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Posts Tagged ‘Out of the Past’

“The whole language of the underworld and the understanding that the characters have of each other, you feel like you’re being led into a secret world.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan
On the film Out of the Past (1947)

According to various interviews with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan the roots of Raiders of the Lost Ark range from the B-films of the 30s & 40s, Doc Savage novels, the western Nevada Smith (1966) starring Steve McQueen, the episodic Don Winslow of the Navy, to banter found in writer/director Howard Hawks‘ films. Can you see hints of Indy and Marion in this scene from His Girl Friday (1940)?

But according to NPR’s Movies I’ve Seen a Million Times, screenwriter Kasdan gives us one more clue into his personal film influences on the road to writing Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“The the movie I’ve seen a million times is Out of the Past, directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. I’ve probably seen it eight or nine times. It is a film noir, and one of the best ever made. Every scene has got great things in it. It’s very funny, very wised up in the manner of film noir.

The Robert Mitchum character is a former private eye who’s been involved with some ugly things and had straightened out and now runs a gas station in a small California town. And the beginning of the movie is all sunlit and cheerful. But as you get deeper into the story, you see his history, and that’s a very dark, complicated history.

And he becomes involved with a beautiful woman, with Jane Greer making her debut.  She’s the girlfriend of Kirk Douglas. Kirk Douglas hires Robert Mitchum to find Jane Greer, who has taken off with some of his money. And Mitchum finds her, falls in love with her, tries to run away with her, gets caught. And they get involved in a terrible scheme, and then they’re separated. There’s one amazing scene when he is reunited with Jane Greer, who has totally betrayed him.  She’s gone back to Kirk Douglas. Now, she comes in secretly to talk to Robert Mitchum, and he’s totally disgusted by her presence, doesn’t believe a word she says. And there’s bitter dialogue that I thought was some of the greatest ever written.”
Lawrence Kasdan

Here’s a couple more scenes from Out of the Past.

Out of the Past was written by Daniel Mainwaring based on his novel Build My Gallows High (under the name G. Holmes. According to IMDB, James M Cain (well-known for writing the novel Double Indemnity) did uncredited work on the Out of the Past script. Mainwaring also wrote the script for the cult classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). The 1984 film Agaisnt All Odds written by was a remake of Out of the Past.

P.S. What originally got Kasdan on Steve Spielberg’s radar was the screenplay for Continental Divide which eventually got made in 1981—the same year Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in theaters. The same year Body Heat which Kasdan wrote and directed. 1981 was a very good year for Lawrence Kasdan. But gets your hand on the script for Continental Divide and watch the movie. Not because it’s a great script or film, but because it shows a simple kind of story that got the former school teacher noticed on his way to writing some great films and receiving four Oscar-nominations.

Related Posts:
From West Virginia to Hollywood The roots of Lawrence Kasdan
Screenwriting from Michigan Kasdan’s college roots
Raiders Revisited (Part 1)
Lawrence Kasdan’s Rejection/Breakthrough–“After nine years of writing screenplays without success, I believed only bad things were going to happen.”—Kasdan

Scott W. Smith

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