Cast & Crew
At the Philadelphia Hotel bar, Sam Prescott, a loquacious drunk, drops a fistful of cash and then brags that he always carries at least $10,000. After a man in a hat stoops to help Prescott pick up his cash, the bartender mentions to Prescott that the man has been unable to procure a room. Prescott generously offers to share his, and the next morning, the hotel maid discovers Prescott's dead body when she comes to clean his room. On a train bound for New York, meanwhile, Millie Baxter accidentally enters a compartment occupied by a middle-aged couple. Millie blurts out the news that she has just wed, and states that she married her husband, a salesman who was abruptly called away on business, after just three dates. Extracting a telegram from her pocket, Millie studies the message sent from Philadelphia by her husband Paul, directing her to meet him at the Sherwin Hotel the next day. Upon reaching New York, Millie eagerly proceeds to the hotel and there learns that her husband has not yet arrived. In the lobby, she meets Fred Graham, an old beau, who asks Millie whether she received the letter he sent her. Millie replies she has not, and informs the crestfallen Fred of her recent marriage. Later, Charlie, the desk clerk, reads a newspaper account about Prescott's murder, which has been dubbed the "Silk Stocking Murder" because the killer used a silk stocking to strangle his victim. When Paul fails to arrive that night, Millie becomes worried. The following morning, she confides her concern to Fred, who offers to accompany her to the police station to file a missing persons report. At the station, Fred directs Millie to the desk of Lt. Blake, a homicide detective. Blake becomes intrigued when Millie shows him Paul's telegram from Philadelphia and decides to pursue the investigation. Fred then escorts Millie back to her hotel room, and when she receives a phone call from Paul, directing her to a street corner, she hurries to meet him there. Just as Millie recognizes the back of Paul's hat-bearing head, Fred catches up to her, and by the time she has turned back around, Paul has gone. Later, at the hotel, Fred learns from the desk clerk that Millie has checked out after receiving another phone call. Millie, meanwhile, proceeds to an apartment building and finds Paul seated in a darkened room. When Millie questions Paul about his odd behavior, he tries to reassure her, but later, he overhears a neighbor discussing the Silk Stocking Murder and abruptly departs. At headquarters, meanwhile, Blake questions the Philadelphia Hotel bartender about the night of the murder and the man recalls that the stranger at the bar was carrying a suitcase bearing a tag from the Sherwin Hotel. Continuing his investigation, Blake summons Fred to his office for questioning. After leaving Blake's office, Fred encounters Millie in the hallway and warns her that the police suspect Paul of murder. When Millie tells Fred that Paul is employed by the Anderson shirt company, Fred volunteers to visit Paul's employer. That night, Millie begs Paul to let her accompany him on his sales route to Philadelphia. After Paul denies that Philadelphia is on his route, Millie becomes suspicious and phones Fred to inquire what he discovered at the shirt company. When Fred informs her that Paul quit his job after a sales trip to Philadelphia, Millie becomes distraught and leaves the apartment, pacing the street until she comes to a newstand. In a Philadelphia paper, Millie reads that the Silk Stocking suspect has been traced to New York. Later, Millie meets Fred at a soda counter and confides her fears about her husband. When she states that she intends to confront Paul, Fred asks for her phone number and address so that he can ensure her safety. At the apartment, Millie finds a taciturn Paul grimly packing his suitcase. Declaring that he is leaving, Paul strides into the hallway, bag in hand, just as Blake arrives to question Millie. Paul hides in the stairwell as Blake enters the apartment to ask Millie for a photo of her husband. Millie takes a photo of a stranger from the mantelpiece, and hands it to Blake, claiming that it is Paul. After Blake leaves, Paul returns to the apartment. When Millie voices her concern, Paul, astounded by her loyalty, agrees to meet her later that night. After renting a room in a seamy area of the city, Millie sneaks Paul in the back door. There, after recalling the fateful night of the murder, Paul admits to being tempted by Prescott's money but denies killing him for it. Just then, Blake, alerted by the landlady's child, appears at the doorway to arrest Paul. Millie then returns to the Sherwin hotel and the desk clerk hands her Fred's letter, which had been forwarded from her home town. Meeting Fred on the hotel's roof garden, Millie opens the letter and sees that it is written on letterhead from the Philadelphia Hotel. As Fred fixes her with a sinister gaze, Millie reads his marriage proposal and his promise of a gift of silk stockings. Finally realizing that Fred is the murderer, Millie turns to face him just as he is about to push her over the ledge. Fleeing from the roof, Millie hurries to Blake with her suspicions. Although skeptical, Blake goes to the hotel to question Fred. Fred, meanwhile, is sealing a self-addressed envelope, stuffed with Prescott's money, when Blake knocks at his door. The two step into the hallway, and Fred covertly drops the envelope into the mail slot. As the hour of ten approaches, Blake notices that Fred is becoming more and more agitated. Reading on the mail slot that the next pickup is at ten, Blake runs downstairs to stop the mail carrier. As they search through the letters, Fred's envelope, which had been stuck in the chute, falls to the ground, spilling its contents. With Fred's arrest for murder, Paul, now exonerated, boards a honeymoon train with Millie. After they are settled in their compartment, a newlywed bursts in and asks to join them.
