Monday, November 6, 2017

The Stranger's Return

TCM is running a bunch of Miriam Hopkins movies tomorrow morning and afternoon. One that doesn't seem to be available on DVD is The Stranger's Return, which will be on at 7:45 AM.

Hopkins plays the nominal stranger, a big-city divorcée named Louise. Having just gotten a divorce, she wants to get away from it all, and decides that she's going to go back to the old family farm run by her grandfather (Lionel Barrymore), an 85-year-old Civil War veteran. This even though she's never been on the farm as an adult. But it'll do her good to get away and recharge.

Or so she thinks. Obviously, things aren't going to be completely easy. There are a couple of women relatives already living on the farm with Grandpa (Beulah Bondi as Beatrice and Aileen Carlyle as Thelma) and they don't take kindly to the new arrival, expecting that Grandpa is going to make certain she gets an inheritance in the will. They think he's too old to run the farm and they'd basically like to take it over for themselves.

And then there's the neighbor. Guy (Franchot Tone) is another farmer, although that's really a surprise, since he's college-educated and would like to have the finer things in life and the chance to talk about culture with somebody. Nothing against his wife Nettie (Irene Hervey); she just isn't cultured. You wonder how Guy ended up here. Anyhow, Guy and Louise meet and you know that they're going to feel an attraction for her. Nettie may not be cultured, but she's not stupid: she can see that Guy likes having this big-city woman around. Guy doesn't want to hurt his wife, and Louise doesn't want to break up their marriage, anyway.

But that story is going to have to take a back seat to the finale. Beatrice is trying to get Grandpa declared insane so that he's going to have to give up control of the farm to her. And Grandpa certainly is acting nutty. Louise, however, has come to love her grandfather and is willing to fight for him.

The Stranger's Return is one of those leisurely-paced programmers from the early days of sound. Sure there are a lot of movies from those days where they try to make the pace fast in order to get everything in in the short running time, but there are others that seem to meander along, more or less showing a slice of life. The Stranger's Return is definitely in the latter category, especially considering the amount of time they spend on a dinner for farmhands.

Still, the performances are good and the story does interest. The Stranger's Return ultimately succeeds as a programmer even if the ending is a bit hit-or-miss. This is another of those movies that Warner Home Video probably ought to put out on DVD on one of those four-film sets.

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