Greer Remembers Out of the Past

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Bettejane Greer came to Hollywood at the bequest of eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, who had seen her picture in an issue of Time magazine.

Greer signed a contract with Hughes and was loaned to RKO, where she completed her earliest films, including Out of the Past at the age of 22.

Greer said, “It was a great, great part. Anybody would die for a part like that. The way they build her up before you even see her.”

Jane Greer had never worked with Robert Mitchum before, but the two got acquainted fast, especially since their first scene included a romantic embrace on the beach.

Greer said, “Nobody thinks about that sort of thing, where it’s awkward or not to start two people off with a love scene.”

She also noticed that her scene partner had something on his lips, which she thought was make-up. It turned out to be chewing tobacco residue.

While filming, Mitchum liked to appear on the set and ask, “What are the lyrics?” – his way of asking what his line were for the day. Jane was impressed by her co-star’s talent of easily memorizing lines beforehand so much that she tried to do the same. After a painful time of stumbling through a scene, she decided to never try that again – especially since Mitchum’s “talent” was just a ruse.

Director Jacques Tourneur didn’t offer much regarding Greer’s character, except to tell her that the character was meant to be impassive and without any “big eyes”

For the most part, she followed the direction playing the character very cold.

Greer said, “But I did throw in a few big eyes anyway. I couldn’t help myself.”

Originally, her character was also supposed to wear white in the beginning and black in the end – to signify that she was “good” and then “bad”.

Greer said, “And it would have worked had they not screwed up the production schedule. [They] made us do some later scenes early and the clothes weren’t all ready, so you wore whatever fit.”

Nevertheless, the film was well-received and continues to be a memorable film noir. In 1984, the film was remade as Against All Odds starring Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges.

Jane Greer came out of “semi-retirement” to appear in the film, acting as the mother to the character she originated in 1947.