7.2/10
1,597
41 user 7 critic

Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)

While waiting on a delayed flight, David Trask, who has left his unfaithful wife, meets three of his fellow passengers. When the aircraft crashes, he is one of few survivors, and sets out to resolve their unfinished business.

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(screenplay), (story)
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Sally Carr
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Marty Nelson
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Jerry Fortness
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Mike Carr
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Jane Trask
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Five great stars in a masterpiece of bold and intimate emotions !

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

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Details

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Release Date:

15 February 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Appel d'un inconnu  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (Fox Movie Channel edition)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on Janaury 5, 1953 with Shelley Winters and Gary Merrill reprising their film roles. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Marie Hoke: Dull, foolish, vulgar to some but not to me. To me he was a man like a rock. Nothing could shake him. Nothing could shake his love. It was from him that I learned what love really was. Not a frail little fancy to be smashed and broken by pride and vanity and self pity. That's for children. That's for high school kids. But a rock as strong as life itself indestructible and eternal.
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Connections

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

Soundtracks

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze
(uncredited)
Music by Gaston Lyle
Lyrics by George Leybourne
Sung by the passengers on the airplane
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User Reviews

 
Absorbing 20th Century Fox melodrama
28 February 2007 | by See all my reviews

Gary Merrill is the stranger making the phone calls in "Phone Call from a Stranger," a 1952 film directed by Jean Negulesco and also starring Shelley Winters, Keenan Wynn, Michael Rennie, Beatrice Straight, Craig Stevens and Bette Davis. Unable to forgive his wife for an affair, David Trask gets on a plane, where, due to the plane being late and an unexpected stopover because of bad weather, he becomes friendly with three passengers: a performer (Winters), a salesman (Wynn) and an alcoholic attorney (Rennie) and hears their stories. The salesman seems a happy man with a knockout for a wife; the performer has a horrid mother-in-law, a former vaudeville star with whom she competes, but she loves her husband; and the attorney has resolved to go to the DA and admit responsibility for an accident that happened a few years earlier which has destroyed his marriage. When the plane crashes, Trask is the only survivor of the four. He visits each of the victims' families to pay his condolences and possibly put some matters right. Then he learns from one of the family members the importance of putting his own life back together.

This isn't a particularly big-budget film - it's in black and white; some of these actors were under contract to Fox; others are not huge names with the exception of Davis. Her role is short but worth the entire film, though all the performances are very good and the stories heartfelt. The attorney's family story is heavy drama, with the son believing his mother drove his father away. The performer's family story is the comic relief as the mother-in-law right out of hell gets her comeuppance. And the tear-jerker is the scene with the salesman's wife. Davis is often criticized for being overblown and mannered, and yet she was always capable of giving a restrained performance as she does here and also did in "All This and Heaven Too" and "Watch on the Rhine." There are other treats as well. Shelley Winters is pretty and vivacious in a wonderful role for her, Keenan Wynn is excellent as the loud salesman, and as the attorney, Rennie is an appropriately sad and reflective figure. Gary Merrill is very likable as Trask. Though he never really made it to big star status, he was a dependable actor, very handsome and masculine. Of course he and Davis had sparks in "All About Eve" - so much so that they got married in real life - and there's a nice chemistry between them here as well. It's nice to see them when they were happy together. They also did a very good British film together, "Another Man's Poison." My only complaint is the at times overpowering musical score.

Very entertaining and highly recommended, especially for Davis fans.


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