Strangers When We Meet (1960)


A married architect, Larry Coe (Kirk Douglas, Spartacus), falls in love with a neighbor, Maggie Gault (Kim Novak, Vertigo), who is also married.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“There’s so much to say and yet there’s nothing.”

Strangers When We Meet is a serious drama about adult issues for adult audiences. At first glance, the film seems like a conventional story of unfaithfulness, but it is instead an intelligent, observant examination of the Age of Conformity, and how painful it is to realize that complete happiness is unattainable for most people.

Directed by Richard Quine (Pushover) from a script by Evan Hunter (Hitch’s The Birds), who adapted his own novel. Strangers When We Meet charts the development of a doomed extramarital affair in a surprisingly honest and bold manner — the movie contains many frank conversations about sex, love, and life goals.

Some viewers may find the movie a bit slow — Hunter’s screenplay is deliberately paced — but, frankly, I believe that’s the reason it works so well. The more time you spend with the two central characters, the more you understand them. The way they relate to each other and their loved ones is illuminating. In a nutshell, these characters want to be true to themselves and they just can’t do it. It’s very sad, but true-to-life.

All the performances are fantastic, but I was particularly impressed with Kim Novak. Because of a real double standard for men and women regarding infidelity, Novak has to work extra hard to gain the audience’s sympathy. It’s a brilliantly nuanced performance that proves that Novak is much more than just a beautiful woman.

Kirk Douglas is every bit as good as Novak, and I also liked Walter Matthau (The Bad News Bears), who is great as Douglas’s diabolically cynical friend. Also with Barbara Rush (The Young Philadelphians), Virginia Bruce (The Great Ziegfeld), Kent Smith (The Spiral Staircase), and, in a rare serious role, comedian Ernie Kovacs (Bell, Book and Candle) as a gifted but insecure bestselling author.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Richard Quine’s Strangers When We Meet is a slick, but perceptive slice of life. It’s hardly a formula movie about illicit lovers. It’s a mature, realistic and wise movie that gives us a real sense of what is to be trapped in conformity. And this might finally convince viewers that actress Kim Novak is as talented as she is beautiful — it’s one of her very best movie roles. Color, 117 minutes, Not Rated.

This is my contribution to The Kim Novak Blogathon, hosted by The Classic Muse.


6 responses to “Strangers When We Meet (1960)

  1. Pingback: Welcome to The Kim Novak Blogathon: A 90th Birthday Celebration!! |·

  2. Excellent post, Eric! The honesty of ‘Strangers’ is very moving and I love how you focused on that aspect in your review. Richard Quine sure was versatile, wasn’t he? From Pushover, to Bell, Book, and Candle, to Strangers…he really could do it all.

    Thanks so much for joining us with this second post, Eric! It was a lovely surprise 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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