Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)

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A lawyer whose wife has had an affair sets out to leave her by flying to LA. He becomes ever more involved in the lives of a few fellow travelers on a journey that ends up showing him as much about himself as about the others.



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Complete credited cast:
Binky Gay
David Trask
Dr. Robert Fortness
Eddie Hoke
Evelyn Varden ...
Sally Carr
Marty Nelson
Claire Fortness
Ted Donaldson ...
Jerry Fortness
Mike Carr
Helen Westcott ...
Jane Trask
Marie Hoke


On a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles via Iowa, lawyer David Trask gets to know three of his fellow passengers as one technical issue after another leads to delays and unscheduled stops along the way. Those three are physician Dr. Robert Fortness, struggling actress with the stage name Binky Gay, and loud salesman Eddie Hoke, who is both quick with a joke and quick to show off a photograph of his beautiful wife, Marie Hoke. Below the surface, the three have deeper stories, which are bringing them back to Los Angeles and which Dr. Fortness and Binky divulge to David. Dr. Fortness, an alcoholic, is returning to own up to his drunken part in the death of a friend, and his wife Claire's complicity in the matter. Binky, after being away in New York for a year, is returning to her husband, Mike Carr, hoping to take him away from his overbearing mother, former vaudeville star Sally Carr, who still basks in her former but no longer shining glory, and who is the cause of any marital problem ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Film-Noir


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Release Date:

1 February 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Appel d'un inconnu  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Fox Movie Channel edition)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Producer-screenwriter Nunnally Johnson originally wanted to cast Lauren Bacall as Binky Gay, but she was unavailable. See more »


The seaport or docking bay that Trask pays young Jerry a visit, to speak with the boy about his late father, is obviously a sound stage. Outside voices do not echo or sound slightly canned unless inside a cavern or a cave. See more »


David Trask: It's the memory of someone else always between us, and I don't believe I'd ever be able to support it.
See more »


Version of The 20th Century-Fox Hour: Crack-Up (1956) See more »


Music by Lionel Newman
Lyrics by Dorcas Cochran
Performed by Craig Stevens at the nightclub
See more »

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User Reviews

Hy ya Beautiful
28 August 2006 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

(Slight Spoilers) Leaving his wife and two young daughters attorney David Trask, Gary Merrill,takes a plane to L.A to run away from his family but on the flight meets three passengers who are going back to theirs. Getting to know salesman Eddie Hoke, Keenan Wynn, David is a bit taken by his overly friendly attitude and in your face antics. David as well as the two other passengers that he get's to know on the flight night-club singer Binky Carr, Shelly Winters, and physician Robert Fortness, Michael Rennie, all form a kind of support group for each other that in the end will turn David's life around.

After his wife Jane, Helen Westott, admitted having an affair with another man David just couldn't live with her anymore and made the decision to leave her and start a new life on the west coast. With the plane taking off from Vaga Utah after a long delay it ended up crashing in the desert with only three of the 21 passengers surviving one of them being David Trask.

Feeling guilty because he lived while other's, in David's opinion, who had much more to live for perished David took it upon himself to contact the families of the three persons who were killed, that he met on the plane, and help them in their grief. As fate would have it it was David more then the families of the crash victims that would be helped by his heart-felt feelings of sympathy for them. David get's to know the demons that were plaguing Dr. Fortness for some five years. The fact that he and his wife Claire, Betrice Straight, had kept the truth from their teen-age son Jerry, Ted Donaldson, that had led him to almost destroy his life. David also got to know the suffering that show girl Binky Carr was going through with her mother-in-law, Sallie Carr,Evelyn Varden, and how she was out to destroy Binky's marriage with her husband singer Mike Carr, Craig Stevens.

Despite the very intense and nerve-wrecking problems that both Dr. Fortness and Binky Carr were going through they both were ready to get back and confront and overcome them unlike David who's running away from his. David in his own way got to get both Mrs. Fortness and her son Jerry, who was running away from home, together when he told Jerry the truth about his dad. Which his mom didn't have the heart to do. How his dad was now willing to face the music for the damage that he did but it was his tragic death that has kept that from happening. Jerry realizing the truth that was kept from him all these years now also realized that his mother was really looking after his well being, not ignoring him, and sob-fully came back home this time to stay.

It was the same thing that happened when David came to see Binky's mother-in-law Sallie and her son, Binky's husband, Mike who at the time didn't know that Binky was killed in a plane crash. Unknown to Mrs. Carr Binky was very instrumental in getting Sallie a once in a lifetime role in a major Broadway play that jump started her almost non-existence show biz career. All this time Sallie thought that Binky was only after her and her son's money. The fact that she wasn't and only wanted Sallie to love her like she was her own daughter devastated both her and Mike who later found out not only what happened to Binky but what a heel he was in trying to sere divorce papers on her.

It was really David's talk with Eddie Hoke's widow Marie, Bette Davis, that shown him the light and what a great hurt he was doing to both his wife Jane and his two young daughters by leaving them. Marie was a beautiful woman who was also cheating behind Eddie's back with Marty, Warren Stevens. When Marty left her after she suffered a sever diving accident ,that left Marie paralyzed from the waist down, Eddie never once thought of what Marie did to but came right back to her helping Marie overcome both the psychical and mental trauma that she was going through.

That last visit with Marie showed David that he was acting against his own, as well as his families, best interests. It was his being influenced by the talkative and somewhat goofy Eddie Hoke on that fateful plane ride that turned his life completely around and for the better. David gets on the phone and frantically calling a very concerned and worried Jane to tell her almost in tears that he's coming back to stay. You can see the look on Marie's face, as the movie comes to an end, knowing that her late and wonderful husband Eddie had not only saved her from a life of hurt and depression but David's as well. Eddie's jolly honest and good natured conversation together with what she told David about him saved David and his family from the same sorry fate that Marie was once facing, That made David see that there's no absolutes in life since life like the lives of him and the people that he both met and got to know on the plane is anything but perfect.

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