Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Edward G. Robinson Pursues Nazis in “The Stranger” directed by Orson Welles

The Stranger (1946) is a film noir directed by Orson Welles, produced by Sam Spiegel, and starring Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, and Orson Welles.

The film concerns Mr. Wilson (Robinson) of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and his hunt for Nazi war criminal Franz Kindler (Welles). Kindler was careful to erase all traces of evidence that would connect him to his war crimes, but it is known that he had an affinity for clocks.

Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, and Orson Welles
In an effort to locate Kindler, Robinson releases Meinike, a former associate of Kindler’s. Robinson hopes that Meinike will lead him to Kindler. Upon Meinike’s release, he travels to Harper, a small town in Connecticut. Kindler has created a new identity and life for himself there in the person of Charles Rankin, a teacher at a prep school. He is engaged to marry Mary Longstreet, (Young) the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice.

Will Kindler escape prosecution for his war crimes or will Wilson be successful in bringing him to justice?

The Stranger has the distinction of being the only film that Welles directed that was a commercial hit. After the back-to-back box office disasters of Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), no one wanted to hire Welles to direct. In order for Welles to direct, he had to sign an agreement that he would owe the studio a substantial sum of money if he didn’t meet his obligation to bring the picture in on time and on budget. In fact, Welles brought the picture in a day ahead of schedule and under budget!

Major cast members from The Stranger at the dinner table

Excerpts of the documentary film Nazi Concentration Camps (1945) were included when Wilson’s character is explaining the crimes of Kindler and other Nazis. Director George Stevens, along with James B. Donovan, and Ray Kellogg assembled the film from footage they took during the liberation of Europe for that documentary.

Orson Welles (1915- 1985) was an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, with Citizen Kane considered by many to be the greatest film of all time. Welles got his start on the stage. He formed the Mercury Theatre with John Houseman in 1937. Many of the actors from his repertory theatre starred in his first two films. Welles had a reputation for being difficult and undisciplined which contributed to his low output of films. In spite of all that, his reputation as a Hollywood genius remains untarnished.

Sam Spiegel (1901 – 1985) was an American independent film producer. Speigel won Best Picture Academy Awards for three of the most famous American films of the twentieth century: On the Waterfront (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). His three Oscar wins are a record for an independent producer.

Russell Metty (1906 – 1978) was an American cinematographer. He won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color for Spartacus (1960). Starting his career at RKO, Metty photographed Bringing Up Baby (1937) and Room Service (1938). Other films he photographed include Magnificent Obsession (1954), There’s Always Tomorrow (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), and All That Heaven Allows (1956) all directed by Douglas Sirk. Some of his later films include Flower Drum Song (1961), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), The Omega Man (1971), and That’s Entertainment (1974).

Edward G. Robinson (1893 – 1973) was an American actor of the stage and screen. Robinson is a true legend from Hollywood’s Golden Age where he starred in the gangster classic Little Caesar (1931), Kid Galahad (1937), Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), The Sea Wolf (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), and Key Largo (1948). Robinson was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1973, but he was never nominated for a competitive Oscar.

Loretta Young (1913 – 2000) was an American actress. She entered show business as a young girl working in silent films. Silent film icon Colleen Moore gave her the name Loretta (she was born Gretchen Young). With the advent of talkies, Young became a leading lady, landing a long-term contract at 20th Century-Fox. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck paired her with Tyrone Power and the two were a movie team for a time. Young tired of the parts she was getting at Fox and she decided to leave the studio and become a freelance actor, which was a risky proposition. After a slow start where she reduced her per film fee, she managed to get back on top, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1948 for The Farmer’s Daughter. When film roles dried up, Young ventured into the new medium of television, becoming one of its earliest pioneers with the anthology series The Loretta Young Show.

To watch this film on YouTube, click on the link below. Be sure to use this link because there are several versions of this film on YouTube that are of poor quality.

After you have watched the film, join us on Zoom for a discussion. Below are the links to follow.

Stephen Reginald is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Discussion of "The Stranger"
Time: Jun 2, 2020 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 791 0685 1740
Password: 5Wqk1Z

Questions for discussion:
1. Noir or not? Does this film fit the film noir model as you know it?
2. What did you think of Edward G. Robinson’s performance?
3. From what you know of Orson Welles, did this feel like a Welles film?
4. Was Loretta Young’s character believable?
5. Did the ending surprise you? If yes, how did you think it would end?

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