Out of the Fog (1941) Anatole Litvak


“Out of the Fog” is based on a 1939 play called “The Gentle People” by Irwin Shaw. The play ran for a respectable four and half months on Broadway and had one heck of a cast that included Franchot Tone, Lee J. Cobb, Sam Jaffe, Sylvia Sydney, Elia Kazan, Martin Ritt and Karl Malden. It was produced by the legendary Group Theater and directed by the visionary Harold Clurman.  The play was an anti-fascist parable (Shaw subtitled the play, A Brooklyn Fable) of the meek overcoming the arrogant and the powerful. In the play the two main characters were elderly gentle Jewish men, Jonah Goodman and Philip Anagnos, who are shaken down for five dollars a week in protection money by a smart aleck, stylishly dressed, wise ass gangster named Harold Goff (Tone). Goff also awakens the dreams and sexuality of Jonah’s bored daughter Stella (Sydney) who has hopes of leaving her meaningless existence for a more exciting life. When Goff learns the two fishermen have money saved to buy a boat, he demands they hand the savings over to him too. In order to rid themselves of Goff’s extortion and threats, the two fishermen lure him into their boat. Once they are out in the ocean they kill him and toss him overboard but not before taking his wallet filled with the money.

When Warner Brothers decided to make the film they were well aware some changes would have to be made. First they needed to softened the characters names or changed them completely so they would not be Jewish. Additionally, the Hays office would not allow the two men to not be punished for killing Goff, now played by John Garfield. Subsequently, in the film the two men cannot go through with shooting him. His death becomes an act of God when  he falls overboard and drowns since he cannot swim.

Still, Goff represents the powerful, a man “with rocks” in his coat, easily tossing a lit cigarette on to a wooden boat setting it on fire and watching it burn with childish joy. Goff is a full blown bully, pushing his way around, full of insolence; he has no problem putting the moves on Stella, played by Ida Lupino, the daughter of Jonah Goodwin (Thomas Mitchell), one of the fishermen he is terrorizing. Sensing Stella’s bored restlessness, Goff tells her everything she wants to hear and has been dreaming of, the fancy nightclubs, the parties, travel, a new and exciting life away from her dreary days in Brooklyn.  Stella is a good kid but is lured by temptation and excitement into betraying her father and her own beliefs.

Goff is the most evil character John Garfield has ever portrayed. He never shows any indications of regret or vulnerability. When Jonah calls the police on Goff, he is dragged into court, however the judge releases him when he presents a “contract” of a loan signed by the two fisherman (earlier he actually forced them to sign it). Goff seeks revenge by beating the older man with a rubber hose. He shows no compassion, just an immoral racketeer as he stands tall over the beaten Jonah telling him how he knows he can get away with this because people are weak and unwilling to fight back. The strong survive and the weak will perish.

This is a pretty dark film both figuratively and literally. Much of the film takes place at night and quite a bit is fog bound, both adding to the emptiness and claustrophobic feeling the film conveys.  James Wong Howe’s photography is exceptional, though the film does suffers somewhat from being bound by obvious studio sets. Ida Lupino’s performance is direct and upfront managing to convey both the loving daughter and the woman who desires a grander, wilder life than the one life has dealt her. The best performances though go to Thomas Mitchell and John Qualan as the two fishermen. The rest of the cast includes Eddie Albert, as Stella’s decent but dull boyfriend George, and both Leo and Bernard Gorcey in supporting roles.

“Out of the Fog”, despite its watering down from the play to meet the Hays Code restrictions, still makes no bones where it stands politically. The screenplay was by Shaw and Robert Rossen, and the film is nicely directed by Anatole Litvak.

This review is part of the John Garfield Blogathon being held by the They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Use To Blog. Click here to check out some other great contributions to this tribute to Mr. Garfield.

This review originally appeared here in a slightly different version.

29 comments on “Out of the Fog (1941) Anatole Litvak

  1. Jeff Flugel says:

    Good review of an interesting sounding film. I think Garfield, with his intensity and physicality, was a good choice to play the thuggish Goff and seems an improvement over Franchot Tone. I haven’t seen this film but with that cast and with Howe’s cinematography, there seems a lot to recommend it.

    • John Greco says:

      Hi Jeff! Garfield is really nasty in this film. he’s no anti-hero here just plain bad. The film does pop up on TCM once in a while so keep an eye out for it.

  2. Judy says:

    John, must admit that when I first saw this film I was slightly bewildered by it – by the sheer evil of Garfield’s character, and also by the way that Ida Lupino allows herself to be seduced by the man who is bullying her father. When I read about its origins as an anti-fascist parable, suddenly it all made sense. Despite the ending being watered down from the stage play, I agree with you that it is still clear where the film stands politically. I do feel that the film really belongs to Thomas Mitchell, who is the lead in all but name, but Garfield and Lupino are both good even though they don’t get the chance to show their full range. Litvak is a good director – everything of his I see makes me admire him more. Great piece here, John!

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Judy!

      It is surprising to see Garfield play such a out and out rotten person, and like you, I was a bit shocked by it the first time. I like Litvak’s work too, he’s always interesting to watch. Garfield and Lupino make a good team. They made a couple of films together, I wish they made more.

  3. “Out of the Fog” has meant different things to me at different times. It impressed me very much as a youth and less so as a young adult. A recent viewing put it back on the pedestal. I’m not sure what it says about me or the film, but it says a lot of good about Garfield who always draws me in.