Lee "lasses" White
Martin G. Cohn
Dennis J. Cooper
F. Paul Sylos
When Strangers Marry
The project started with producers Frank, Maurice, and Herman King, of King Brothers Productions, who were making movies for peanuts in the early 1940s for Monogram. Former bootleggers and vending machine purveyors, they were colorful, cigar-chomping personalities who would later produce the classic film noir Gun Crazy (1950). At this point, they had churned out seven movies in recent years for PRC and Monogram, and for their next one they reached out to Columbia's Harry Cohn to borrow director William Castle, who had just impressed all of Hollywood with his creativity on The Whistler (1944), and who is now best remembered for The Tingler (1959).
Castle arrived for a meeting, and the Kings put him in a room to read a script. It was "miserable," Castle later wrote. "The dialogue was so bad an eight-year-old child could have done better." But it was just a test. The Kings knew it was terrible and they were hoping Castle would agree, so that they could then offer their real picture, at that point an unpublished story called Love From a Stranger. When he passed the test, Castle was introduced to screenwriter Philip Yordan, who would later make his mark as one of the top Western and epic writers in Hollywood. But at this point in early 1944, Yordan had just three B movies to his credit. He and Castle re-worked the story, adding elements they thought could work effectively for a low-budget quickie, and wound up with a simple but promising yarn of a woman arriving in New York from a small town to meet her new husband, whom she gradually suspects may be a killer. Yordan took the outline to writer Dennis J. Cooper and paid him to shape it into a screenplay, but Cooper's work, Yordan later said, was unsatisfactory: "I had to rewrite it, but I put his name on it."
The Kings loved the script and told Castle he had seven days to shoot it on a budget of $50,000. If he succeeded, they would pay him a bonus of $1000. They cast veteran supporting player Dean Jagger in the lead, along with virtual newcomer Kim Hunter (borrowed from David O. Selznick), and 27-year-old Robert Mitchum, who had been playing myriad bit parts for the past year or so including a small role in the Kings' Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1944). When Strangers Marry would turn out to be a key film in his nascent career, the first in which he significantly let loose the dark and "scary" side of his persona.
Because of the limited shooting time, Castle rounded up the cast for a week of rehearsals. Kim Hunter later said he asked the cast if they would be willing to do this for free, "'and you can't tell the King Brothers.' And we all said, 'Oh God yes, we'd love to rehearse.'" They met secretly in Castle's small apartment and worked out all the sequences in advance. "Thank God we had rehearsals," Hunter said, "because when we did go over to Monogram to start shooting there was no time to think. You moved from scene to scene. But Bill Castle was marvelous, and because of those days in [his] apartment we knew what we were doing."
Hunter added that the King brothers tried to intimidate Robert Mitchum into signing a multiyear contract, which he refused. According to Hunter, during the week of filming, Mitchum would "be sitting down, waiting for his next scene or something, and suddenly he would be surrounded...by chaps he swore had guns, and they were trying to talk him into signing. I know Bob was very glad when the film was over with because he was still alive! And believe me, we were all eager to get out of there, but Bob in particular was relieved." As it turned out, Mitchum soon signed a contract with RKO instead.
