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This was a pretty interesting short from John Nesbitt's Passing Parade
series. The series was supposed to be from true stories inspired by
clippings John Nesbitt found in his late father's trunk, but in this
case, there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the short saying that
Nesbitt's stories are not actually true descriptions of real events or
people. Did he get in some kind of trouble over a previous short that
was disproved? I'll get back to my theories on that later.
The director is Jacques Tourneur, now famous for the Val Lewton horror films he directed over at RKO, but here he is billed as "Jack" not "Jacques". In old Hollywood people would often hide their foreign roots via their names, and I guess this is an example.
The story is a bit macabre though and right up Tourneur's alley. In the 1890's a man writes to a small town and asks that a four bedroom house be built, and remits the detailed specifications and the funds. After the house is complete he moves into it alone. He never talks to anyone nor does he let anyone inside. He also orders clothes for a woman, a female child, and a male child, yet there is nobody living in his house but himself. Naturally the townspeople are very suspicious of this fellow. One night, passers by see the doctor's carriage pull up to the man's house. Later, the horse pulling the doctor's carriage goes back to the doctor's house by habit - without the doctor. The townspeople storm the house just sure that the odd stranger has murdered the doctor. What do they find inside? Watch and find out.
Back to why there was a disclaimer on the short - my own suppositions. The short Nesbitt made before this was about a British woman whom Nesbitt actually called by name - Catherine Starr. When her fiancée is killed in battle in 1901 she develops a fear of people as a result of the shock that causes her to not leave her house for almost 40 years. She only does so when Germany's bombs force her out. I wondered how the British - at the time our allies and in the fight of their lives - would feel about one of their own being portrayed as a lifelong coward only set in motion by extreme events, and perhaps they didn't like it so much and complained to MGM. If the story turned out to be fabricated, it might well have caused such disclaimers on future shorts that weren't about actual historical figures. I can't find anything on any scandal involving the truthfulness of John Nesbitt, so I guess the sudden disclaimer will remain a mystery.
This is a well done, 11 minute short. It does not take place in the 1880's as the previous reviewer wrote-but from summer 1892 when a stranger buys land in the little town and has a home built, completed in December 1892 when the stranger comes into town and moves in. The stranger keeps to himself for the next 5 years though. He does not seem to want to mingle with anyone else in town. The stranger is quite and keeps to himself. Why does the stranger remain so withdrawn? Why has he never invited anyone into his home? This mysterious man receives women's clothes from the City, but does not comment on what they're for when questioned, instead just giving the local folks a hand written note thanking them for a cake they brought him when he first arrived in town. He is a mystery-which is solved on Christmas eve 1897.
Incredible Stranger, The (1942)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Part of MGM's Passing Parade shorts, this film takes place in the late 1880's when a stranger arrives at a small town. Previously the stranger had a house built and is constantly ordering stuff for four even though he is the only one living there. The people in town want to know what's going on but it takes five years for the secret to get out. This was always one of the better short series produced by MGM and this here is one of the better episodes. Tourneur was on the break of becoming a big time director but you really can't see any of his trademark style here, even though he still creates a very good movie. The entire film is done with narration so there's no spoken dialogue but this trick is actually good for the movie. The secret of the man is rather obvious but it's still nice when it's revealed.
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