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

Thursday, October 8, 2015


NEVER LOVE A STRANGER (1958). Director: Robert Stevens.

Now where have you heard this before? In the 1920's two friends grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, with one becoming a criminal and the other a prosecutor, until their paths cross violently once again. This story was old when co-producer Harold Robbins wrote his bestseller, "Never Love a Stranger" in the fifties, and there's nothing new or original in the film version. Frankie Kane (John Drew Barrymore) is an orphan raised by Catholics who doesn't realize he's actually Jewish, like his buddy Martin (Steve McQueen). Frank becomes "gray and bitter before his time," as the tiresome narrator tells us, but we're not shown what makes him so. In any case, he becomes a career criminal and Martin an assistant D.A. Whatever its flaws, Never Love a Stranger is watchable for no other reason than the cast. Barrymore [High School Confidential] proves that talent runs in his famous family with an excellent performance as the protagonist, and Steve McQueen [The Towering Inferno] is also admirable as his old buddy turned nemesis. Lita Milan and Robert Bray are also notable as Frankie's girlfriend and a mob boss whom he eventually supplants. John Drew Barrymore [aka John Barrymore, Jr.] was the son of John Barrymore, and the father of Drew Barrymore and John Blyth Barrymore, both actors. John Drew Barrymore's erratic behavior prevented him from building on his early promise, as he had the looks and talent to have a more than satisfactory career. Another adaptation of a Harold Robbins potboiler was The Carpetbaggers.

Verdict: Passable melodrama with some very good performances. **1/2.

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