Irish Film Institute -THE STRANGER



U.S.A. • 1946 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 115 MIN

Co-written by an uncredited John Huston, this superb thriller concerns an ex-Nazi (Welles) hiding out in New England and being pursued by a war-crimes investigator (Edward G. Robinson). Welles was dismissive of the film and certainly his performance is not overly subtle, the ostensibly innocent schoolteacher signalling his guilty past by such gaffes as whistling Deutschland uber alles and doodling swastikas in a telephone booth. Nonetheless, direction and editing are razor-sharp, small-town America is acidly etched, and the clock-tower finale is a great Welles set-piece, probably inspired by the clock-face scene of Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!, a film Welles loved. The Stranger also has a serious subtext. Like Edward Dmytryk’s Till the End of Time (1946) and William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), it disquietingly discloses Fascist stirrings in post-war America. Robinson is the good guy here but two years on, in John Huston’s superb allegory Key Largo, he will play a Fascist gangster whose methods seem prophetic of McCarthy — at the time a rising senator from Wisconsin who had very nearly been opposed in the election by a young actor called Orson Welles.

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