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Strangers in the Night

Posted by martinteller on November 30, 2012

“I won’t have any interference.  I like the boy and Rosemary’s going to like him.  I won’t let anything happen to spoil his chances with her.  I want that completely understood.  You wouldn’t dare interfere.”

Sergeant Johnny Meadows (William Terry) is recently discharged from the army, and on his way to meet the girl of his dreams.  He found a copy of “A Shropshire Lad” with a name — Rosemary — scrawled on the inside cover, along with an address.  Intrigued, he struck up a correspondence with Rosemary and fell in love.  En route to the California seaside town where she lives, he meets Dr. Leslie Ross (Virginia Grey), the town’s new physician.  Leslie and Johnny hit it off (and bond when the train has an accident and the doctor leaps into service) but he is determined to stay true to his pen pal love.  When he arrives, he meets only Rosemary’s mother Hilda (Helene Thimig) and her “companion” Ivy (Edith Barrett).  He is told that Rosemary is out of town.  Captivated by her portrait, he waits.  And waits.  And grows suspicious.

This is the earliest film I’ve seen by Anthony Mann, and although it has some intriguing elements, it’s far from his best noir.  It’s more along the lines of Desperate, at least in the sense that its leads are totally boring, too goody-goody and shallow.  Terry and Grey bring no depth or charisma to their characters.  The real stars are Thimig and Barrett, a twisted co-dependent relationship that may well have lesbian implications (or, you know, it may not… don’t want to jump to conclusions too readily).  Thiming’s quiet menace and Barrett’s shrinking nervousness hint at a long and troubled history.  When they’re on screen, the film is interesting.  When they’re not… blah.

It is an exceptionally short movie, though, with very little fat.  You can pretty much guess where it’s going at all times, but it’s still mildly enjoyable getting there.  The cinematography is not up to the standard one expects from a Mann film, but there are some very nice shots and graceful camera movement.  The use of a portrait can’t help but bring Laura bring to mind, although this preceded it by a couple of months.

A good alternate title would be There’s Something About Rosemary.  Rating: Fair (64)

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