Wonderfully miscast soaper

So I had recorded Not as a Stranger under the mistaken idea that it was a thriller. Last time I rely on the TCM schedule for a film description: ” A medical student will stop at nothing to become a top surgeon.”

Robert Mitchum is a medical student– poor medical student (Lon Chaney, Jr. has a cameo as his drunken father). His best friend, privileged rich kid, Frank Sinatra, is in med school because it’s expected of him and also for the cash. So’s Lee Marvin. Yeah, that’s right. Lee Marvin. Broderick Crawford and Whit Bissell are profs. It’s a strange strange class. And the writer at TCM had the same thought. Last time I saw Whit Bissell and Lee Marvin together was in the godawful, but oddly engrossing Shack Out on 101.

After Dad drinks up Mitchum’s tuition money, he looks to alternative sources. While dropping out for a semester (Broderick Crawford’s suggestion) and getting a job to get the money is too heinous to be considered, marrying Swedish nurse Olivia de Havilland for her money is not. That’s okay. Sure, Mitchum doesn’t love her. Sure he looks down on her, even though she seems to be a very competent nurse. Sure she has goofy relatives–okay that I buy–Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter of M*A*S*H) playing a Swede would turn me off too. But hey, Mitchum was meant to be a doctor.

And he becomes a doctor. He heads out for one of those small towns that manages to appear to be a small city (gotta love Hollywood) where he works under crusty Charles Bickford’s supervision. Okay, I love Charles Bickford. It was worth sitting through the first half of the movie just to see him do his stuff. He’s working round the clock, helping people, being the noble doctor, pretending to love his long-suffering wife, when into his life slinks Gloria Grahame; she takes one look at hunky Mitchum and makes the expected play for him.

You can see why I thought this was a thriller with noirish influences (Mitchum, Grahame, Bickford, Sinatra). This was Stanley Kramer’s first directorial effort. I’m not sure who did the casting, but evidently they were either insane or intoxicated. It’s an odd, odd, mess of a film. Unless you have a burning desire to see Olivia de Havilland and Harry Morgan as Swedes, I’d suggest giving this one a miss.


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