THE STRANGER ( 1946 )

 

LORETTA.I am new to LORETTA YOUNG. Well, not exactly. More accurately, I’ve had my eyes wide shut to her through most of my early classic film journey. ( I know, I know… ‘there are none so blind as those who cannot see.’ ) A young friend of mine ( KM-P ) from a land far far away, asked me if I had seen Loretta’s precode films. Uhhhmmm, not really. Late 30’s yeah, but not early. She suggested I start with her pre-code work. I since have. Holy cow, who knew!!!

Another friend texted me about an early film of Loretta’s she had taken out of the library and I was able to chime in as though I knew this fact all along. Well now I know. And now I wholeheartedly join a slew of bloggers to celebrate the career of fellow Capricorn, Loretta Young. ( She, January 6th

LORETTA YOUNG BLOGATHON ( II )

and I’m January 18th. Me and Cary Grant, that is ) for my first blogathon of 2016. ( Click on the banner above. ) Experiencing Young’s persona in her pre-code films ( Gaaaah! She had to be the most put upon movie heroine of the early 30’s: “She Had To Say Yes” ) helps springboard me to her later work. You know, seeing her evolution and all…

THE STRANGER ( I )

Alfred Hitchcock defines suspense as sharing information with the audience the movie’s characters don’t yet know. Orson Welles’ 1946 film THE STRANGER has got to be Suspense 101. ( Spoilers. )

THE STRANGER ( X ) THE STRANGER ( XI ) THE STRANGER ( XII )

  • Within the first three minutes we know Orson Welles is a Nazi
  • Within the first five minutes we know Orson Welles is a murderer
  • Within the first ten minutes we see Orson Welles marry Loretta Young

Young plays newlywed Mary Rankin and we watch her go from unknowing-to-knowing. We’re helpless as we see the scales ripped from her eyes. And because Youngs screen persona has basically been the nice girl, it becomes increasingly tough to watch her go through all this. She’s very good playing a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

THE STRANGER ( XIV ) THE STRANGER ( XIII )

Noah:  “Gee Mr. Wilson. You must be wrong. Mary wouldn’t fall in love with that kind of a man.”

Mr. Wilson: “I hope I am wrong Noah, but that’s the way it is. People can’t help who they fall in love with.”

Things go South for Young right after her honeymoon. Edward G. Robinson comes to town as Mr. Wilson, a sort of Van Helsing of Nazi hunters and he’s out for the big Kahuna…Welles. Welles’ character is not really that of a college history professor, but as Franz Kindler, Mastermind of the Final Solution. I love Robinson in this film. He’s so wonderfully down-to-earth, even-tempered and fraternal. He’s much more gentle with Young than Welles is. Eddie G. confides in her younger brother Noah, played engagingly by eighteen year old Richard Long ( of The Big Valley fame ) in only his second motion picture.

THE STRANGER ( XVI ) THE STRANGER ( XVII )

“Your sister’s a fine woman, Noah. But she must find out the kind of man she’s married to. Noah, we must arrange it so that she finds out for herself.”

But he is looking for a Nazi. And he’s anything but calm about that mission. She is a loving caring wife. When suspicion falls on Welles she comes to his defense, fiercely. The first chink in the armor of her marriage is her not being able to speak up about what she sees. Robinson picks that up:

THE STRANGER ( XXV )

“One thing’s certain. She knows nothing now. Nothing at all except that he didn’t want her to admit having seen someone she did see. I’d give some-
thing to know what explanation he’s making right now.”

Silencing the wife. Negating what she sees. Sounds like marriage to me. Oh he

THE STRANGER - EXPLANATIONS

explaaaaaains, alright. Welles does tell her the terrible horrible truth, wrapped in plausible lies. He’s killed her beloved dog. Noah calls it murder when he finds ol Red. Me too. Grrr!! She’s shocked and incredulous but convinces herself to believe him. I really can’t blame her. Youll get no Monday morning quarterbacking from this back-seat driving classic Cine Maven. Welles is a master manipulator.

