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The Stranger (1946, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young)

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In 1946, Orson Welles’ career was in trouble. Although Citizen Kane had been a critical hit in 1941, the film had flopped commercially, while subsequent releases The Magnificent Ambersons and Journey Into Fear were both savaged at the editing stage and failed at the box office. In need of a hit and eager to prove that he could be trusted to deliver a film on time and on budget, Welles signed on to direct The Stranger, with the proviso that he adhere to the completed script and a pre-arranged editing schedule. The result is a tense drama which Welles himself described as ‘the worst of my films’ but which is seen by many as a hugely enjoyable thriller with a fine performance from Edward G Robinson.

Welles stars as Professor Rankin, the ‘stranger’ of the title. For although Rankin appears to be a respectable college teacher in a small Connecticut town who’s married to the daughter (Loretta Young) of the local judge, he is in fact a Nazi war criminal. When Wilson (Robinson), a government investigator charged with rounding up escaped war criminals, arrives in town, Rankin immediately fears that his cover may have been blown. Desperate to maintain his deception, he plots to murder his wife (who knows about his sordid past) but this plan is foiled by Wilson. The two men become engaged in a battle of wits from which only one will survive.

As with every Welles film, there are moments of pure genius lurking within The Stranger. One particularly gripping scene is played out in a deserted gymnasium, when Wilson is struck by a swinging piece of apparatus. According to Time Out, the film is ‘studded with great scenes, like the stranger’s furtive flight through the dockyards at the beginning and the murder in the woods with boys streaming by on a paperchase.’ The film is probably Welles’s most Hitchcockian, with the ending reminiscent of the denouement in Vertigo. Having demonstrated that he could control a movie, Welles then proceeded to revert to his old ways on his next film, The Lady from Shanghai.

production details
Country: USAA
Release Year: 1946

Director: Orson Welles
Creators: Anthony Veiller, Gladys Hill, Victor Trivas,

cast
Edward G. Robinson as Federal Agent Wilson
Loretta Young as Mary Longstreet
Orson Welles as Charles Rankin
Philip Merivale as Judge Adam Longstreet
Richard Long as Noah Longstreet
Konstantin Shayne as Konrad Meinike
Byron Keith as Dr. Jeffrey Lawrence
Billy House as Mr. Potter
Martha Wentworth as Sara
Erskine Sanford as Party Guest (uncredited)
Brother Theodore as Fairbright (uncredited)

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