Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon: The Stranger's Return (1933)



"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.



26 comments:

  1. This sounds like a wonderful film, with amazing actors whose chemistry would shine! Your written such a compelling description of the story, I'm already drawn into it... and now must find a copy and watch it! Thanks for the wonderful recommendation, yet another example of Miriam Hopkins' versatile talent and beauty... Cheers Joey

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  2. PS: Joey from The Last Drive In blog!

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    1. Thanks, Joey. The movie was one I had read about for years, but didn't see it until it was screened on TCM last autumn. It truly lived up to its reputation.

      PS: I'm going to have nightmares thinking about that "Outer Limits" episode!

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  3. I'm going to have to see it. It sounds fantastic! And yes, Miriam's Grande Dame Guignol performance will disturb your sleep even more than the story itself. She truly brought a Gothic shiver to the episode despite the silly monster in the box! Cheers

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  4. Got this off TCM recently and very much looking forward to watching it, more so after reading this. I really enjoy Hopkins' work whether zany or touching and this sounds like a great role for her and fine cast overall.

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    1. "The Stranger's Return" is a lovely movie on its own, but taken in conjunction with Miriam's other films of the year it is truly a revealing study of her range. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

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  5. Another treasure from Miriam that is one I will be on the lookout for. In her youth she was such a versatile actress. Great review, my dear.

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    1. Thanks. Sometimes when you recommend a movie to someone there is always the fear that you may be overstating its case. This is definitely not one of those times.

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  6. This looks like a film I would adore. I MUST see this! I'm intrigued by her scenes with Lionel Barrymore.

    Great review! Thanks so much for adding it to the blogathon. :)

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    1. Hopkins and Barrymore are a treasure together.

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  7. I left you a comment yesterday but it seems to have disappeared into the ether - so returning to say again that I really enjoyed your review and am very keen to see this film, especially since it also stars Lionel Barrymore. Will watch out for it!

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    1. I hope you and "The Stranger's Return" have the opportunity to cross paths soon.

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  8. I haven't heard of this film, and it sounds like an unusual role for the usually acerbic Hopkins. Will definitely want to check it out. Thanks for a lovely post highlighting this film.

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    1. Thank you. It is a film to get lost in and live in, just your style.

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    2. Paddy, I thought The STRANGER'S RETURN was surprisingly poignant, with Lionel Barrymore and Miriam Hopkins, as well as young Irene Hervey, who I remember remember from, of all things, Honey West's Aunt Meg! Great post, my friend, as always! :-D

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  9. Dorian, I found the story of the people in "The Stranger's Return" very moving indeed.

    Funny, you would think my first thought when seeing Irene Hervey would be "Charlie Chan in Shanghai", but I remember her playing Steve Douglas' boss' wife on "My Three Sons". Sitcoms have a powerful effect on folks.

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  10. Never heard of it,but will keep an eye out for it. Thanks!

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    1. My pleasure. Now that the dam was broken, so to speak, when TCM ran it a few months ago, perhaps it will pop up so regularly that folks will start saying "that again!".

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  11. I must see this! And I love that dress with the bow, so 'Miriam' I think - that mix of girlish charm and self-assurance. Interesting that she made it just before Design For Living - sounds like the characters couldn't be more different!

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    1. A Miriam Hopkins evening of he 1933 films would be a great way to highlight her versatility or to make a new fan.

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  12. I went on a crusade for this title for a past TCM Party on Twitter... and ended up empty-handed. It's a quite rare film, especially here in Brazil. But I haven't given up! And the quotes you added to your rview only show how marvelous this movie may be.
    P.S.: I haven't read your against Christmas in Connecticut post because... I haven't seen Christmas in Connecticut. My bad, my bad.
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. Too bad your Twitter party didn't work out. Maybe next time the troops will rally. So glad you gave this a read.

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  13. This sounds like a movie I would enjoy. I love films and books about farm living and the depression era. I am not familiar with Miriam so look forward to seeing this film and finding out more about her. The character of her grandpa sounds very appealing as well. Thanks for your review. It was very informative!

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    1. Thank you for the compliment. I'm sure "The Stranger's Return" will be among your favourite classic movies someday.

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  14. Gosh, this sounds like a really good movie! And I can never resist Miriam Hopkins, so that is just an added bonus. Thank you for enticing me to hunt this one down. :-)

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