Strange Lady in Town


1h 52m 1955
Strange Lady in Town

Brief Synopsis

The arrival of a female doctor sets a Western town on its ear.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Apr 30, 1955
Premiere Information
Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas openings: week of 10 Apr 1955; Los Angeles opening: 27 Apr 1955
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Austin, Texas, United States; Dallas, Texas, United States; Ft. Worth, Texas, United States; Houston, Texas, United States; San Antonio, Texas, United States; Tucson, Arizona, United States; Tucson, New Mexico, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Synopsis

In 1880, red-haired Dr. Julia Winslow Garth leaves Boston for a new life, taking with her such innovations as a stethoscope and newly developed theories about antisepsis. Settling near Santa Fe, where her brother, Lt. David Garth, is stationed with the Army, she sets up shop in an adobe house next to a mission church run by Father Gabriel Mendoza and soon receives her first case, a toothache victim brought in by Billy the Kid. A local tomboy, Spurs O'Brien, who is infatuated with David, befriends Julia and sells her a horse and buggy. When Spurs's widower father, Dr. Rork O'Brien, sees Julia driving the buggy, he chases her through town. When he accuses her of horse theft, she explains to Rork that she bought the horse and buggy. Although Rork is also a physician, his closed-minded opinions about a "woman's place" and his rejection of new medical techniques keep them from forming a friendship. Father Gabriel shows Julia the hospital he has started, and there she operates and restores the sight of a ten-year-old glaucoma patient. The boy's father, Bartolo Diaz, proclaims her a saint and praises her to the other townspeople. Despite his professional opposition to Julia, Rork becomes attracted to her and teaches her to ride a horse Western-style. While they are riding, young Apache braves approach, intrigued by Julia's red hair, but leave after the leader touches her hair and Rork claims her as "his woman." When Julia answers a request for a house call, she finds that David, who had years ago promised to stop gambling, has shot a man in self-defense during a poker game at a saloon. Rork is annoyed that many of his patients have turned to Julia and accuses her of having a vindictive need for revenge against male physicians. He insists that she stop working at the hospital, and when she refuses, he quits. At the hospital, Julia has been able to help a physically abused mental patient, Norah Muldoon, but she cannot prevent Norah's abusive boyfriend from trying to take her away. Rork arrives just in time to prevent the man from removing Norah. Still angry at Julia, Rork avoids her for two weeks. However, after arranging a surprise birthday party for Julia, Rork admits that he missed her, offers her an engagement ring and woos her by quoting a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Although touched by his romantic streak, Julia declines his offer, saying that marriage could never work between two ruthless, stubborn people. As proof, she admits her obsession with proving herself in a man's occupation and points out that Rork's prejudice and arrogance is what she ran away from in Boston. He angrily leaves, but weeks later, escorts her to the Governor's Ball. Spurs also attends, dressed in a gown that Julia has had made for her, which prompts David, who has told Spurs that he loves her only as a child, to see her in a new light. During the evening, Julia meets the governor, Gen. Lew Wallace, who is writing a novel, Ben Hur . When he mentions that he has chronic heart problems, she suggests that his tight collar might be the source of his problem, unaware that she is contradicting Rork's previous diagnosis. Expecting that his reputation will be harmed by the resulting gossip, Rork becomes angry with Julia. Elsewhere at the ball, David strikes Capt. Taggart, a superior officer who has accused him of cheating at cards and selling stolen cattle to the Army. David is arrested but, during the night, escapes to Julia's house to say goodbye and confess that Taggart's accusations are true. David also admits that he almost asked Spurs to marry him. Before leaving the territory, David and some cohorts plan to rob the bank during the town's fiesta. They are spotted while breaking into the bank, and one of the gang is killed in the ensuing exchange of gunfire. The others escape in a panic, and their horses trample Father Gabriel. After tracking the outlaws to their hiding place, the sheriff asks Julia to talk to David before the posse turns into a lynch mob. Spurs, too, goes to David, sneaking into the abandoned building where he is hiding alone, after his cohorts have surrendered. Although Spurs fears the wrath of the mob and urges him not to give himself up, David takes Julia's advice and surrenders. When he impulsively tries to run away, however, he is shot and killed. Days later, Julia prepares to leave town, knowing that her neighbors blame her for David's crimes and resent her boldness for entering a "man's" occupation. As she loads her buckboard, a crowd gathers outside to urge her to leave. Before she departs, Rork arrives and, by shaming the ringleader of the hate-filled crowd, convinces the rest to accept Julia. After pronouncing Julia the best doctor in Santa Fe and his future wife, Rork drives her to his home.

