the danger that lurks within them.
As he gets pulled back into the world he left behind, he tells the tale to his girlfriend Ann (Virginia Huston). And he’s got a great voice to deliver the hard-boiled private dick talk of the 40s without making it sound like a cliche.
A rich gambler, Whit Sterling (Douglas) hired Jeff to find his mistress, Kathie (Greer) who shot Whit and took off with $40,000.
Of course Jeff finds her, and of course he falls for her. But can she be trusted?
Jeff is sure he’s being framed, but can’t figure out for what.
It’s slick, dark, and very much a noir film. Mitchum’s Jeff is a very familiar type of character, and he plays it with ease.
And I loved see he and Douglas square off against one another, two powerhouses going toe to toe. I also love the way this movie looks. All the shadows, silhouettes and sharp edges of the city are in perfect contrast to the world Jeff longs for, the sunny and comforting small town where he is found.
I love how the story unwinds, and the trouble Jeff finds himself as he sees things unfold and learns that he can’t trust anyone in this town.
Everything about this says classic film noir, and I can’t believe I had never heard of it. It has everything you would expect from the genre, and as mentioned, it could play as cliched if it wasn’t played so darned straight. It’s great, and a wonderful addition to the detective films of the time.
Everything is up for grabs until the final reel, and we can only hope that Jeff gets clear of the shadows and trouble that seem to dog his footsteps. And what happens when that trouble shows up in the small town he so loves.
It’s a fantastic film, and I really enjoyed settling in for this one!