"Coming home to a place he's never been before"
- Rocky Mountain High, John Denver
Miriam Hopkins stars as Louise Storr in The Stranger's Return. The movie was adapted by Phil Strong (State Fair) from his novel and directed by King Vidor (The Crowd). It is the story of finding yourself and believing in who you found.
Louise was born in New York City, bred for the city, lived the life of a city girl. Louise was married and separated in the city. Worn out by the city, and the Great Depression, Louise arrives at Storr Haven, the Iowa farm her father left years ago after a fight with his own father. She's a stranger, yet she's coming home.
Lionel Barrymore, Miriam Hopkins
Grandpa Storr and Louise
Grandpa: "I'd rather spend two minutes doing the things I want to do than a hundred years doing the things I don't want to do."
Louise forms an immediate bond with her 85-year-old grandfather played by Lionel Barrymore. The Storr's are fighters; clear-eyed cynics who bury their sentiment deep. Louise and Grandpa are cut from the same cloth. They are two souls that were meant to be together. For many years Grandpa has lived on the farm, only leaving once as a Union soldier in the Civil War. He spends his days among strangers, for the folks he shares the farm with are not related by blood. They are nieces by marriage as in the case of bossy Beatrice played by Beulah Bondi, a step-daughter, Thelma played by Aileen Carlyle, from one of his marriages and her husband Allen played by Grant Mitchell. If they care for Grandpa it is secondary to his role as a provider.
Aileen Carlyle, Miriam Hopkins, Beulah Bondi
Thelma Redfield, Louise Storr, Beatrice Storr
Thelma: "If you want to go back now, dear, we would see that you had enough to begin again. Otherwise, I think you may get invitations to leave from outsiders.
Louise: "That's what I just had."
Louise's arrival at Storr Haven is cause for major concern among the Storr relatives, spurred by Beatrice's fear of losing her position on the farm and what she sees as her rightful inheritance. Louise makes it easy for the small town gossip mongers through her relationship with neighbouring married farmer Guy Crane played by Franchot Tone. Guy is a graduate of Cornell University, has published papers on agriculture, and on more than one occasion has turned down the opportunity to return to the University to teach. He is happy with his life on the farm with his lovely wife Nettie played by Irene Hervey and a young son Widdie played by Tad Alexander. At the same time, Guy is immediately drawn to Louise with her vivacious looks and mind. Like Louise and Grandpa, they speak the same language, but with the added allure of romance.
Louise is discovering that her most important relationship is that with the farm. She has found her true home. Her energy and honesty win her the admiration of farm hand Simon played by Stuart Irwin. He's a bit of a rascal, and a little bit lazy, but he's Grandpa's loyal friend. Louise also wins over the workers who help at threshing time when she shows what a good sport she is handling the hungry crowd at lunchtime. Winning bits of business and Hopkins' timing make the scene a joyful triumph as directed by King Vidor.
Irene Hervey, Franchot Tone, Miriam Hopkins
Nettie Crane, Guy Crane, Louise Storr
Grandpa: "You find a lot of couples like that. Childhood sweethearts. He went away to school and when he came back they didn't take the time to find out if they still liked each other."
Louise has found a home on a farm which may never be hers. She has found love with a man who never can be hers. She has found friends and she has found enemies. Can she find the strength to be true to herself. She ran away from trouble once. Is Storr Haven where Louise stops running and takes a stand?
Miriam Hopkins was 31 years old when she made this film in 1933; in her filmography it falls between the controversial The Story of Temple Drake and the sophisticated Design for Living. Louise Storr is the most down-to-earth characters of that year's output. Miriam's vitality is on full display, and her humanity is expressed sincerely. The affectionate scenes with Lionel Barrymore particularly have a genuineness that easily strikes a responsive chord with the viewer. The 1930s were a special time for Miriam Hopkins, Hollywood leading lady, with a variety of roles in which she excelled. The Stranger's Return is a gentle and thoughtful entry in Miriam's films.
Ruth of Silver Screenings and Maedez of A Small Press Life and Font and Frock are hosting The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon from January 22nd to 25th. It is a privilege to participate and to learn more about the talented actress from her many fans.