Cast

Greer Garson

Dr. Julia Winslow Garth

Dana Andrews

Dr. Rork O'Brien

Cameron Mitchell

Lt. David Garth

Lois Smith

Spurs O'Brien

Walter Hampden

Father Gabriel Mendoza

Gonzalez Gonzalez

Trooper Martinez-Martinez

Joan Camden

Norah Muldoon

Anthony Numkena

Tomasito Diaz

Jose Torvay

Bartolo Diaz

Adele Jergens

Bella Brown

Bob Wilke

Karg

Frank De Kova

Anse Hatlo

Russell Johnson

Shadduck

Gregory Walcott

Scanlon

Douglas Kennedy

Slade Wickstrom

Harry Hines

Chicken Feathers

Jack Williams

Ribstock

Joey Costarello

Alfredo

Nick Adams

Billy the Kid

Bob Foulk

Joe

Julian Rivero

Manuel

Frank Rodriguez

Mexican peon

Charles Sedillo

Mexican peon

Stafford Repp

Macaneer

Pat Lawless

Bartender

Jerry Sheldon

Man at bar

Ruth Whitney

Brunette

Abel Fernández

Apache Indian

Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez

Jose

Jose Lopez

Pueblo Indian

Robert Cabal

Young Vaquero

Lilian Molieri

Sister Delphine

Helen Brown

Sister Muriel

Felipe Turich

Esteban

Belle Mitchell

Catalina

Ralph Moody

Gen. Lew Wallace

Louise Lorimer

Mrs. Wallace

Harry Vejar

Mexican husband

Amapola Del Vando

Mexican wife

Helen Spring

Mrs. Harker

Joe Hamilton

Mr. Harker

Howard Hoffman

Judge

John Stephenson

Capt. Taggart

William Boyett

Lt. Keith

Ray Bennett

Deputy at bank

Marshall Bradford

Deputy

Roy Engel

Deputy

Victor Millan

Young priest

George Wallace

Curley

Paul Birch

Sheriff

Walter Beaver

Springtime

Phyllis Stanley

Mrs. Clegg

Paul Wexler

Townsman

Kansas Moehring

Townsman

Abdullah Abbas

Townsman

Al Ferguson

Townsman

Ken Duncan Jr.

Townsman

Fred Libby

Townsman

Carl Andre

Townsman

Antonio Triana

Flamenco dancer

Luisa Triana

Flamenco dancer

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Apr 30, 1955
Premiere Information
Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas openings: week of 10 Apr 1955; Los Angeles opening: 27 Apr 1955
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Austin, Texas, United States; Dallas, Texas, United States; Ft. Worth, Texas, United States; Houston, Texas, United States; San Antonio, Texas, United States; Tucson, Arizona, United States; Tucson, New Mexico, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Articles

Strange Lady in Town


The Warner Brothers western Strange Lady in Town (1955) had its genesis in a high-octane 1953 dinner party, at which actress Greer Garson was seated next to screenwriter Frank Butler. The six-time Oscar®-nominated star (who had won the award for 1942's Mrs. Miniver), told the three-time Oscar®-nominated writer (who had won the award for 1944's Going My Way) that she would dearly love to act in an outdoor drama set in old Santa Fe, an area she loved.

