The Stranger (1946 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Orson Welles|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel (as S. P. Eagle)|
|Written by||Anthony Veiller
Edward G. Robinson
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Release date(s)||May 25, 1946|
|Running time||95 min.|
The Stranger (1946) is an American film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, Edward G. Robinson, and Loretta Young. The film was based on an Oscar-nominated screenplay written by Victor Trivas. Sam Spiegel was the film's producer, and the film's musical score is by Bronisław Kaper. It is believed that this is the first film released after World War II that showed footage of concentration camps.
The film was made by International Pictures, and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The copyright on the film originally belonged to The Haig Corporation, but the film is in the public domain because the producers did not renew the copyright in 1973.
In 1946, Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) of the United Nations War Crimes Commission is hunting for a Nazi fugitive Franz Kindler (Orson Welles), a war criminal who has erased all evidence which might identify him. He has assumed a new identity, Charles Rankin, and has become a prep school teacher in a small town in the United States. He has married Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), daughter of Supreme Court Justice Adam Longstreet (Philip Merivale).
Wilson releases Kindler's former associate Meinike (Konstantin Shayne), hoping the man will lead him to Kindler. Wilson follows Meinike to the town of Harper, Connecticut, but loses him before he meets with Kindler. When Kindler/Rankin and Meinike do meet, Meinike, who is repentant, begs Kindler to confess his crimes. Instead, Kindler strangles Meinike, who might expose him.
Eventually, Wilson deduces that Rankin is Kindler, but not having witnessed the meeting with Meinike, he has no proof. Only Mrs. Rankin knows that Meinike came to meet her husband. To get her to admit this, Wilson must convince her that her husband is a criminal – before Rankin decides to eliminate the threat to him by killing her.
Rankin's pose begins to unravel when Red, the family dog, discovers Meinike's body. To protect his secret, Rankin poisons Red.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Rankin begins to suspect her husband, but is too blinded by love to accept the facts. She is torn between her desire to learn the truth about him, and the idea of helping him create his new life. Mr. Wilson shows her graphic footage of Nazi concentration camps, and explains how Kindler/Rankin developed the idea of genocide. But not until Mary discovers Rankin's plot to kill her does she finally break down. In a tense moment, she dares Rankin to kill her. Rankin tries to, but is prevented by Wilson and Mary's brother Noah. Pursued by them, he flees into a church belfry, and falls to his death.
- Orson Welles as Franz Kindler / Professor Charles Rankin
- Edward G. Robinson as Mr. Wilson
- Loretta Young as Mary Longstreet Rankin
- Philip Merivale as Judge Adam Longstreet (Mary's father)
- Richard Long as Noah Longstreet (Mary’s brother)
- Konstantin Shayne as Konrad Meinike
- Byron Keith as Dr. Jeffrey Lawrence
- Billy House as Mr. Potter
- Martha Wentworth as Sara
The Stranger was the only film made by Welles to have been a bona fide box office success on its first release (Citizen Kane had made back its budget and marketing, but not enough to make a profit). It earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The Stranger currently holds a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Production notes 
One of the film's early scenes occurs at the school where Rankin teaches and contains references to the Todd School for Boys, which Welles attended. Signs visible in the scene refer to a "Coach Roskie" and a "Mrs. Collins", the names of actual staff at the school during Welles's time there. One of the signs also refers to "Clover Hall", which was an actual building on the Todd School campus.
In an interview Loretta Young recalled that originally Orson Welles wanted his friend and fellow Mercury Theatre player Agnes Moorehead to play the investigator's role but producer Sam Spiegel (billed as S.P.Eagle) refused, casting Edward G. Robinson instead.
The movie became the first film released after World War II to feature actual footage taken at concentration camps. There was also a "lost scene" which expands on Meinike trying to find Franz Kindler. The scene, at reported lengths of between 20–30 minutes long, was cut from the original print of the film. When the film was restored for re-release, it was learned that the scenes have been lost, including the negative prints.
Fascism and Nazism and the film 
Before The Stranger, Welles had shown an interest in the nature of Fascism and, especially, documentary footage of the concentration camps. In his column for The New York Post, Welles wrote that this documentary footage 'must be seen' as an index of the 'putrefaction of the soul, a perfect spiritual garbage' associated with what 'we have been calling [...] Fascism. The stench is unendurable.' (Welles, quoted in Heylin, 2005: 163; emphasis in original). Welles worked some of these preoccupations into the film: the film openly engages with the fallout of Fascism. In one striking scene Mr. Wilson shows Mary Longstreet some filmed footage of the concentration camps. Mary sits in stunned silence, and Welles holds the camera on a close-up of Loretta Young as the light from the projector flickers across her face. In the scene Wilson says that Kindler "conceived the theory of genocide – mass de-population of conquered countries."
In his Post columns, Welles wrote that the social reforms in post-war Germany would not eradicate Fascism; Nazi believers were 'laying the fuel for another conflagration...' In one of the film’s strongest scenes, Mr. Wilson and Kindler/Rankin join the Longstreets for dinner. The dinner conversation turns to an article about social reforms in post-war Germany. Rankin asserts that the Germans will never give up their dream of world conquest – directly echoing the sentiment of Welles’ Post columns.
Robinson had appeared seven years earlier in the anti-Nazi film Confessions of a Nazi Spy.
Home Video 
Film Chest and HD Cinema Classics digitally restored the film in high definition from original 35 mm film assets. The Stranger is on blu-ray in full screen with an aspect ratio of 4 x 3 and original sound and a new 5.1 surround sound mix.
See also 
- The Stranger, DVD#9_9346,Madacy Entertainment Group, Inc. 2002
- McCarthy, Gail (8 October 2010). "Return of 'The Stranger': Showing spotlights local man's restoration". Gloucester Times.
- The Stranger (1946) reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
- Bawden, Jim Loretta Young Interview http://www.thecolumnists.com/Oscars2011/lorettayoung.html
- The Stranger Press Release
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Stranger (1946 film)|
- The Stranger at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Stranger at the Internet Movie Database
- The Stranger is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- The Stranger at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Stranger at AllRovi