Not As A Stranger

1955, Movie, NR, 135 mins

Review

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After producing several blockbusters (CHAMPION; THE WILD ONE; HIGH NOON; and DEATH OF A SALESMAN), Kramer decided to try his hand at directing and chose to adapt Morton Thompson's gargantuan (almost 1,000 pages) novel, admirably pared down by the Anhalts. Kramer partially succeeded, but was, in the end, defeated by Mitchum's lethargic performance. It's one thing for an actor to appear enigmatic, but Mitchum seems near-comatose in many of his scenes here. Also working against the film is the unbelievable casting of Sinatra (who was near 40) and Mitchum (in his late 30s) as young interns. Mitchum is in medical school and can't pay the tuition, so he is in danger of being tossed out, thus ending his lifelong dream of being a doctor. He tries to borrow from his best pal, Sinatra, and from one of his instructors, Crawford, but they can't help. Then he learns that nurse de Havilland has a tidy little nest egg, so he woos and weds her and keeps going to school on her money. He soon thinks that he can walk on water and becomes insufferable in every way. The couple moves to a small town, where Mitchum goes to work for Bickford, a crusty but lovable general practitioner, and has an affair with Grahame, a rich patient. Bickford has a heart condition but, like so many physicians, refuses to see anyone about it. Mitchum has a battle with the head of the local hospital, McCormick, over a charity patient who turns out to be a typhoid carrier. In the crisis, de Havilland returns to nursing, and when the typhoid is defeated, Mitchum requests that she continue, but she declines when she learns that she's pregnant after an examination by Sinatra, who also tells Mitchum. At the same time, Bickford has a heart attack. Add to that de Havilland's desire to separate from Mitchum and one can see why he is so distressed when he tries to save Bickford with surgery and fails. Mitchum makes an error that causes the old man's demise, which causes him to, at last, realize that he is just a man, not a god. He returns to de Havilland, tells her he needs her compassion and her tenderness and her loyalty, and she is more than delighted to take him back. The book featured lots of sexy scenes, but the film adaptation is, at best, cool and dispassionate. Mitchum's facial expressions seem to fall into two categories: sullen and sour. Good technical work from everyone involved and a popular song, "Not as a Stranger" (Buddy Kaye, Jimmy Van Heusen), helped make this a hit. The picture was Oscar nominated in the Best Sound Recording category. leave a comment

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