Butler took the offhand request to heart; within a few months, he had written a story that he would eventually adapt into the screenplay for Strange Lady in Town, complete with a leading part for Garson. She played a spirited Bostonian doctor who, dismayed by condescension for being a woman, transplants herself out west in 1880, joining her cavalry lieutenant brother (Cameron Mitchell) in Santa Fe. There she makes an enemy of the local town doctor (Dana Andrews) and faces continued disdain as she tries to introduce modern medical ideas and instruments -- like a stethoscope. Eventually Garson and Andrews come to respect each other, and he even teaches her to ride a horse in a memorable scene in which he instructs her to "sit up straight" and to "try not to look like a sack of potatoes." Butler's script also finds ways to work in appearances by Billy the Kid (Nick Adams) and General Lew Wallace (Ralph Moody), the real-life Union general who became governor of the New Mexico Territory and wrote the novel Ben-Hur, which was published in 1880, the year in which this film takes place.

Strange Lady in Town was director Mervyn LeRoy's first film under a new producing-directing contract at Warner Bros., and it marked a reunion with Greer Garson. He had begun his career at the studio in 1928 and directed many fine films there through the 1930s, including Little Caesar (1931), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). In 1940 he signed with MGM, where he directed Greer Garson in three pictures, including the grand weepie Random Harvest (1942). (He also worked, uncredited, on the Garson film Desire Me, 1947, a film released without any directing credit.)

For Greer Garson, Strange Lady in Town was her first film since leaving MGM after fifteen years under contract there. She had been discovered by Louis B. Mayer in London in 1938, who quickly signed her and put her to work in an extraordinarily successful run of award-winning prestige pictures. But in 1953, she was crushed when MGM canceled a planned production of Interrupted Melody, in which Garson was to play Australian opera star Marjorie Lawrence, who suffered an attack of polio in 1941 and later made a jubilant comeback. Garson had already started preparing for the role when MGM's Dore Schary, concerned about the spiraling budget, had second thoughts and postponed the film. Garson was crushed, and was placed in another MGM film instead -- Her Twelve Men (1954). After that, she left the studio and signed with Warner Bros. in early 1954 to make Strange Lady in Town.

But this picture, too, was not without some behind-the-scenes drama. Warners recreated frontier-era Santa Fe by building an elaborate 100-acre set near Tucson that included 34 structures. Studio chief Jack Warner was worried about the budget but decided to double down and have the film shot in CinemaScope and WarnerColor, as a way of making it more attractive to audiences tempted by television. For five weeks in the summer of 1954, the cast and crew worked on location in scorching 100-degree heat. Mervyn LeRoy later called the shoot "a mess," citing Dana Andrews' drinking problem and Greer Garson's bout of appendicitis. Garson tried to work through her condition because she didn't want to inconvenience everybody and be the source of a shutdown. LeRoy recalled: "Every night, they piled ice bags on her abdomen. Every day, they fed her pills and the nurse was there, sticking a thermometer in her mouth between every scene."

Meanwhile, Jack Warner grew increasingly upset about the budget consequences and berated LeRoy in a memo, telling him "stop being a perfectionist" and shooting so many takes of the same scene. Finally, the location work ended, and the company shifted back to Hollywood. But Garson's condition had worsened, and she now had to have an appendectomy -- barely in time to save her life -- causing work to shut down for 27 days. During the hiatus, LeRoy filled in for director John Ford on the set of Mister Roberts (1955), as Ford had to undergo emergency gall bladder surgery.

Strange Lady in Town was eventually released in April 1955, becoming a modest moneymaker. Critics were lukewarm, with some calling the film too long and the characters too one-dimensional. The New York Times mocked Garson's part in the film, calling her "probably the most fine and gallant woman ever to turn up in a western film." Variety, however, praised her for maintaining "a ladylike dignity, a sort of grand dame quality... without necessarily seeming stiff or assuming a looking-down-the-nose attitude.... When LeRoy does cut loose with action, it is well-established and everything that the more avid fan could ask."