THE STRANGER ( XXXI ) THE STRANGER ( XXXIII )

Young: “I meant it when I said ‘for better or for worse’.”

Welles: “Even to killing Red?”

Young: “You couldn’t. It was an accident.”

Welles: “No, I meant to kill him. Murder can be a chain Mary, one link leading to another ‘till it circles your neck. Red was digging into the grave of the man I killed.”

Young: “You killed him?”

Welles: “With these hands. The same hands that held you close to me.”

Welles is not an easy director for some to get through, try and try as they might. I like what Ive seen of his work so far. And you may like this film only because of Loretta Young. But its a pretty easy, straight-forward directing job from the boy genius.’ He shows us what he wants us to see. His character is one of darkness, so he’s often obscured in shadows or darkness, holding the camera on Loretta Young’s lovely face; rather than us watching him lie to her, we keep looking at her believing the lies.

Welles professor makes her complicit in his hiding. That was the devilishest thing of all with him. He keeps her really close to him. She willingly lies to protect him because she loves him. He’s teaching her to lie and deceive…until he can get away.  In the meantime, he ‘hides’ in this small-town of innocence. He ‘hides’ behind marrying the daughter of a Supreme Court judge. Diabolical. He uses love…her love, to bind her to him. Her cognitive dissonance is running high as we see her struggle to convince herself he’s a good guy. When Robinsons Mr. Wilson thinks the time is right, he tells her:

THE STRANGER ( XXXXI ) THE STRANGER ( XXXVIII )

“I’m on the Allied Commission for the Punishment of War Criminals. It’s my job to bring escaped Nazis to justice. It’s that job that brought me to Harper.”

THE STRANGER ( XXXX ) THE STRANGER ( XXXVII )

Robinson shows Young footage of the liberation of a concentration camp ( perhaps the first time movie audiences are seeing these camps themselves. ) She plays the scene well, sort of averting her eyes but also looking. You can’t unring a bell, and she cannot UNsee. Robinson delivers the coup de grace on her psyche:

THE STRANGER ( X )

“Now, in all the world, there’s only one person that can identify Franz Kindler. That person is the one who knows, knows definitely who Meineke came to Harper to see.”

It’s a sad scene. She’s crying, she’s hurt, disbelieving. Her father tries to console and comfort her. You can see the closeness in the relationship as they walk down the street, her head on her Dad’s shoulder, her father warmly played by Philip Merivale. Yes, it’s a little more than Honey, there is no Santa Claus. Robinson later says to her father:

THE STRANGER ( XXXIV )

“She has the facts now. But she won’t accept them. They’re too horrible for her to acknowledge. Not so much that Rankin could be Kindler, but that she could ever have given her love to such a creature. But we have one ally…her subconscious. It knows what the truth is and is struggling to be heard. The will to truth within your daughter is much too strong to be denied.”

But the very next scene has Young go to Welles to tell him how she withstood their questioning and accusations; she’s so proud to tell him. She tries to impress him, She wants prove her love by showing him she’d never tell. I think she has Stockholm Syndrome. The bad thing with her admission is Welles now knows she knows who he is, but she does not fully know what she knows. And for her even to have this knowledge
( which she hides from herself ) is a danger to him. Her “knowing” acknowledgment manifests itself in a Lady MacBethian way. ( “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!!” )  Now she wants the curtains drawn. Wants no light let into the house ( wants no truth let into her mind? ) At her luncheon party, dressed to the nines [ as only Loretta can ]  topped off with lady-like white pearls around her throat, she fidgets with the necklace, tugs on it as if it were a noose. It IS a noose in a way. She’s dying to take them off from around her neck after the party’s over. She’s at the breaking point. When Welles comes behind her to help her with the pearls, she recoils and snaps the beads to the floor.

THE STRANGER - XXXXXX

“When she snapped those beads, she signed her own death warrant. We’re carrying her life in our hands,”  says her father.

