While awaiting a delayed flight, a lawyer who has left his unfaithful wife, befriends three fellow passengers. After the plane crashes and he is among the few to survive, he feels compelled to contact the families of his dead friends.
On a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, lawyer David Trask befriends three of his fellow passengers while one technical issue after another lead to unscheduled stops and delays. The other three are physician Dr. Robert Fortness, a struggling actress with the stage name Binky Gay, and loud-mouthed salesman Eddie Hoke, who is both quick with a joke and quick to show off a photograph of his beautiful wife, Marie. Two of them confess to David having painful reckonings waiting for them in Los Angeles. Dr. Fortness, an alcoholic, is returning to own up to his responsibility for a car accident in which his friend and two others were killed, and his guilt over letting his wife Claire lie for him, which destroyed their marriage and alienated his son. Binky, who has tried and failed to realize success on the New York stage for the past year, is returning to her husband, Mike Carr, hoping to keep his affection despite his overbearing mother, former vaudeville star Sally Carr, who still basks in...Written by
Solid Drama with Little Seen Bette Davis Performance
Gary Merrill's plane is delayed by weather, and he waits in a small airport terminal with three strangers: Shelley Winters, Michael Rennie, and Keenan Wynn. All four have complex pasts, and, over the course of the night, they become friends and share secrets. A tragic crash leaves only one of the four alive, Gary Merrill, which is no spoiler because the advertising blurb reveals that plot point. Thus, Gary makes the "Phone Call from a Stranger" to the families of the three friends who died. Although a clever and engaging story device, the disparate stories tidy up a bit too quickly and neatly. However, the cast is entertaining, and the film is engaging throughout its 96-minute running time.
Merrill is solid as David Trask, a lawyer with his own issues, who links the stories. Shelley Winters shines as Binky Gay, an entertainer who never quite made the big time and lives in the shadow of her celebrity husband and mother-in-law. Winters's role is showy, and she plays both her character and Trask's enhanced version of her character with panache. Keenan Wynn is the perpetual clown, who grows tiresome to his friends and eventually to the audience. Beyond the four central characters, even the small parts are big in this film. A young Beatrice Straight plays Michael Rennie's wife; Evelyn Varden is Sally Carr, an aging nightclub headliner; and Bette Davis appears near the end to show her then husband, Merrill, how to face his own character's crisis.
"Phone Call from a Stranger" is not a classic, but rather a solid programmer from the early 1950's with an above-average cast and some good performances. While the film does not merit repeat viewings, except perhaps to appreciate a little known Bette Davis role, the story is told with a good pace, and any time spent in the company of these fine actors is well spent.
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