Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Allyson and Chandler at the sideshow

A STRANGER IN MY ARMS (1959). Director: Helmut Kautner.

Korean war widow Christina Beasley (June Allyson) and her mother-in-law Virgilnie (Mary Astor) are both mourning the death of son and husband, Donald (Peter Graves). The women, especially Virgilnie, are hoping that Major Pike Yarnell (Jeff Chander) will use his influence to get Donald a posthumous Medal of Honor, even though it's given in only the most extreme of circumstances. At first Pike doesn't even want to come to a ceremony for the man who was his navigator, but his attraction to widow Christina gets the better of him. As Pike and Chris find themselves increasingly drawn to one another, Chris must face the reality of her marriage, and Virgilnie must confront the even more difficult reality of her relationship with her son, as well as what happened on the life raft that Pike and Donald shared in the days before Donald's death (shown in flashback). A Stranger in My Arms certainly sets up an intriguing situation, but it's still rather dull, and as a romance it misfires because the leads have no chemistry. Not only is the sexless Allyson a mismatch for the virile Chandler, but she's so short next to him that there are times you get the strange sensation that Pike is pitching woo to a circus midget [not that there's anything wrong with that]! Allyson and Chandler offer competent performances, but nothing more than that, leaving the acting honors to Mary Astor, who has an especially good scene reacting to a note left for her by her son. As Donald's bimbo sister, Sandra Dee seems like a moron. Charles Coburn plays Donald's wealthy grandfather, who thinks he can buy anything, even a medal; he's fine but appears too briefly. Conrad Nagel is suitably low-key as Astor's put-upon husband and Graves is adequate but unimpressive in the flashbacks on the life raft. Kautner did a few American films and then went back to Germany.

Verdict: Intriguing situations of which the most is not made. **1/2.

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