    • John Greco says:

      Patricia – The film still packs a punch. It’s a dark film both visually and style wise. I do wish they did not have to water it down but that was the times. Thanks!!!

      I do wish

  4. Patti says:

    Really great review, John, and a terrific addition to the blogathon. Thanks so much for participating!

    I read in Mr. Garfield’s bio that the lack of success of this film “indicated that the public wanted no part of a John Garfield presented in a wholly unsympathetic light.”

    I guess audiences loved him as the rebel, but not the evil rebel.

    I am a Franchot Tone fan (though to a much lesser extent than I am a Garfield fan). It would be fun to see him in this role. Too bad those stage performances aren’t on film!

    • John Greco says:

      Glad to have particopated Patti. I always thought it was surprising that he took such a bad role. Most stars do not want to be seen in such a bad light, but for Garfield I think the work was more important than his image as a star. Too bad the audiences of the day did not appreciate that.

  5. The Lady Eve says:

    John, I’d watch any Garfield or Ida Lupino film, so the two together is hard to resist (plus the added pleasure of Thomas Mitchell). Knowing the play’s awkward journey to the screen explains why some elements may not have worked well. But I didn’t have any problem with Garfield as an unrepentant thug – he was completely believable. He could’ve made a career of villains if he’d wanted to – and if he’d had the time. He died much too young.

    • John Greco says:

      Eve- Garfield is totally convincing but i guess audiences were not ready for to see one of thier favorite stars in such an evil role. He’s terrific as is Lupino who is always a joy to watch. Mitchell, and I will add in John Qualen, are both a pleasure too. The film does have its problems but it’s still a good fiick.

  6. dawn says:

    Wonderful review, for a film I have not yet seen. Looks like a great cast line up.. I have to admit.. John Garfield makes a perfect villain.

    • John Greco says:

      Dawn, he’s truly nasty in this one. The cast is good and while overall not a great film,its good and certainly worth watching when you get a chance. Thanks!

  7. doriantb says:

    John, I knew that John Garfield wasn’t afraid to play unsympathetic characters, but WOW, he was pure evil in OUT OF THE FOG! As our wonderful Blogathon hostess Patti put it so well, “I guess audiences loved him as the rebel, but not the evil rebel.” That’s another thing I liked about Garfield as a person and an actor, though. Just as Garfield wasn’t afraid to tackle tough stage or film roles, he also wasn’t afraid to confront tough real-life issues (sometimes to his peril, sadly). BRAVO on a terrific post, my friend, as always!

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Dorian, yeah he was fearless as an actor and I know early in his career he felt trapped by Warners for always puttin him in the same kind of role, so this was certainly something different.

  8. FlickChick says:

    Great review, John. Garfield and Lupino – now that’s a team that needs more exploration. They were very good together, weren’t they? And no – we don’t like our John Garfield all bad.

  9. Victoria says:

    I love this film and, although I’m not even close to having seen all John Garfield’s films, of the ones I have seen this is definitely one of my favorites! Yes, he was horrible in it but he played it so well and I adore Ida Lupino, making the movie even better for me! Wonderful review and thank you for reminding me how much I enjoy this one:)

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Victoria, I envy your journey and discovering new Garfield films. I still have a few, but not too many that I need to catch.

  10. R. D. Finch says:

    John, I enjoyed your post on this film. Garfield usually played tough but had a repressed sensitive streak that allowed the female lead to reach him and redeem him, a variation I suppose of the Beauty and the Beast idea. As you note, though, there is no redeeming soft center here, and Garfield is thoroughly convincing as a sadistic thug. Judy made a couple of comments I found quite apposite–that it’s a big stretch to accept Lupino’s fascination for him when he is such a threat to her father, and the way Thomas Mitchell really walks off with the film. I found Garfield and Lupino to be well matched, though. (As I recall, her biographer quoted her as having nothing but good things to say about him.) They were even better, I thought, in “The Sea Wolf.”

    • John Greco says:

      R.D. i agree about THE SEA WOLF, a film I love watching. Mitchell is excellent in this film. Actually, the only actor whose performance I found wanting was Eddie Albert. I ithought the role was weak and he comes of that way too. Thanks!

  11. Le says:

    The stage cast was already spectacular, and for sure many changes had to be made. It’s interesting that names had to be less Jewish, considering that years later Garfield was an important supporting character in Gentlemen’s Agreement. He did many dark films, but this darker role seems very interesting!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

  12. I reviewed this a year or two ago and agree with much of your assessment, although I was disappointed by the movie overall. I like your history at the beginning, which I didn’t know.

  13. Paulie says:

    nice review! that cast for the stage version is fascinating! i would love to see Tone’s take on that character! One doesnt usually think of him in that kind of role but he was so awesome as the deranged psychopath in the Phantom Lady i’m sure he was worth seeing in that play as well. i agree, Goff is JG’s most evil character and he was quite convincing in the part. Litvak did some interesting work. his films are always a bit “different”, much in the same way Jean Negulesco’s films are.

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks! When i first read Tone was iin the stage version I had a hard time picturing him in the role. Would have been interesting to see. for sure. I love much Litvak’s work I think he has been underrated. Negulesco is interesting but I need to watch more of his work to get a handle on him.

  14. John says:

    How many times does John Qualen say Jonah (Yona) in this film, :) ?

  15. […] (film, 1956) – wikipedia, Anastasia är en amerikansk långfilm från 1956 regisserad av anatole litvak med ingrid bergman och yul brynner i huvudrollerna. innehåll 1 handling 2 om filmen 3. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s