Strangers in the Night (film)
|Strangers in the Night|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Rudolph E. Abel|
|Screenplay by||Bryant Ford
|Story by||Philip MacDonald|
|Music by||Morton Scott|
|Edited by||Arthur Roberts|
|Distributed by||Republic Pictures|
Sgt. Johnny Meadows is seriously wounded in battle in the South Pacific during World War Two. While recuperating, he takes comfort reading a book donated to the Red Cross by Rosemary Blake, who has written her name and address in the book. He corresponds with her, and as pen pals they fall in love. Eventually, on leave and back in the States, he heads for Rosemary’s home. While taking the train to get there, he meets a pretty woman reading the same book, and for a moment thinks he has met Rosemary. But the lovely woman is Dr. Leslie Ross, coincidentally heading for the same town where Rosemary lives, to take over a practice being left by another doctor. They start a friendly conversation, but then there is a derailment of several cars ahead of them, and the doctor treats those who are wounded, while Johnny assists where he can. More help arrives and, both exhausted, they share a cab-ride into the town they were both headed for.
The next day, as the doctor settles into running her practice, Johnny heads up the high hill to the house where Rosemary lives. He meets the homeowner, an older disabled woman, Mrs. Blake (Rosemary’s mother), and her live-in assistant, Ivy Miller. Mrs. Blake and Miller tell Johnny that Rosemary is away, but will be back soon, and Mrs. Blake invites him to stay. The next day Mrs. Blake shows Johnny a large painting done of Rosemary, so he can see how beautiful she is. Johnny is happy, and, from the style in which the painting is done, thinks he knows the artist, but can’t fully recall whom at the moment.
After a few days of Rosemary not showing up, and no satisfactory answers forthcoming from either Mrs. Blake or Miller, who seems very nervous about the situation, Johnny leaves for San Francisco. He finally remembered who the artist was, as he had worked with him for a short time in the City before the war. Meanwhile, Miller attempts to divulge to Dr. Ross just what is going on, but her nervousness and insecurities stop her. Dr. Ross and her nurse suspect something strange is going on in the Blake house, but because Mrs. Blake had been dismissive of the doctor during an initial consult on her first day in town, they take no specific action.
That evening. when Mrs. Blake discovers what Miller tried to do, she gives Miller an overdose of medicine to kill her. A few moments later, Dr. Ross shows up at the home to see how Miller is doing, and then Johnny shows up too. He has found out the painting is a ‘fantasy’ of what Mrs. Blake pictured as a perfect daughter. Johnny goes upstairs to find Miller for an explanation, but finds her body, and Dr. Ross can do nothing to revive her. Mrs. Blake accuses the doctor of committing malpractice, but the doctor tells her the medicine she had prescribed for Miller wasn’t sufficient to kill her. Finally, Mrs. Blake confesses she always wanted a daughter, and always wanted to be loved and wanted, and that she had corresponded with Johnny. Johnny tells Mrs. Blake he loves the doctor now. Then Dr. Ross suggests Miller was murdered, but Mrs. Blake says it was suicide, that Miller has left a note. Johnny and the doctor ask to see it, and Mrs. Blake leaves them to fetch it. She instead goes out to their car to set a booby-trap. She returns without the note, and sends them away. They leave, and Johnny is almost killed after stepping through the trap Mrs. Blake had set. Dr. Ross realizes what has happened, and they feign their deaths by screaming aloud. Hearing this, Mrs. Blake telephones for an ambulance, but then Johnny and the doctor walk into the room, and the game is up.
- William Terry as Sgt. Johnny Meadows
- Virginia Grey as Dr. Leslie Ross
- Helene Thimig as Mrs. Hilda Blake
- Edith Barrett as Ivy Miller
- Anne O'Neal as Nurse Thompson
- Audley Anderson as Train Conductor
- Charles Sullivan as Police Driver
- Frances Morris as Nurse
- George Sherwood as Navy Doctor
Film historian Spencer Selby called the film an "Eerie low-budget melodrama evincing several early noir elements of plot and style.
When the Blu-ray edition was released, film historian and critic Glenn Erickson discussed the background of the team that produced the film, "It's [Anthony Mann's] fifth film feature and his first that can be classified as at least partially noir. Compared to Joseph H. Lewis's My Name Is Julia Ross (a mini-masterpiece) or William Castle's When Strangers Marry (strained but quirky), 1944's Strangers in the Night is nobody's idea of great filmmaking. But in Olive Films' flawless Blu-ray edition, it's an excellent candidate for study ... Strangers in the Night's story credit points to Philip MacDonald, a screenwriter on the classic mysteries Rebecca, The Dark Past and Val Lewton's The Body Snatcher. The co-screenwriter Paul Gangelin has impressive credits as well, and contributes some natural-sounding dialogue."