THE STRANGER - XXXXXXX

#FIVESTEPSTOBECOMINGAWIDOWER

Now she knows what her husband is and acknowledges it, and HE knows she knows. And everyone knows SHE knows and, in turn, knows Welles knows she knows. ( You got all that? ) She must be protected and not let out of anyone’s sight. There is a great scene with her long-time housekeeper trying everything in her power to keep Young from leaving the house. They were both so good in this scene  because there were different intentions that clashed against each other. 

THE STRANGER - XXXXXXXI THE STRANGER - XXXXXXXIII

The housekeeper has got to keep her home, while Young tries to be loyal to her husband and secretly meet him, becomes impatient with the housekeeper ( good performance by Martha Wentworth ) when she delays her, tries to make up to her for yelling at her and then take care of it when she has a heart attach. Young “follow orders” not to tell that she was meeting Welles at the church tower.  ( See how easy it is to fall into that trap? ) But when she couldnt make it, she does tell her kid brother to meet him. Great scene in such a small scale way. The push / pull to keep Young in the house was suspen
seful.

Loved Young’s confrontation with her husband when it all comes out. He’s at the breaking point himself. Her belief system’s been shattered about him but she gains some strength when her family’s put in danger.

THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS! ( B ) THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS! ( A )

Young: “Did you kill Noah?”

Welles: “Yes, if he goes to the church and climbs up that ladder.”

Young: “It was I you intended to kill wasn’t it?”

Welles: “No.”

Young: “Why wasn’t it I? FRANZ KINDLER!!! Kill me. Kill me, I want you to. I couldn’t face life knowing what I’d been to you and what I’ve done to Noah. But when you kill me, don’t put your hands on me. Here. Use this!!”

Her belief system’s been shattered, but she gains some strength when her family’s put in danger. See her pure release when she’s finally able to contemptuously calls him out. See her face here when she triumphantly says his name. And the triumph is mixed with disgust and fear. She’s practically saying “…even though you’re evil you’re still not good enough to touch me.” The twistedness of giving him a weapon ( the fire poker ) TO kill her was brilliant:

THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS! ( C ) THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS!

A frisson of emotions washes over me with goosebumps during her whole discovery scene. Young is thrilling to watch go toe-to-toe with Orson Welles. Her death would be on her own terms. She faces him for their final confrontation in the church tower. I LOVED her having him lift her up by the arm, dangling in mid-air since he sawed off some of the ladders rungs earlier. ( This seemed Hitchcockian to me. )  Pretty gutsy move for our doe-eyed, apple-cheeked heroine. She makes me think Teresa Wright in “Shadow 0f A Doubt.” ( Go away Uncle Charlie or Ill kill you myself. See. Thats the way I feel about you. ) Young’s character ( like Wright’s Charlie ) now SEES Evil. It’s her turn now to deceive him into believing she still trusts HIM. She has to get close to him to kill him. HE needs her to be close to him so he can kill her. It’d be too easy for him to drop her from that height. He NEEDS to kill her.

THE STRANGER - XXXXXXXVIII THE STRANGER - XXXXXXXVIIII

Welles: “What do you want?”

Young:  “I came to kill you.”

Welles: “No Mary. It’s you that’s going to die. You were meant to fall through that ladder. You’re going to fall.”

Young: “I don’t mind. If I take you with me.”

Whoa! Loretta Young goes gangsta!

THE STRANGER - EDDIE G. THE STRANGER - LORETTA YOUNG Stars THE STRANGER - ORSON WELLES

Who is the Stranger? Is it Eddie G. coming to town with bad tidings? Is it Welles, who’s never really part of the town. ( Welles as Rankin/Kindler is so dour and humorless in this movie I don’t see what attracted Loretta to him in the first place; not a bone of charm in his enitre curly-headed body. )  It’s not that she quite believes him hook, line and sinker. She comes from a loving and trusting place. BLOGATHON ( LORETTA YOUNG BIRTHDAY ) 1 : 3 - 6 : 2016It’s her misfortune that a man who trust no one, marries a woman who trusts everyone. “The Stranger is well-directed and perfectly cast. I find Young believable and emotional in this role in one of the best performances of her career. She removes the veil from her eyes and it’s a thrilling, scary, sad and triumphant thing to see. See this movie ( asap ) and peruse through the rest of Loretta’s birthday blogathon ( hosted by The Young Sisters Appreciation Group and Cinema Dilettante and Now Voyaging ) for her performances in The Farmer’s Daughter The Story of Alexander Graham Bell”…and much more to boot.

