A man is found murdered, with witnesses convinced about the woman they saw leaving his apartment. However, it becomes apparent that the woman has a twin, and finding out which one is the killer seems impossible.
Olivia de Havilland,
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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
There's Something Rotten in the Medical Profession
Although a couple of the actors are too old for their parts or otherwise poorly cast, "Not as a Stranger" has some good performances and an engrossing story. Based on a popular novel by Morton Thompson, the film was producer Stanley Kramer's first directorial attempt. The plot follows a young medical student through his studies and internship and into the early years of his practice. If the nearly-40-year old Robert Mitchum can be accepted as a struggling student, then possibly Olivia de Havilland can play a young Swedish nurse. De Havilland should have sued the film's hair stylist for the phony blonde dye job and the stiff 1950's hair-do. Olivia's hair and wardrobe make the actress, who was actually a year younger than Mitchum, look more like a matronly aunt than a young intern's romantic interest. Unfortunately, her Swedish accent is about as convincing as her blonde roots.
The rest of the star-studded cast, which includes five Oscar winners, is more appropriate. Broderick Crawford portrays a humorless professor, Frank Sinatra is the rash student who pursues the money in medicine, and Charles Bickford plays a dedicated small-town doctor. Whenever slinky, sultry Gloria Grahame appears on screen, she always spells trouble for leading men, and here she is the dark-haired bad girl to de Havilland's blonde angel of mercy. Situations between the characters play out expectedly. Only Mitchum, whose character evidently learns from his mistakes, grows and matures over the years. Despite his miscasting, Mitchum's performance is effective, and, at any opportunity, he rewards his fans by doffing his shirt and displaying his admirable pecs. Obviously Mitchum was not cast just for his acting skills.
Kramer's heavy-handed direction avoids the social preaching that mar some of his other films, which is not to say that "Not as a Stranger" lacks a message; it would not be a Kramer film without one. With lines like "doctors wear rubber gloves so they don't leave fingerprints" and "only in medicine can you get away with manslaughter," Kramer's opinion of the medical profession is evident. The compromises forced on the initially idealistic Mitchum underline the corruption that Kramer evidently saw lurking under the white coats and stethoscopes.
Kramer is also obvious in his imagery. A suggestive scene between Grahame and Mitchum that takes place outside a stable with two horses has to be the most blatant sexual symbolism since the fireworks in "To Catch a Thief." Filmed in black and white by Franz Planer from a script by Edna and Edward Anhalt, "Not as a Stranger" offers a literate story and professional performances for passable, if dated, entertainment. However, viewers will have to overlook a few flaws and the controversial social message and focus on the star power and Mitchum's physical assets.
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