Tribute By Monica Sullivan
Jane Greer holds a special place in the hearts of film noir buffs because of the femme fatale she played in "Out of the Past" opposite Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas. As Kathie Moffat , she was a cool killer who looked like an angel, at least at first: large brown eyes, fluffy brown hair and shimmering with a soft radiance that made grown men melt, at least at first. Eventually, they had to frost her or die when she wrapped her lovely hands around a gun. "Out of the Past" was the 10th of Greer's 27 films in a movie career that spanned 44 years. She first made an impression on the public as a 21-year-old starlet in two crime dramas and a couple of musicals released by RKO in 1945: She was billed 7th as Helen & 4th as Judith Owen in Anthony Mann's "Two O'clock Courage" & in William Berke's "Dick Tracy." In "Pan-Americana," she was cast in a bit part as Miss Downing and, in "George White's Scandals," she played the small role of Billie Randall.
By 1946, she was more striking as Lola Carpenter in "The Falcon's Alibi," Eileen Sawyer in "The Bamboo Blonde" & Helen in "Sunset Pass." 1947 was the year she moved into starring roles. After playing Pirouze in the Technicolor "Sinbad The Sailor," Greer made her first film noir as one of the three women in Robert Young's life. (Susan Hayward and Rita Johnson were the others.) Her smouldering presence as Janice led directly to her star-making part in "Out Of The Past." Her follow-up role as Charlie in 1948's "Station West" showed that she was just as intriguing a sympathetic heroin as she'd been as a vixen. At that point, Greer planned to take a few years off with her young family. Expecting her second child, she was rushed into Don Siegel's 1949 film "The Big Steal," a noir quickie with Robert Mitchum and Greer as Duke and Joan. She was off screen for two years, returning as Diane in 1951's "The Company She Keeps," her 13th & final RKO project, filmed the previous year. (If you see it on the late show, look for Jeff & Beau Bridges as a baby & a boy at the station.)
Her career had lost some of its momentum and she moved into leading lady roles like Ellie in "You're In The Navy Now" opposite Gary Cooper & Diana opposite William Lundigan at Fox. A new contract at MGM did not lead to the meaty roles Greer had already proved she could do. In "You For Me," "Desperate Search," & "The Clown," she played second fiddle to Peter Lawford, Howard Keel & Red Skelton & in "The Prisoner Of Zenda," she was 4th fiddle after Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr & Louis Calhern. After appearing in "Run For The Sun," a 1956 indie remake of "The Most Dangerous Game" with Richard Widmark & Trevor Howard, Greer made 1957's "Man Of A Thousand Faces" at Universal with James Cagney as Lon Chaney & then left the big screen for seven years. She returned in a character role in Paramount's "Where Love Has Gone," starring Susan Hayward, Bette Davis & Joey Heatherton. A role as Patty Duke's mother followed in "Billie," a 1965 screen adaptation of "Time Out For Ginger." In 1973, she was Alma in the MGM neo noir "The Outfit" &, in 1984, Columbia did "Against All Odds," an update of "Out Of The Past," starring her infant colleague from 1950, Jeff Bridges as well as her 1956 co-star Richard Widmark. Audiences were surprised to see that Jane Greer looked great at sixty in the update & the original was shown constantly on television and even colorised. Greer made two more films ("Just Between Friends" & "Immediate Family") & one series ("Twin Peaks" as Peggy Lipton's mother) and then called it a career. Its peak had come early, but Kathie Moffat had been so indelible that her presence made itself known in everything Jane Greer subsequently did.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/29/01
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