Tread Softly Stranger

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Tread Softly Stranger
UK release poster
Directed by Gordon Parry
Produced by George Minter
Written by George Minter
Jack Popplewell (play)
Starring Diana Dors
George Baker
Terence Morgan
Music by Tristram Cary
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Anthony Harvey
Release dates
August 1958
Running time
90 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Tread Softly Stranger is a 1958 British crime drama directed by Gordon Parry and starring Diana Dors, George Baker and Terence Morgan. The film was shot in black-and-white in film noir style, and its setting in a gritty working industrial town in northern England mirrors the kitchen sink realism movement coming into vogue in English drama and film at the time. The screenplay was adapted from the 1953 stage play Blind Alley by Jack Popplewell.


The action takes place in the Yorkshire steel town of Rawborough – Rotherham was used for the extensive location filming – to which native son Johnny Mansell (George Baker) has fled after racking up large gambling debts in London. Johnny moves into a cramped flat with his brother Dave (Terence Morgan), a clerk in a local steel mill, and Dave's girlfriend Calico (Diana Dors), a hostess in a local nightclub. There is an instant attraction between Calico and Johnny, and it becomes apparent that the relationship between Dave and Calico is rather one-sided. It transpires that in an attempt to keep hold of her, he has embezzled £300 from his employers which he has used to buy her clothes and various gifts. He now has one week to repay the money before the firm's auditors make their visit.

Calico comes up with a plan for the brothers to rob the payroll at Dave's workplace to steal enough money to cover Dave's fraud and Johnny's debts. However at the arranged time Johnny is delayed in getting to the rendezvous, and Dave decides to go ahead with the robbery on his own. Johnny arrives at the mill just as Dave is leaving with thousands of pounds, but they are disturbed by the elderly night-watchman and there is a struggle in which Dave shoots and kills him.

Initially the police can find no leads as to the perpetrators of the murder, but the night-watchman's son (Patrick Allen) is certain that the robbery was an inside job and his suspicions lead him to Dave when he tracks down a blind witness who heard the killing. The police enquiries finally lead them to Johnny, who is arrested and taken away for questioning. The night-watchman's son then confronts Dave with his evidence, not revealing that his witness is blind, and convinces him to confess his own guilt.



Tread Softly Stranger did well at the box-office on its original release but received little critical attention, being seen as a typical crime potboiler which would be watched once and then forgotten. Its reputation was upgraded in later decades, with critics finding much to admire, particularly the cinematography by Douglas Slocombe with its authentic feel of everyday life in a steel town of the era. The main incongruity in the film is cited as the noticeable lack of Yorkshire accents in characters who were supposedly born and brought up in the county. It is also questionable whether a town such as Rawborough in the 1950s would have been the venue for a nightclub of the type in which Calico is employed, a far cry from the working man's club it purports to be.

Tread Softly Stranger received its first DVD release in the UK in 2008. Fans of the film noted that in the shot chosen for the DVD cover Dors had a drink in her hand and Baker was smoking; however, in a somewhat excessive display of 21st century political correctness, the glass and the cigarette had been airbrushed out of the shot.[citation needed]


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