Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon: The Deaf character in Out of the Past

Actor Dickie Moore as The Kid in Out of the Past.
I feel a bit silly writing about Out of the Past (1947) because it is so well known and what could I possibly add to the discussion of this great film. I can only offer something very personal. As a side note I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area so any movie that features The City is tops in my book. The movie also features Lake Tahoe, another geographical location significant to me. The important personal connection I have to Out of the Past is the Deaf character, The Kid. My parents are Deaf (as were my grandparents and only Aunt and Uncle). The Kid, played by Dickie Moore, is a gas station attendant who is devoted to the operator of the business, the protagonist Jeff Bailey who is played by Robert Mitchum. What attracts me to The Kid is that the fact he is Deaf does not play a pivotal role in the story. He just happens to be Deaf. That he is a bit strange and kills someone doesn't bother me because that is all about the world of Noir, not a reflection of his deafness. Everyone is bad and a bit off in the world of Film Noir. It is all about to what degree you are bad. What really amazes me is that The Kid signs really well. It is clear and accurate American Sign Language, which is very unusual for a motion picture of any era. I have wondered for years what motivated the production to be so accurate. The actor, Dickie Moore, is hearing and I have been unable to identify any connection to deafness or Deaf Culture in his background. If anyone has any insight into my question please let me know. The fact that Dickie Moore signs so well is a small detail and is probably of little consequence to most fans of this film. Perhaps it was this attention to detail by the director Jacques Tourneur that made the world of Out of the Past so authentic.

Out of the Past was selected to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991.


A scene from Out of the Past that includes Jane Greer.


  1. Fascinating perspective. I hope someone can find the answer to your question soon......

  2. You MIGHT send a letter to TCM's Robert Osbourne because HE KNOWS Dickie Moore and Dickie is still alive.

    And I disagree that he is not pivotal! He is a very quiet but important actor. Three things: he tells Mitchum that Douglas was looking for him. He is instrumental in the death of one of Douglas' mugs and at the END - the most important thing. He tells the hometown girl that Mitchum was going back with Greer. Which was not true. Either because he didn't know, or much better: that he knew the truth but would rather that the Lake Tahoe girl friend not know the truth so that she could be happy with her current suitor. If she thought she was coming back with her then she might have suffered even more! So it was a wise move on his part, if he knew.