Affair With a Stranger
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Affair with a Stranger (1953) is the story of a marriage as told from the viewpoints of several of the couple's friends. It's distinguished by an appealing performance from leading lady Jean Simmons, and strong support from some lesser-known character actors, along with a lively showbiz background. And it offers the rare opportunity to see beefcake hunk Victor Mature, best known for sword-and-sandal epics, in a contemporary role. But as with many films, the real drama surrounding the film happened behind the scenes.
Since the mid-1940s, Jean Simmons had been acclaimed as one of Britain's most talented young actresses, thanks to her performances in such films as Great Expectations (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and Hamlet (1948), for which she had been nominated for an Academy Award. She was under contract to the British J. Arthur Rank studio when she came to the U.S. with her new husband, Stewart Granger. Soon after, she found out that Rank had sold her contract, without informing her, to Howard Hughes, who then owned RKO. Simmons was obligated to Hughes for three films, but Hughes informed the actress that she needed to sign a seven-year contract with him, so he could build her up as a major star. Simmons refused, and there was much discussion and delay among Hughes, his underlings, Simmons' agent, and Simmons and Granger.
In the midst of all this, Simmons was offered the leading role in Roman Holiday (1953), a part she desperately longed to play. Hughes refused to loan her for the film. Unable to reach an agreement, Simmons finally sued Hughes, and won the right to do only the three films she owed Hughes, and the right to work for other studios during her RKO agreement. Hughes didn't make it easy for her. The first of the three films was Angel Face (1952). Although it gave Simmons a juicy role as a murderous sociopath, and had a terrific leading man, Robert Mitchum, the film was directed by Otto Preminger who was known for his often cruel and humiliating treatment of actors. While shooting a scene in which Mitchum slaps Simmons, Preminger insisted that Mitchum hit her for real, and not pull his punches. Still, the film was good, and fared well with the critics and at the box office. Affair with a Stranger was the second film, and fared less well, but also earned praise for Simmons' performance.
Before finishing her commitment to Hughes, Simmons made several well-received films for other studios, and by the time she was free, she was one of the most popular, and busiest actresses in Hollywood. And in spite of all the problems, she never spoke badly of Hughes, although her former husband, Granger, did - he wrote in his memoirs that Hughes propositioned Simmons, and threatened to ruin her career. But as recently as 1999, Simmons said, "All I know is that Howard Hughes was very kind to me...and he was a painfully shy man. He'd almost come into a room backwards, you know, he was so shy."
Producer: Robert Sparks
Director: Roy Rowland
Screenplay: Richard Flournoy
Art Direction: Albert D'Agostino, Feild M. Gray
Cinematography: Harry J. Wild
Costume Design: Michael Woulfe
Editor: George Amy
Music: Sam Coslow, Roy Webb
Cast: Jean Simmons (Carolyn Parker), Victor Mature (Bill Blakely), Mary Jo Tarola (Dolly Murray), Monica Lewis (Janet Boothe), Jane Darwell (Ma Stanton), Dabbs Greer (Happy Murray), Wally Vernon (Joe), Nicholas Joy (George Craig).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri