In the late nineteenth 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. Rachel (Loretta Young, The Bishop’s Wife) is the “bondwoman” he acquires from a friend at a bargain price. Trapper Jim Fairways (Robert Mitchum, Out of the Past) shows up and the newlyweds quickly unravel.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Delightful little RKO comedy-drama 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 and Woman on the Run), 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. I also liked the fact that it has a compact story that doesn’t wear its welcome.
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 necessarily mutually exclusive. That’s some food for thought.
Mitchum, who sings a couple of songs — quite well, I must add — is perfectly casted as the easygoing 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 Charles Laughton’s classic The Night of the Hunter (1955).
Holden was near the end of his “light period” which came to an abrupt end when Billy Wilder casted him in the noir classic 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, in the same movie.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Rachel and the Stranger is a terrifically enjoyable film — it’s pure Hollywood entertainment. Partially filmed in Eugene, Oregon. With Tom Tully (The Caine Mutiny), Sara Haden, and Frank Ferguson. B&W, 90 minutes, Not Rated.