Not as a Stranger (1955) starring Robert Mitchum & Olivia de Havilland

At the opening, Lucas Marsh (Robert Mitchum, one of my favorite actors) is an idealistic intern at a private hospital.  Luke has dreamed of being a doctor since childhood, though he comes from very humble roots (his mother is dead and his father is a drunkard).  His best friend is Alfred Boone (Frank Sinatra in a fine supporting role), the jovial son of a comfortable family who loves chasing women.  Al comments to a classmate that though they all want to be doctors, Luke “wants it more- he has to.”  Luke works as a lab researcher, usually late into the night.

While working, Luke strikes up a friendship with a 1st gen. Swedish-American nurse from Minnesota, Kristen (Olivia de Havilland).  She even arranges it so that he and Al can watch an important surgery.  When Luke’s father spends the money his mother saved for his education, he’s desperate (though he conceals it well).  He gets some help from Al and his teacher, Dr. Aarons (Broderick Crawford), but it’s not enough.  Dr. Aarons, who is Jewish, went through a lot of trouble to become a doctor, and sees great potential in Luke.   

When Kris invites Luke and Al to dine with her friends Bruni and Oley (Harry Morgan from M.A.S.H.), Luke learns that Kris has saved quite a bit of money.   It’s obvious that Kris likes Luke more than a friend, so he asks her out.  (After all, she’s a fine nurse with a “pretty face” and “nice figure.”)  After a few dates, he decides to propose, though Al reminds him that he doesn’t love her.  They nearly come to blows (Luke has a hot temper).  “It’s not like that.  Things are not always black and white,” Luke replies.

They marry and move into her little apartment.  They continue with their respective work; Kris helps Luke prepare for his exams and with his people skills.  (Since he has such high standards, it’s difficult for him to tolerate weakness in others.) 

Marsh, you’re one of the most brilliant students we’ve ever had here.  You’ll be a great physician.  Stop living your life like a Greek tragedy, or you’ll muff it!  -Dr. Aarons
After graduation, the couple move to a small town, where Luke shares a practice with Dr. Runkleman (Charles Bickford), the most experienced doctor in the area.  Dr. Marsh is pleasantly surprised to learn that the older man keeps up with the latest research.  The life of a country doctor is tougher and more tiring than anticipated.  

There is also temptation- a wealthy young widow, Mrs. Lange (Gloria Grahame), summons Dr. Marsh to her home late one night (to check him out).  He’s taken aback by her looks and boldness.  At home, Kris wants to start a family. 

The secret of Robert Mitchum’s success(ful) appeal as an actor was his ability to easily combine tough masculinity and tender vulnerability in one persona, unlike any of his peers (John Wayne, William Holden, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston).  One felt that Mitchum concentrated more on fully and honestly showing all sides of whatever character that he was playing, even the weak and not-so-tough moments… 

A commentor on YouTube

This film is a must-see for any fan of cinema!  It has well-developed characters, great dialogue, and takes the viewer on a journey.  The editing and pacing are also well done; this is important since the film clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes.  (The director is a groundbreaker in the field, Stanley Kramer; he also directed Inherit the Wind, The Defiant Ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and many others.)  The ending is fitting and very fulfilling- I got a bit teary-eyed.


Film classics to watch on YouTube

Hey all!

Recently, I rewatched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) on YouTube.  I’d seen it a few years ago, but didn’t recall the ending.  The stars of the film are John Dall, Farley Grainger (who later starred in Strangers on a Train), and one of my favorite actors of all time- Jimmy Stewart.  This film is very different from the English play it’s based on, mainly because of the censorship rules of its time.  The film is pretty great, technically, which is expected from Hitchcock.  Some of you may also be interested in Rope Unleashed, a 30 minute behind the scenes look with Hume Cronyn, Granger, Patricia Hitchcock (the director’s daughter), and writer Arthur Laurents.

Below are some (full-length) film classics that you can watch (FREE) on YouTube!

Thanks for visiting!


Mary Galante – 1934; starring a young Spencer Tracy

Pygmalion – the inspiration for My Fair Lady; 1938; starring Leslie Howard

Love Story – 1944; inspiration for An Affair to Remember; starring Margaret Lockwood & Stewart Granger

The Stranger – 1946; starring Orson Welles & Edward G. Robinson

Borderline – 1950; starring Fred McMurray, Clare Trevor, & Raymond Burr (best known as Perry Mason)

Witness to Murder – 1954; starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders, & Gary Merrill

Quick opinions of recent views

Black Swan (2010)

We all know the story.  Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan.  She desires freedom but only true love can break the spell.  Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince, but before he can declare his love her lustful twin, the black swan, tricks and seduces him.  Devastated the white swan leaps of a cliff killing herself and, in death, finds freedom.

This film was highly hyped when it came out, but I think it’s overrated.  It’s edited well and shot beautifully.  There is an atmosphere of claustrophobia in the film, reflecting the very circumscribed life of the main character, NYC-based ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman).  It was nice to see veteran actress Barbara Hershey as Nina’s overly-concerned mother.  Too bad not much was done with Winona Ryder’s role.  The meaning of the ending is up to the viewer to decide! 

House of Games (1987)

What I’m talking about comes down to a more basic philosophial principle: Don’t trust nobody.

In David Mamet’s film noir (done in his usual style), respected Chicago psychiatrist/author Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) tries to help a troubled young patient with an IOU.  She’s is drawn into the world of  con man Mike (Joe Mantegna), a smooth/charismatic character who teaches her about “hustling” (through real-world experiences).  Margaret can’t resist the dark side, nor Mike, though she may be be the biggest “patsy” in the game.  

You say I acted atrociously.  Yes.  I did.  I do it for a living.

I recommend this film for Mantegna’s fine performance, as well as for the plot twists.  However, I preferred The Winslow Boy and The Spanish Prisoner (two great Mamet films).     

Please Believe Me (1950)

This film has some nice moments/dialogue, but is pretty uneven.  It takes too long to set up the premise, but that’s not unusual for older films.  Sensible single gal, Alison Kirbe (Deborah Kerr) of London, receives a telegram from Texas, that she has inherited a livestock ranch from an old friend. It is plastered throughout newspapers that Alison has become a rich heiress, and is sailing to the United Slates alone to claim her inheritance.  Smooth-taking gambler Terence (Robert Walker from Strangers on a Train), laid-back playboy Jeremy (Peter Lawford), and Jeremy’s no-nonsense lawyer, Matthew (Mark Stevens) take an interest in Alison aboard the ship.

Rage in Heaven (1941)

I wanted to see this film since a young Ingrid Bergman is in the lead role.  I recommend this film, as does my dad.  Stella (Ingrid Bergman), a refugee/ personal secretary to wealthy English widow Mrs. Monrell, accepts the marriage proposal of her son, Philip (Robert Montgomery).  This is a bit of a surprise since Philip seemed to encourage a relationship between his college  friend, Ward Andrews (George Sanders from All About Eve) and Stella.  After Stella and Philip get married, he assumes the lead management role in the family’s steel business.  Philip’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, both at home and in the office.  How will Stella, Ward, and those involved in the steelworks cope?