Out of the Fog

Gasser

Out of the Fog (1941)

     Is it possible Ida Lupino was once a young woman? Her mature, cynical roles suggest that the dame skipped over any vulnerable portion of life and went straight for adulthood. In Out of the Fog, however, Lupino seems to shift between her usual tough gal and a girl on the verge of adulthood.

     As 21-year-old Stella Goodwin, we first meet Lupino as she erupts at her boyfriend for playing around with card tricks and allowing other men to mock him. She rushes out the doors of the Sheepshead Bay restaurant and stands by the water where she next confesses to boyfriend George (Eddie Albert) that she is not content with plans to marry him and live in a three-room flat while continuing her miserable existence as a telephone operator. She seems like an adult until she goes home to the flat above her father’s shop where she tries to quietly enter her room without alerting her parents. Here I got an entirely different feel for the character whose long curls suggest youth but dark makeup says otherwise.

     Stella is only part of the plot, however. The antagonist is John Garfield‘s Howard Goff, a racketeer who makes his living selling “protection” to boat owners along the pier. That protection means he will not beat them or set their vessels aflame. His newest target is Jonah (Thomas Mitchell), Stella’s father, and Olaf (John Qualen), who share a small motor boat that provides their only pleasure in life: four nights a week of fishing. Goff is charging $5 a week, saying the duo are getting a discount because Jonah has a pretty daughter, which sparks even deeper worries for the working-class man.

     At first blush, Stella is unimpressed by the mysterious gent, but is quickly thrilled by the exciting life he leads. She starts hitting the town with him instead of George and refuses to let Goff’s business dealings with her father scare her off. When Stella reveals her father has $190 saved up with which he offered to send her to Cuba (to get away from the new beau), Goff sees the dough as an opportunity to demand it from his clients. He also plans to have Stella run away with him to Cuba, so Jonah naturally feels the need to take matters into his own hands.

     Besides Lupino’s mixed maturity in Out of the Fog, I also noticed the almost Jekyll and Hyde way of Garfield’s persona. The man has a sweet face whose round, smiling cheeks make him adorable, but he often played brutes like in this flick. It is almost like casting against type in that he could play an attractive villain capable of violence as easily as someone with the mug of Edward G. Robinson.

     Out of the Fog is no crown in either Lupino or Garfield’s crowns. The plot of a girl nearly corrupted by the intrigue of a criminal is nothing new. Ordinary people considering knocking off their aggressors is also not a novel concept. This movie has standard elements composed with somewhat unique surroundings. I would not say avoid it, but don’t go rushing to rent it.

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