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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
Medical Melodrama--They don't make them like this any more!
"Not as a Stranger" is an old fashioned medical melodrama. The basic plot involves a young man (Mitchum) who is obsessed with becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, his obsession causes pain and unhappiness for the people around him.
Naturally, much of the medical material is out of date. Some commonplace matters in 1955 now strike us as incredible: a medical class with no women in it; doctors and nurses casually smoking; doctors who ride on ambulances.
The "small town" to which Mitchum moves after graduating from medical school is portrayed as isolated and rural. What we see is clearly a small city--bad choice of location.
In the context of the film,we have to accept Olivia de Havilland as plain and unsophisticated. Quite a suspension of disbelief.
However, Mitchum is excellent as the young physician who expects perfection from himself and all those around him, and Frank Sinatra is a good choice as Mitchum's cynical--but caring--friend.
Broderick Crawford as the medical professor Dr. Aarons, and Charles Bickford as Dr. Dave Runkleman, Mitchum's senior partner, both turn in solid performances.
Gloria Grahame is perfect as the wealthy widow, Harriet Lang, who oozes sexuality out of every alcoholic pore.
Watch for the dramatic scene when Crawford throws Grey's Anatomy at Sinatra. (Although beware the message that great medicine is synonymous with great memory. Memory is where great medicine starts, not where it ends.)
Two scenes need special comment:
When Mitchum tells a patient with a facial mole, "This kind is best left alone," he is wrong, wrong, wrong.
When Mitchum takes over the care of a critically ill patient of another doctor, Mitchum is right, right, right.
This movie is dated, but it is still worth seeing. Rent it and find out!
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