Critics all especially praised the work of young actress Lois Smith, who plays Andrews' daughter. Variety declared, "Miss Smith, who lifted a small part in East of Eden [1955], gives a virtually perfect portrayal of a young girl merging into womanhood but not completely free of ties to adolescence."

Ironically, 1955 also saw the release of MGM's much-delayed Interrupted Melody, which ended up nabbing Eleanor Parker an Oscar® nomination for the role that Garson had so badly wanted. But Garson had a special fondness for Strange Lady in Town, describing it in a 1956 letter as "a richly corny period story which interested me particularly because I've been a carpet actress all my life in Hollywood. I wanted to do an outdoor role, one with horses and sunsets. The result of my love for the life and history of Santa Fe had been put on film, and I am proud of my little part in helping to create it."

by Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:
Carl Rollyson, Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews
Michael Troyan, A Rose For Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson

Strange Lady In Town

Strange Lady in Town

The Warner Brothers western Strange Lady in Town (1955) had its genesis in a high-octane 1953 dinner party, at which actress Greer Garson was seated next to screenwriter Frank Butler. The six-time Oscar®-nominated star (who had won the award for 1942's Mrs. Miniver), told the three-time Oscar®-nominated writer (who had won the award for 1944's Going My Way) that she would dearly love to act in an outdoor drama set in old Santa Fe, an area she loved. Butler took the offhand request to heart; within a few months, he had written a story that he would eventually adapt into the screenplay for Strange Lady in Town, complete with a leading part for Garson. She played a spirited Bostonian doctor who, dismayed by condescension for being a woman, transplants herself out west in 1880, joining her cavalry lieutenant brother (Cameron Mitchell) in Santa Fe. There she makes an enemy of the local town doctor (Dana Andrews) and faces continued disdain as she tries to introduce modern medical ideas and instruments -- like a stethoscope. Eventually Garson and Andrews come to respect each other, and he even teaches her to ride a horse in a memorable scene in which he instructs her to "sit up straight" and to "try not to look like a sack of potatoes." Butler's script also finds ways to work in appearances by Billy the Kid (Nick Adams) and General Lew Wallace (Ralph Moody), the real-life Union general who became governor of the New Mexico Territory and wrote the novel Ben-Hur, which was published in 1880, the year in which this film takes place. Strange Lady in Town was director Mervyn LeRoy's first film under a new producing-directing contract at Warner Bros., and it marked a reunion with Greer Garson. He had begun his career at the studio in 1928 and directed many fine films there through the 1930s, including Little Caesar (1931), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). In 1940 he signed with MGM, where he directed Greer Garson in three pictures, including the grand weepie Random Harvest (1942). (He also worked, uncredited, on the Garson film Desire Me, 1947, a film released without any directing credit.) For Greer Garson, Strange Lady in Town was her first film since leaving MGM after fifteen years under contract there. She had been discovered by Louis B. Mayer in London in 1938, who quickly signed her and put her to work in an extraordinarily successful run of award-winning prestige pictures. But in 1953, she was crushed when MGM canceled a planned production of Interrupted Melody, in which Garson was to play Australian opera star Marjorie Lawrence, who suffered an attack of polio in 1941 and later made a jubilant comeback. Garson had already started preparing for the role when MGM's Dore Schary, concerned about the spiraling budget, had second thoughts and postponed the film. Garson was crushed, and was placed in another MGM film instead -- Her Twelve Men (1954). After that, she left the studio and signed with Warner Bros. in early 1954 to make Strange Lady in Town. But this picture, too, was not without some behind-the-scenes drama. Warners recreated frontier-era Santa Fe by building an elaborate 100-acre set near Tucson that included 34 structures. Studio chief Jack Warner was worried about the budget but decided to double down and have the film shot in CinemaScope and WarnerColor, as a way of making it more attractive to audiences tempted by television. For five weeks in the summer of 1954, the cast and crew worked on location in scorching 100-degree heat. Mervyn LeRoy later called the shoot "a mess," citing Dana Andrews' drinking problem and Greer Garson's bout of appendicitis. Garson tried to work through her condition because she didn't want to inconvenience everybody and be the source of a shutdown. LeRoy recalled: "Every night, they piled ice bags on her abdomen. Every day, they fed her pills and the nurse was there, sticking a thermometer in her mouth between every scene." Meanwhile, Jack Warner grew increasingly upset about the budget consequences and berated LeRoy in a memo, telling him "stop being a perfectionist" and shooting so many takes of the same scene. Finally, the location work ended, and the company shifted back to Hollywood. But Garson's condition had worsened, and she now had to have an appendectomy -- barely in time to save her life -- causing work to shut down for 27 days. During the hiatus, LeRoy filled in for director John Ford on the set of Mister Roberts (1955), as Ford had to undergo emergency gall bladder surgery. Strange Lady in Town was eventually released in April 1955, becoming a modest moneymaker. Critics were lukewarm, with some calling the film too long and the characters too one-dimensional. The New York Times mocked Garson's part in the film, calling her "probably the most fine and gallant woman ever to turn up in a western film." Variety, however, praised her for maintaining "a ladylike dignity, a sort of grand dame quality... without necessarily seeming stiff or assuming a looking-down-the-nose attitude.... When LeRoy does cut loose with action, it is well-established and everything that the more avid fan could ask." Critics all especially praised the work of young actress Lois Smith, who plays Andrews' daughter. Variety declared, "Miss Smith, who lifted a small part in East of Eden [1955], gives a virtually perfect portrayal of a young girl merging into womanhood but not completely free of ties to adolescence." Ironically, 1955 also saw the release of MGM's much-delayed Interrupted Melody, which ended up nabbing Eleanor Parker an Oscar® nomination for the role that Garson had so badly wanted. But Garson had a special fondness for Strange Lady in Town, describing it in a 1956 letter as "a richly corny period story which interested me particularly because I've been a carpet actress all my life in Hollywood. I wanted to do an outdoor role, one with horses and sunsets. The result of my love for the life and history of Santa Fe had been put on film, and I am proud of my little part in helping to create it." by Jeremy Arnold SOURCES: Carl Rollyson, Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews Michael Troyan, A Rose For Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