Castle drew inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock as well as producer Val Lewton's current low-budget chillers, and he succeeded in creating an effective New York City atmosphere entirely on studio sets. "I wanted the film to express the melancholia of being troubled and lonely in a strange city," Castle recounted. "Using dull, flat gray light throughout I managed to make the film stark and unrelenting, projecting the story as an actuality rather than something being enacted for a camera or audience. The terror was accentuated by the use of irritating sounds and quick cuts of grotesque and surprising images. But the miracle was that I managed to finish it in seven days, for $50,000. I got my $1,000 bonus."
When Strangers Marry wrapped in early August 1944, and was released a mere two weeks later. It drew the admiration of Orson Welles, who offered to make a movie with Castle, and rave reviews from just about everyone else. James Agee wrote in Time magazine: "I have seldom, for years now, seen one hour so energetically and sensibly used in a film." Trade paper Variety deemed the film a "taut psychological thriller about a murderer and a manhunt full of suspense and excitement. A superior sort of whodunit... Film has smart, fresh handling throughout, in scripting, direction and especially photography."
In some theaters, the picture opened on a double bill with One Mysterious Night (1944), a Boston Blackie film directed by Budd Boetticher and another example of film noir in the B movie world of 1944 Hollywood.
By Jeremy Arnold
William Castle, Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants off America
Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn, eds, Kings of the Bs
Patrick McGilligan, Backstory 2: Interviews With Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s
Don Miller, B Movies
Lee Server, Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care
When Strangers Marry
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
KIM HUNTER, 1922-2002
Kim Hunter, the versatile, distinguished actress who won the Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal as the long-suffering Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and appeared as Dr. Zira in three Planet of the Apes movies, died in her Greenwich Village apartment from an apparent heart attack on September 11, 2002. She was 79.
Born Janet Cole in Detroit on November 12, 1922, where her mother was a concert pianist, she made her professional debut at 17 with a small theatre company in Miami. She gained notice immediately with her strong voice and alluring presence, and eventually studied at the Actors' Studio in New York.
She made a striking film debut in an eerie, low-budget RKO horror film, The Seventh Victim (1943), produced by Val Lewton. She played a similar ingenue role in another stylish cult flick, When Strangers Meet (1944) - a film directed by William Castle and notable for featuring Robert Mitchum in one of his first starring roles. Hunter's big break came two years later when Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger cast her in their splendid romantic fantasy, Stairway to Heaven (1946).
Despite her growing popularity as a screen actress, Hunter returned to the stage to make her Broadway debut as Stella in Tennessee Williams'A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). When Elia Kazan adapted the production for the silver screen, she continued her role as Stella opposite Marlon Brando, and won an Oscar as best supporting actress. A few more film roles followed, but sadly her screen career entered a lull in the late 1950s, after Hunter, a liberal Democrat, was listed as a communist sympathizer by Red Channels, a red-hunting booklet that influenced hiring by studios and the Television networks. Kim was blacklisted from both mediums despite never having been labeled a Communist, yet as a strong believer in civil rights she signed a lot of petitions and was a sponsor of a 1949 World Peace Conference in New York. She was widely praised in the industry for her testimony to the New York Supreme Court in 1962 against the publishers of Red Channels, and helped pave the way for clearance of many performers unjustly accused of Communist associations.
Hunter spent the next few years on the stage and didn't make a strong impression again in films until she was cast as Dr. Zira in the Planet of the Apes (1968), as a simian psychiatrist in the classic science fiction film. The success of that film encouraged her to continue playing the same character in two back-to-back sequels - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). Hunter spent the remainder of her career on the stage and television, but she a terrific cameo role in Clint Eastwood's Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997), one of her last films. She is survived by her daughter Kathryn, from her first marriage to William Baldwin, and her son Sean, from her marriage to actor and producer Robert Emmett.
By Michael T. Toole
TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.
KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002
The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."
Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).
Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.
Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
The working title of this film was I Married a Stranger. The film was reissued in 1949 under the title Betrayed, which was the title on the viewed print. In a scene in the film in which "Lt. Blake" shows "Fred Graham" some slides related to a murder case he once solved, a photograph of character actor Byron Foulger is shown as "Albert Foster." Foulger did not appear elsewhere in the film. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Paul Kelly was originally to have played the male lead. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items add Janie Mattman and Mary Field to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. When Strangers Marry was one of the first films in which Robert Mitchum portrayed a menacing character, a type of role that he became known for in later films.