WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (AKA: BETRAYED)
(director: William Castle; screenwriters: from a story by George V. Moscov/Philip Yordan/Dennis Cooper; cinematographer: Ira Morgan; editor: Martin G. Cohn; cast: Kim Hunter (Millie Baxter), Dean Jagger (Paul Baxter), Robert Mitchum (Fred Graham), Neil Hamilton (Lt. Blake), Milt Kibbee (Charlie), Dick Elliott (Sam Prescott), Dewey Robinson (Newsstand Man), Claire Whitney (Middle-aged Woman), Edward Keane (Middle-aged Man), Lou Lubin (Houser, bartender); Runtime: 67; Monogram; 1944)
“It created a chilling NYC atmosphere.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A Monogram cheapie that holds up fairly well as a low-budget B-film noir, featuring Robert Mitchum in his first starring role. It’s directed by the noted schlock director William Castle, who lets the story simply unfold and doesn’t embellish it with the gimmicks he was later on to employ in his career as an exploitation filmmaker.
In a Philadelphia hotel, a very drunk Sam Prescott (Elliott) enters the bar just before closing time adorned with a lion’s head and stupidly mentions to the one patron whose face is unseen and to the bartender (Lubin), that he has $10,000 in cash on him. The patron doesn’t have a hotel room and Sam generously offers to share it with him. The next morning he’s found murdered in his room and his cash is missing. The newspapers dub it the case of the Silk Stocking murder, as the vic was strangled with silk stockings.
Millie Baxter (Kim Hunter) leaves her small town Ohio home and goes to a New York hotel as arranged, to meet her traveling salesman husband, Paul Baxter (Dean Jagger). They have been married for a month and she has only been with him a couple of times since they met in the Ohio restaurant where she was a waitress. He left after one day of marriage to hit the road. They are still really strangers.
Instead of meeting Paul at the hotel Millie meets her former beau from her hometown, also a traveling salesman, Fred Graham (Mitchum). He’s surprised that she’s married and of all things to a salesman, as he quips: “You didn’t marry me because I was a salesman. Evidently he’s a better salesman than me.” He asks her if she received a letter he wrote her in Ohio, and she tells him no. When Paul doesn’t show up the next day and she doesn’t even know where he works in NYC, Fred takes her to homicide detective Lt. Blake’s office to report her husband missing.
When Paul telephones the next day and tells her to come alone to meet him at an out of the way cafe, Fred tails her and when Paul sees him he flees. Millie becomes suspicious of his strange behavior and fears he might be the wanted killer. But she somehow trusts him and runs away with him as he requests. Paul says he was the man in Prescott’s room and was tempted by seeing the money but when he left Prescott, he was alive and had all his money. Millie believes him. But the police suspect that he was the killer and begin a manhunt, capturing him just as he finishes telling Millie he’s innocent.
It comes down to either him or Fred being the killer, and that isn’t settled until the surprising climax.
If you don’t expect much, you’ll be pleased. It created a chilling NYC atmosphere. Hunter is alone and scared to be in the big city. Her source of strength is that she always trusts her instincts. It’s a minor film, but it does a good job of providing some thrills and has its moments of pure visual delight: the scene of Hunter staring out her hotel window and her face illuminated by a flashing neon sign, as jazz sounds are coming from the street.
REVIEWED ON 8/26/2001 GRADE: C