As mentioned in the film, Gen. Lew Wallace (1827-1905), governor of New Mexico from 1878 to 1881, wrote the popular nineteenth-century novel Ben-Hur. Portions of the film were shot near Tucson, AZ, according to Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items. An April 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Margaret O'Brien was considered for the role of Dana Andrews' tomboy daughter. Cameron Mitchell was on loan from 20th Century-Fox, according to a July 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items add the following to the cast: Chief Geronimo Kuthle, Bert Lahr, Jr., director Mervyn LeRoy's sixteen-year-old daughter Linda and the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir. According to October and November 1954 IHR news items, Greer Garson was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy, and during the five weeks that production was shut down waiting for her recovery, LeRoy took over direction of the film Mister Roberts from John Ford, who was recuperating from a gall bladder operation.
       According to a September 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, contrary to the custom of fitting songs into the film at the editing stage, LeRoy established the mood of non-dialogue scenes by playing the title song, written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington, while shooting. An April 1955 news item announced that the film had its premiere in five Texas cities: Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Ft. Worth, during mid-April and Garson addressed both houses of the Texas legislature as part of the festivities in Austin. Strange Lady in Town was Garson's first picture after leaving M-G-M, the studio to which she was under contract since 1939, and her last film until the 1960 Warner Bros. production, Sunrise at Campobella (see below).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States April 1955

Released in United States Spring April 1955

c WarnerColor

Cinemascope

Released in United States April 1955

Released in United States Spring April 1955