LORETTA YOUNG ( Blogathon )

Happy Birthday, Loretta. You were a Star and an Actress.

 

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26 thoughts on “THE STRANGER ( 1946 )

    • Hi there ~ Thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. “The Stranger” is one of my new favorites added on to my very long list of favorite films. I thought Loretta Young did a great job in this. Imagine if you woke up to be told your lover is a murderous Nazi. Egads!!! Thanks again for reading and hosting a blogathon dedicated to Loretta Young. She was more than a pretty face, wasn’t she.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: The Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon! – Now Voyaging

  2. Pingback: The Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon Is Here! | Cinema Dilettante

  3. My 1st intro to Loretta was as a kid with The Bishop’s Wife, then I discovered her Pre-Code work as an adult. WHOA. I was blown away. And just a few years ago I found THE STRANGER. I was blown away again. Her performance is amazing. Fab post as usual, Theresa!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kellee ~ My 1st intro to Loretta was as a kid too…waaaaay before you were born. There she was on tv, opening up those doors wearing beautiful gowns. Guess that was what was imprinted on my movie-going soul. Her pre-codes put me over the edge and now I have to start all over with Young again, re-visiting films I’ve seen with new eyes. Thanks for reading and commenting Kellee. I appreciate you taking the time.

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  4. Wow, what a wonderful deeper look inside this movie – I’ve seen it several times (Loretta Young was my beloved mother-in-law – so I’m a fan of her work) but you’ve given me so many new insights into the film! Thank you for a wonderful review and for participating in the Birthday Blogathon, but even more – thanks for giving LY a second chance and sharing your experience! Sincerely, Linda Lewis and family

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ms. Lewis!!! I’ve seen you around the internet so I know that you are Loretta Young’s daughter-in-law.THANK YOU! Thank you for the wonderful compliment to my essay. I read your exchange with Karin over at the FaceBook page. I had a grin from ear to ear…and felt very good that the way I expressed myself is being appreciated and understood. Yes Karin can take a whole bunch of credit for my conversion. But she knew Loretta had the goods…if only I opened my eyes. Well they’re open now. If you get a chance perhaps you’d want to check out my essays on “Weekend Marriage” or “She Had To Say Yes.”

      Oh yeah…I AM kicking myself for not having gone to see the big exhibit on Loretta at that museum over on Hollywood and Hyland during the time I was at the TCM Film Festival. Hopefully TCM extends an invitation to you to introduce a Loretta Young film at the festival. Thank you again, Ms. Lewis.

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  5. People are always so quick to dismiss her as just another pretty face but as you can see from her work in this picture she is so much more.Another film you might look for is House of Rothschild(1934).It was a Best Pix Oscar nominee that year but Loretta really delivers a nice perf.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Bob and thank you for the tip on “…Rothschild.” Not just a pretty face. Actresses always have to prove that, but if they didn’t have that pretty face, Hollywood wouldn’t even give them a tumble. Guess I’m guilty of judging them that way myself. Mea culpa, Loretta!

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  6. My Favorite Loretta Young / Tyrone Power film is “Second Honeymoon” which I first saw as a kid when it aired on The Early Show which was shown weekday afternoons on CBS. At the time “The Loretta Young Show” re-runs were also shown on daytime.

