Sunday, August 6, 2017


TCM's Summer Under the Stars is currently spending the day with the films of Robert Mitchum, and the synopsis for one airing this morning intrigued me: When Strangers Marry (renamed Betrayed for a re-release). The movie is available courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it.

The movie starts off with with a prologue of an obnoxious drunk at a hotel where a Lions convention is being held. The man is for some reason carrying $10,000 in cash on him, which is a substantial sum today, and ridiculous for 1944. A traveling salesman seen only from the back spots that the Lion has dropped some cash, and winds up following the Lion to his room. The next morning, the maid finds the Lion dead.

Cut to a train heading for New York City. Mildred Baxter (Kim Hunter) is off to New York to see her husband, whom she hasn't seen since they got married. It was a whirlwind romance, and Mildred doesn't know as much about her new husband as she probably ought to. Indeed, he can't be bothered to show up at the hotel where he booked a room for her. Fortunately, though, she's able to meet her old boyfriend Fred (Robert Mitchum) who, like her husband, is a salesman. When the husband doesn't show up for over 24 hours, Fred gets the idea to take Mildred to the police, in the form of detective Black (Neil Hamilton).

Eventually, Mildred does meet her husband Paul (Dean Jagger, unrecognizable since he had a head of hair still), and he's acting very mysteriously. He seems to be lying about his past, and he really doesn't want Mildred to be seeing strangers. It all leads to Mildred drawing the obvious conclusion: Paul is the killer of that Lion in a hotel in Philadelphia. But what's really surprising is that when the police close in, Mildred decides to protect her husband!

So how is Mildred going to get out of defending her husband this way since the Production Code doesn't want people abetting crime? Well, you'll have to watch the movie to see how everything is resolved, but it resolves itself fairly quickly, since the movie clocks in at a whopping 67 minutes.

William Castle directed this one early in his career, and it's an excellent example of a surprisingly good movie directed on a shoestring budget. Kim Hunter is excellent as the naïve girl who learns too much about life in the big city, while Mitchum does a very good job early in his career in a supporting role. Jagger isn't at his best here, although I think that's more because he's given the weak part of the script. The demands of his character and the plot require Jagger to play a transparent liar, and that's something that it's difficult to play with any subtlety. But then, I'm also not a fan of the constantly lying character. Castle already shows that he had a clear talent for directing, when he wanted to use it for something other than schlock.

When Strangers Marry is the sort of movie that I wish were on a less expensive DVD than what the Warner Archive puts out.

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