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Olivia de Havilland,
Lucas Marsh, an intern bent upon becoming a first-class doctor, not merely a successful one. He courts and marries the warm-hearted Kristina, not out of love but because she is highly knowledgeable in the skills of the operating room and because she has frugally put aside her savings through the years. She will be, as he shrewdly knows, a supportive wife in every way. She helps make him the success he wants to be and cheerfully moves with him to the small town in which he starts his practice. But as much as he tries to be a good husband to the undemanding Kristina, Marsh easily falls into the arms of a local siren and the patience of the long-sorrowing Kristina wears thin. She reasons he no longer needs her and asks for a divorce. A calamity now brings Marsh to his senses. Dr. Runkleman, Marsh's gruff and wise employer, is stricken with a heart attack and requires emergency surgery. Marsh is forced to operate. Written by
Stanley Kramer claimed that Gloria Grahame put a piece of tissue under her upper lip because she was convinced it made her look sexier. See more »
When Dr Runkleman is undergoing surgery near the end of the film, there are several close-ups of an electrocardiograph as it monitors the procedure. However, there are no leads (wires) connecting it to the patient. See more »
With a cast including Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Broderick Crawford, Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame, you'd expect hard-boiled crime drama. If so, you might want your money back after seeing NOT AS A STRANGER. One Hollywood wag remarked of the Mitchum-Sinatra-Crawford-Marvin lineup, "That's not a cast, that's a brewery!" and the actors lived up to their rowdy reputations, turning the shooting into "ten weeks of hell" for director Stanley Kramer. Mitchum described Crawford swallowing Sinatra's hairpiece with a vodka chaser (Of course, you never know when Mitchum is putting you on. But I like to believe he did call up Sinatra in Palm Springs to say, "Guess what? The Crawdad just drank your wig.") Sinatra took to calling Mitchum "mother" after he nursed Ol' Blue Eyes through a hangover. It's too bad Kramer didn't film these on-set antics; the footage would have been more entertaining than the plodding and earnest medical melodrama he did produce.
The casting is spectacularly misguided; for a start, everyone is almost twenty years too old. The film opens with the 40-ish Mitchum, Sinatra and Marvin as medical students observing a dissection, and right away credibility is strained. (If I walked into a doctor's office and saw Lee Marvin in a white coat, I would run.) And whose idea was it to cast the famously jaded, take-it-or-leave-it Mitchum as the rigid, idealistic, driven hero? Only top-billed Olivia de Havilland seems to belong in this type of movie, and she suffers from a platinum dye job and a mediocre Garbo accent. I waited more than an hour for Gloria Grahame to show up, and then she was wasted on a throwaway subplot that's over almost before it begins.
No cast could have made the movie much good. It's overlong, and the script is both obvious and underwritten; a few minutes into every scene I could predict what was going to happen by the end, and I foresaw the final plot twist about halfway through the film. The first half follows Lucas Marsh (Robert Mitchum) through medical school. For reasons never entirely clear he is obsessed with becoming a doctor, though his father (who drank up all the money his mother left to pay his tuition) tells him, "I don't think you'll make it. It's not enough to have a brain, you have to have a heart." Thus in the third scene we get the message of the movie, and have a pretty good idea of everything that will follow. Desperate for money to stay in school, Luke woos and marries Kristina (Olivia de Havilland), a frumpy Swedish nurse whofor reasons never entirely clearis madly in love with him. (We know because she keeps telling him, "I love you SO MUCH!") It's made abundantly clear that Luke is brilliant and noble-mindedhe despises the other students who just want to make a lot of moneybut arrogant and intolerant of human frailty. In his first practice, assisting a kindly and intelligent small-town doctor (Charles Bickford) he does a wonderful job, but his marriage disintegrates as he falls for a seductive wealthy widow and his wife can't bring herself to tell him she's pregnant. You just know that sooner or later he's going to falter at the operating table and be shattered by the realization that He Too is Only Human.
To this oppressive script, add heavy-handed direction that hammers each point home with obvious symbolism and simplistic montages (and a few--but not enough--moments of unintentional hilarity like the whinnying stallion underscoring the first big Mitchum-Grahame clinch), and the most relentlessly overwrought music I've ever heard. No one except Sinatra, playing the only light-hearted role, manages to crawl out from under the lead blanket of this movie. My admiration for Robert Mitchum knows no bounds, and I wouldn't say he's bad here, but he's certainly been better. It's not that he's incapable of playing characters who care deeply or zealously pursue a goal (See HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON or NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.) The problem is that Lucas Marsh is humorless, uptight and self-righteous, devoid of that perceptive, ironic, compassionate distance that's essential to Mitchum. Marsh is hot tempered, intolerant of others and blind to his own flawsin other words, it's a Kirk Douglas part. Kirk would have been perfect, but Mitchum never really connects with the character. Maybe it just didn't seem worthwhile: Mitchum never gave more to a movie than it deserved. He does have some nice moments: the encounter with his pathetic father gives some explanation for why he's so disgusted by weakness; he plays well with Sinatra, strikes some sparks with Gloria Grahame, and excellently delineates Luke's feelings for his wife, a mix of boredom, admiration and guilt. He's pretty convincing in the doctoring scenes (there are way too many of these, at least for someone like me who gets woozy at the sight of a hypodermic needle.) But he seems a little bored most of the time, not that I blame him. Maybe I should have taken my cue from the actors and had a few drinks on hand.
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