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    • Wellll…a native New Yorker here. Hi Kevin. Especially if you’re mentioning “The Early Show” on channel 2. I’d have to revisit those films Loretta did with Tyrone Power. I haven’t seen them in more years than I care to remember. The Early Show, The Late Show, The Late Late Show…amazing all the movies that used to air. I caught those re-runs of Young’s tv show, too. Thanks for stopping by, Bloke! And if YOU ever want to write about an old classic film you like, you’re welcome on my blog. 😉

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  7. Great, very complete review! The Stranger is the most thrilling film in Welles’ career, and it has a Hitchcokian touch. I was very impressed by both Loretta and Edward in this film, and the climax is marvelous.
    I’ve seen only Midnight Mary out of Loretta’s pre-Codes, but I really want to see some more!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Kisses!
    Le

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Lê ~ I’m with you on all those points you list about “The Stranger.” I’m even trying to imagine what Hitchcock would do different if he were making this film. Hope you delve into more of Young’s pre-codes…and then work your way up to her later work. As a kid I saw the films Young and Power made, so I’ll be sure to read your contribution to this blogathon ( after I translate it into English. L0L! ) Thank you for reading.

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  8. Really enjoyed your post, Theresa! I’m another who first knew Loretta via films like THE BISHOP’S WIFE…always really liked her but was certainly blown away when I went backwards in time to the pre-Code Loretta, wow! Made me love her even more.

    I’ve only seen THE STRANGER once and your post makes me anxious to get back to it…I remember wondering, like you, what drew her to Welles’ character in the first place. Trying to read between the lines I wondered if, beautiful as she was, she felt like an “old maid teacher” in that era and part of it was she was thrilled just to have her own husband and home.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Laura…thanks for reading my piece on Loretta Young. You really hit the nail on the head ( …and read my mind such as it is ) when you write: “I wondered if, beautiful as she was, she felt like an “old maid teacher” in that era and part of it was she was thrilled just to have her own husband and home.” Whoa! I was truly thinking that myself. Her Mary wasn’t an ingenue, and it looked like she was pretty well-protected by her dad, family and town. ( Hey, didja notice her brother played by Richard Long, didn’t attend her wedding? Ain’t that a red flag??! ) Going back in time with Loretta Young’s filmography worked for me. Hmmm…maybe I’ve got to do that with some others.

      Anyway, thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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  9. Going back to pre-Codes really helped me with Barbara Stanwyck…I first knew her as the white-haired matriarch in reruns of THE BIG VALLEY and had trouble seeing her as a leading lady. Watching her in pre-Codes was really an eye-opener for me LOL.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m loving the “working my way back” idea of it all. I knew Stanwyck before “The Big Valley” and “…Valley” was instrumental in not having my sister and I kill each other over the tv. My Mother alternated the days between me and my sister ( my days: Mon., Wed., Fri. and my sister’s: Tues., Thurs., Sat. ) I picked Mondays because of “The Big Valley.” Here is my absolute favorite photo of Barbara Stanwyck. Thanx again, Laura:

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  10. Gah, it’s taking me much too long to get through these recent blogathons! I haven’t seen The Stranger yet for some silly reason, but I noticed it was on YouTube in full so hopefully I can remedy this oversight soon. Your excitement about it is palpable and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Young + Welles + Robinson, what’s not to like? Thanks for the link to my blog in this post, by the way! I can’t wait for your blogathon next week — I’m slowly working on my piece as much as I can to get it done on time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michaela…my fear with my enthusiastic “reviews” is that a hype a movie too much an then when someone sees it, they tell me “Meh!” But I’m confident you’ll like and the performances in it. Loretta is wonderful and so is Eddie G. and Orson. The story hangs together well.
      _____

      Blogathons: Back in October when I decided to take the plunge to host my own blogathon there were no other blogathons on the horizon and by December these popped up ( The Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon, The France on France Blogathon, The Backstage Blogathon, and the Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon ). I understand that I won’t be able to join every single one this year…but I can sure read and learn a lot. Looking forward to reading your piece on Charles Walters and Esther Williams. Collaborations come in many ways; in and out of the pool. Thanks for commenting here.

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    • Hi there Dan. Thank you so much for taking the time to read, and to comment here. We’re going through tough times politically in our country. I’m hoping that throwing in some movie references helps shed some light on things. Thank you again!

      Like

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