On the Brooklyn shore, there’s a mess of fog, and in that fog is corruption, seeping into the failing hearts of the innocent.  Down in this gutter, we find the broke, a bunch of hard working guys that are just trying to scrape together enough bits to secure their next fishing trip to the bay.  In Out of The Fog (1941), starring Ida Lupino, a moody yarn about a racketeer and his gormless marks, which features abundant fog and plenty of dark and moody water lapping sound effects, John Garfield steps in an tries his hand at Bogart — or is it Cagney?  Hard to say.   Of course Bogart does Bogart best, and the same is to be said of James Cagney, but there’s a ton of film-flam holding John Garfield back in Out of the Fog, and try as he may, he just can’t see his way out of it.

John Garfield, Out of the Fog (1941) film noir

I hooked up with Out of the Fog when I was searching for a real classic of film noir — Out of the Past.  Instead, this was dredged up from the freebies section of YouTube and as it had Ida Lupino, the masterful director of The Hitchhiker, plus as her male lead noir’s own evil son, John Garfield, I reckoned it would be worth a whirl.

Hapless George, your supposed romantic lead, Eddie Albert in Out of the Fog (1941)

Yes, actor and activist Eddie Albert is in Out of the Fog, but it’s John Garfield that leads the way, and other than Lupino he is possibly the only actor of any calibre in the production.  That’s not to say it’s a poor film, cause it ain’t.  There’s no fat on this trim little B-pic, which deals with a pretty ordinary tale of one slick gangster’s terrorising of some innocent wharfside peasants.  Garfield seems to have the upper hand on everybody, and certainly his acting is ahead of the others, who put in fairly clod-hopping vaudevillian turns.

Ida Lupino 1941

Yes, the system pushes around the little guys, but they are such buffoons that you long for the veneer to be scratched harder so that the noir flows forth.  Instead in Out of the Fog are the remnants of Irwin Shaw’s play, The Gentle People, which clearly extends its sympathies to the working folk, the hapless hams of the Brooklyn shore in this case.  On screen, the loveable old pals, the Jew and the Greek, just seem in the way of everything you want to happen.  They are gentle, yes, which in Hollywoodian terms means BORING and DAFT.

The two slack jawed locals who bumble into Garfield’s devices are Jonah Goodwin (Thomas Mitchell) and Olaf Johnson (John Qualen), a couple of working-class immigrants in Brooklyn’s fishing district.   They own a wrecked old boat which they adore, but when threatened by Garfield (who seems to be able to seduce the very bored Ida Lupino) they decide to take matters into their own hands.

I’m not sure if there is an allegory about fascism in here, but if there is it may be flawed.  It’s just that this being noir, and this being 1941, we are kinda trained to look for one.  Film noir, esepcially in those early yeras, became a vehicle for quite a few national pathological obsessions, and the movies moreso than the news became a vehicle for discussion of fascism.

‘Yes I’ll come by for you George, like I always do.’

Although Ida Lupino, who had been in They Drive by Night (1940) the year before, was known and going to be known for tough, knowing female characters, she is a little bit vulnerable and dull in Out of the Fog.  Ida Lupino’s first film as director was Not Wanted (1948) and she was the first woman in history to both star and direct in a film — The Bigamist (1953) — which she also co-wrote.  Lupino is great in Beware, My Lovely (1952) in which she is a war widow terrorised by her handyman who has blackout bouts of insanity; and she’s one of the career-girl reporters in Fritz Lang’s While the City Sleeps (1956), which is a late-cycle film noir must.  She co-wrote Private Hell 36 (1954), but future star Don Siegel directed as Lupino’s then husband Howard Duff wouldn’t be directed by her.

Ida Lupino's films are worth checking out though, she is the First Lady of noir, and was a talented writer and director, overlooked today simply by dint of her being a woman! See her in High Sierra (1941), Ladies in Retirement (1941), Moontide (1942), The Hard Way (1942) — another based on a play by Irwin Shaw — The Man I love (1947), Road House (1948), Woman in Hiding (1950), Jennifer (1953), On Dangerous Ground (1952), The Big Knife (1955), Women’s Prison (1955) and Strange Intruder (1956).

Smooth sharp talking John Garfield (1941)

I’m going to keep this short, because it’s a pretty lousy movie.  The script (based on a play) is really heavy-handed and overwritten, with lots of earnest speeches and a flawed fascism allegory.  The potentially dark climax is foiled by something approaching slapstick comedy.  Garfield is 100% ridiculous, trying to pull off a Cagney-esque character that doesn’t suit him at all.  He’s a cartoon villain with hokey tough guy talk (although Leo Gorcey’s awful Brooklyn-ese is even worse). 

Most disappointing for a film noir buff these days, is that Ida Lupino is completely wasted in an inconsistent, boring role that doesn’t make sense.  Eddie Albert’s nice guy part is just annoying and he pops up with a chjeesy haircut, jacket and smile that may make you want to turn off.  Mitchell and Qualen are doing some pretty silly accents, too, and although Mitchell does come off the best of the cast, that’s not saying much.

I think the best part of Out of the Fog however is probably the fog itself, representitive here of the fog of history into which this film will eventually drift and be lost.