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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Charles Higham dies at 81; controversial celebrity biographer

From the Los Angeles Times: "Charles Higham, a poet, critic and prolific celebrity biographer who found political and sexual intrigue in the lives of Hollywood icons such as Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich and, most controversially, Errol Flynn, died April 21 at his Los Angeles home. He was 81."

Read The Los Angeles Times obituary

Higham also wrote "Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine" which we reviewed on the blog a few years ago. 

Read Shelbi's 3-part Book Review of
"Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine" (1984) by Charles Higham
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Not As a Stranger (1955)

Not As a Stranger,  from 1955, is a medical drama starring Olivia deHavilland and Robert Mitchum. The directorial debut of Stanley Kramer, Not As a Stranger features an excellent supporting cast--- Frank SinatraGloria GrahameBroderick Crawford, and Charles Bickford.

Ambitious, self-righteous Luke Marsh (Robert Mitchum) is a medical school student.

Luke's financial status isn't the best, though, and in order to make extra money, he cleans the pathology lab.  Even with that job, though, he is behind on his tuition payments.  A trip to his drunken father gets him nowhere---not only does his dad not have any money for him, but he also tells Luke that he will never be a doctor because brains are not enough...he has to have a heart...and that he does not have.  Luke is aware that should he not come up with the $400 payment, he will be out of school, so he asks one of his instructors and one of his friends for some help.  Still, though, Luke is short, and he is told that he has 30 days in which to make the payment or else he's out.

One of the nurses at the hospital, Christina Hedvigson (Olivia deHavilland), an unsophisticated Swedish girl, invites Luke and his friend Al (Frank Sinatra) to dinner at her apartment.  Through their dinner conversation, Luke discovers that Christina has put into savings half of every paycheck and that she has a sizeable nest egg available to her.  The wheels begin turning, and before long, though he is not attracted to her, Luke begins dating Christina.  (One fun thing about their date---they went to a movie---the Humphrey Bogart/Ava Gardner flick, The Barefoot Contessa.  I always think it's fun to see other classic movies showing up in a classic movie.)  Knowing that Christina loves him, and wanting use of her money, Luke tells Christina he loves her and asks her to marry him.

Because he knows Christina's gauche, unsophisticated ways are not for Luke, Al realizes Luke is marrying her for her money, and he calls him on the carpet for that.  Luke responds that Christina will never know he doesn't love her, and he goes through with the marriage. He seems disgusted on their wedding night, though with himself for marrying a woman he doesn't love, or whether with Christina's lack of sophistication, is not clear.

Able to pay his tuition, Luke completes medical school, all the while being argumentative and arrogant.  He is intolerant of mistakes...he blasts anyone who is not as perfect as he is.  Even one heated argument, he lets her know that he thinks she's stupid.

Eventually, Luke begins practicing with a small-town doctor, and it is there that he begins an affair with a young widow (Gloria Grahame).  Christina, however, has had enough---the cheating, the condescending attitude, the intolerance of anything less than perfection.  She wants nothing more to do with Luke, and it is only afterwards that Luke understands that he, too, is imperfect, that he, too, is capable of making a mistake.

Does Luke ever get down off his high horse and humble himself?  Does Christina take him back?  These are the questions which will play out in this film.

Not As a Stranger is a bit on the long side---over two hours and fifteen minutes---and there were a couple times it dragged a tiny bit. However, that dragging wasn't enough to change my opinion of the film.  I thought it was a powerful story, with good acting by both leads, especially Olivia deHavilland.  It was a bit odd hearing her talk with a Swedish accent; and it was even more odd to see her as a platinum blonde.  Another funny thing in this film are the hospital scenes.  Patients smoking in their hospital beds never cease to amuse me.  Definitely, a dated movie in that regard.

Anyhow, I think this film is a very worthwhile couple of hours, so I hope you get a chance to see this.  I caught it on TCM a couple years ago, but I do believe it is available on DVD.