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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Director: Archie Mayo
Stars: Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Margaret Lindsay


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
See  »

Did You Know?


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


Behind the opening credits, the taxi that's taking Trask to the airport passes two movie theaters at least three times, as if the rear projection of stock footage was on a continuous loop. The movies playing at these theaters are "Homestretch" and "The Two Mrs. Carrolls," both released five years before this film. See more »


Binky Gay: Yeah, well, let's not clown about this one till we get there.
Eddie Hoke: Oh we'll get there. Pilot's a personal friend of mine. This guy hates his wife so much, he's not gonna take that airplane two feet off the ground if he thinks there's any chance of her collecting his insurance.
See more »


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


The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze
Music by Gaston Lyle
Lyrics by George Leybourne
Sung by the passengers on the airplane
See more »

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User Reviews

Thoughtful and Thought-Provoking Film
27 July 2005 | by See all my reviews

"Phone Call from a Stranger" tells the tale of four passengers (Merrill, Rennie, Wynn, and Winters) on a cross-country airplane trip. The four become friends and share personal thoughts before the plane crashes, killing all except Merrill, who sets out to contact the relatives of his dead friends. He finds that each family has a very different story to tell, and each has its own issues arising from the deaths of their relatives.

Extremely well-acted, directed and scripted film also has harrowing airplane footage and a very good ending. Merrill is top form, as is Winters and especially Rennie, who is haunted by an accident in which a colleague was killed years earlier. Unlike many modern movies, this one really leaves you with a profound message--the void that is left behind when someone suddenly dies.

Try to see it if you can, my AMC tape is several years old and I've enjoyed this film many times. Just be warned--people scared of flying may cringe at the nighttime approach to the Vega airport.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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