FILM 1556: OUT OF THE PAST
TRIVIA: Robert Mitchum told Roger Ebert he smoked so much, that when the camera was rolling on this film and Kirk Douglas offered him a pack and asked, "Cigarette?", Mitchum, realizing he'd carried a cigarette into the scene, held up his fingers and replied, "Smoking." His improvisation saved the take, and they kept it in the movie.
By all accounts, it was obvious that an undeniable tension developed between Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum early on during the filming. Certainly the acting styles of the two men could not have been more different. Mitchum's relaxed, laconic manner contrasted with the aggressive, grandstanding Douglas. In the first scenes to be shot with the two actors, Douglas attempted some scene stealing by manipulating distracting props, such as swinging a key chain or flipping a coin, George Raft style. Jacques Tourneur saw through these ploys and put a stop to them. For his part, Mitchum would retaliate by making faces when the camera was behind his head, so as to throw off Douglas' reaction shots. Eventually the one-upmanship faded, and the two let their natural styles compliment each other.
Jane Greer recalled that the laconic Robert Mitchum projected an equally cavalier attitude off camera. She got the impression that he came to the set unprepared, in order to give a more spontaneous performance. She explained, "I remember him saying 'What are the lyrics?' to the script person. 'I never know the lyrics,' he'd say, and she would give him the lines. I said, 'You don't learn your lines beforehand?' and he'd said, 'Naah.' Gosh, I learned mine a week ahead of time. I thought that might be part of why he seemed so much more spontaneous, why he was so easy and underplayed. I decided I'd do that, not be letter perfect. So I tried learning my lines under the dryer in the morning. I hoped I'd look as though I was thinking. But I blew take after take, and he was letter perfect. Well, I figured out later that, of course, he knew the lines."
Filming got off to a rocky start with a near-fatal plane accident at the Bridgeport, California airport landing field. The pilot, accompanied by Robert Mitchum, a studio accountant and an assistant to executive Walter Duff, realized his brakes didn't work when they touched down, causing the plane to crash through a fence, over a ditch, and through an outhouse before coming to a stop. Although the two men in the back seat were knocked unconscious, Mitchum and the pilot were not hurt. Typical of Mitchum's nonchalant attitude, he quickly crawled out of the wreckage, dusted off his clothes and thumbed a ride into town to begin filming.
On November 14, 1987, Robert Mitchum was the guest host on Saturday Night Live (1975), broadcast from the NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. One of the sketches he participated in was a black-and-white spoof of the film called "Out of Gas." The sketch featured an unbilled guest appearance by none other than Jane Greer.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.