Rachel and the Stranger (1948)

Rachel and the Stranger (1948)


In the late 19th century, a widower (William Holden, The Bridge on the River Kwai) realizes that he needs a woman to take care of his young son (Gary Gray, The Next Voice You Hear) so he does the only sensible thing: he buys one (Loretta Young, The Bishop’s Wife). A smart aleck trapper (Robert Mitchum, Ryan’s Daughter) shows up and the newlyweds quickly unravel.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Charming, delightful RKO dramedy with three popular stars at the top of their game. Rachel and the Stranger, written by Waldo Salt (Midnight Cowboy), and directed by Norman Foster (Journey into Fear), is on the surface a western, but what you will remember most is the wonderful interplay of the characters and the humor that runs along the romance.

Loretta Young, who had just nabbed an Oscar (for The Farmer’s Daughter), infuses her character with warmth and intelligence. She’s particularly adept at hinting strength-under-grace. Young’s pioneer woman proves that feminism and domesticity aren’t mutually exclusive — that’s some food for thought!

Robert Mitchum, who sings a couple of songs — quite well, I must add — is perfectly casted as the easy-going trapper. There is a scene in which he sings a song while wearing a “parson’s attire,” a moment that reminded me of what is perhaps Mitchum’s best remembered role, the serial killer in 1955’s The Night of the Hunter.

William Holden was near the end of his “light-period” which came to an abrupt end when Billy Wilder casted him in Sunset Boulevard. After that, Holden began his “cynical phase,” which lasted until his death in 1981. Rachel and the Stranger proves how easy was for Holden to move from drama and comedy, and vice versa.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Rachel and the Stranger is a terrifically enjoyable film — it’s pure Hollywood entertainment. I also liked the fact that it has a compact story that doesn’t wear its welcome. Partially filmed in Eugene, Oregon. With Tom Tully (The Caine Mutiny), Sara Haden, and Frank Ferguson. B&W, 90 minutes, Not Rated.

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