- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

I watched for the first time one of those Movies You Should Have Seen by Now — Jacque Tourneur’s 1947 film noir “Out of the Past.” (Christopher Orr was spot-on when he noted how much last year’s “A History of Violence” owed to it.)

More than anything, the dialogue blew me away. Much of it is deservedly famous, such as when Robert Mitchum tells Jane Greer’s Kathy Moffat that “You’re like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another.” But even the throwaway one-liners are gems. “Awfully cold around the heart,” Mitchum quips later of Moffat.

The screenplay is officially credited to “Geoffrey Homes,” the pseudonym of blacklisted Daniel Mainwaring. But critic Jeff Schwager told Roger Ebert: “Mainwaring’s script was not very good, and in one draft featured awful voice-over narration by the deaf-mute. Cain’s script was a total rewrite and even worse; it was totally discarded. The great dialogue was actually the work of Frank Fenton, a B-movie writer whose best known credit was John Ford’s ‘Wings of Eagles.’”

A while back I reviewed a Hollywood novel in which script-doctoring was a recurring trope.

I wonder how much it goes on now, at a time when the Charlie Kaufmans of Hollywood are treated like yesterday’s novelists.

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