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On July 2, 1946, director-star Orson Welles unveiled noir film The Stranger in Los Angeles. The film went on to earn a nomination in the writing category at the 19th Academy Awards. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, titled “‘The Stranger’ Will Know High Boxoffice Returns,” is below:
In The Stranger, International Pictures delivers the sixth and final feature for release through RKO-Radio. It is an entertainment of the same high quality that has distinguished previous product by the Leo Spitz-William Goetz organization which will schedule future releases through United World Pictures. Produced by S. P. Eagle and directed by Orson Welles, who with Edward C. Robinson and Loretta Young comprise the trio of stars, boxoffice expectancies are exceptionally strong for this tense and suspenseful melodrama. It starts out on the note of a chase, thoughtfully develops every possible punch, builds legitimate interest in the heroine whose very life is jeopardized, then brings things to an exciting climax — all of which is in the best traditions of motion picture drama. The creators of this one deserve their acclaim.
A criminal is permitted to escape from prison in the opening sequences. As he is relentlessly followed by a keen-eyed man who is sometimes recognizable only by the pipe he smokes, it becomes evident the fleeing one is a Nazi. He has been allowed to get away because it is believed he will beat a trail to a higher-up, actually the bestial mind that conceived most of the tortures practiced in German concentration camps. This mastermind, if such a designation applies to anything so low, is known to be hiding in America. But under what guise and where?
The trail leads to a university town. The fugitive calls on a professor the morning before that worthy’s marriage to the lovely daughter of a judge. Together they take a walk in the woods. Only the professor returns. The marriage takes place and the couple go away on a honeymoon.
In the subsequent days, the pursuer seeks his vanished quarry. Unable to trace whom the disappeared one was seeking, the chase is on the point of being abandoned when a chance dinner table remark by the professor betrays him. He has spoken of his belief in the need of a Carthaginian peace, but in urging the extermination of the entire German race, he slips on an unconscious touch of anti-Semitism. This is the clue that trips a fellow who might otherwise have gone free. A second betrayal is his hobby of repairing clocks. His panic increases as he becomes aware that the net is tightening around him. His bride has to be told for her own protection, but not until he tries to kill her can she believe her husband is a monstrous murderer. Ironically his end is brought about by an avenging figure in the glockenspiel he repaired on the church tower.
Orson Welles is responsible for a performance of the professor that matches the power and substance of his splendid direction. His mature talents are constantly manifest. Inspired is the inclusion of a bit of real German camp film which is part of the evidence in the hands of the War Crimes commission. Aiding Welles in a no uncertain way are magnificent photography by Russell Metty and compelling production design by Perry Ferguson. There are many other indications of showmanly skills in the sagacious production by Eagle.
Loretta Young rises to heights seldom before demanded of her. Superbly shaded is her horror of even being asked to hear such charges against a man to whom she has given her love. Her own fears are beautifully realized, and her final defiance gloriously delivered.
Edward G. Robinson enjoys an intelligent change of pace that puts him into the role of the pursuer. His acting has valued authority, but that pipe prop could have been carried to a pay off. Billy House capitalizes upon all of his rich comedy opportunities as the colorful village storekeeper, and some fine moments are attained by Martha Wentworth as a housekeeper. The judge is excellent in the hands of the late Philip Merivale, as are Richard Long’s brother, and Konstantin Shayne’s fugitive. — Jack D. Grant, originally published on May 21, 1946
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