Wednesday, September 5, 2018

THE JOSEPH COTTEN BLOGATHON: Walk Softly, Stranger (1950)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Movies and Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are the hosts of The Joseph Cotten Blogathon running from September 5th to September 7th. 


Contributions:  DAY 1   DAY 2   DAY 3

Walk Softly, Stranger is a redemptive romance with noir trimmings. A man played by Joseph Cotten tosses a coin and decides "The Little Big City of Ashton - Home of Corelli Shoes" is the place to discard his past and start a new life. A little research provides him with an "in" as the surrogate son/boarder with a widow played by Spring Byington. Her friendship with a foreman at the shoe factory gets the fellow she knows as Chris Hale an entry-level job at the establishment. Using a phoney history as a former resident of the town, "Chris" ingratiates himself with wealthy Elaine Corelli.

Joseph Cotten, Valli

Alida Valli plays Elaine, a beautiful socialite who lost the use of her legs in a San Moritz skiing accident. She has been isolating herself and sheltering her heart. The intriguing and seemingly straight-forward Chris Hale interests her, makes her smile, and makes her dream.

The man we know as Hale has a shady past as a gambler, a con man, and a thief. Leaving town one weekend, he and a compatriot played by Paul Stewart rob a casino owned by Howard Petrie. The thinking is that the purveyor of an illegal establishment will be loath to call the police to report the crime. Of course, that doesn't prevent the gambler from seeking his own retribution. Chris Hale feels safe in his new identity and advises his partner in crime to do likewise.

Joseph Cotten, Spring Byington, Paul Stewart

Months pass and the relationship between Chris and Elaine grows to the point where she becomes afraid of her emotions and travels to forget him. However, as the Christmas holiday approaches she cannot resist the idea of the two of them and returns to Ashton. Their affection and plans for the future bloom over some lovely Christmas scenes, which includes carolers, and a festive New Year's Eve. Stubbornly, Chris is ignoring the presence in Ashton of his now broke and frightened fellow thief. Revenge is also coming to Ashton.

Walk Softly, Stranger benefits from the direction of Robert Stevenson (Jane Eyre, Mary Poppins). I find in this, and much of Stevenson's work, a real feel for his characters and setting. In the case of this RKO production, the cast of the people surrounding Chris and Elaine are excellent. Along with Spring Byington, there is Esther Dale as Elaine's confidante and housekeeper, Frank Puglia as Mr. Corelli, Jack Paar as a work pal, and John McIntire as the factory foreman. Unfortunately, the script offers no sure intention from beginning to end which mares the finer components of the film.

Joseph Cotten is excellent at portraying the dual nature of his character. Everything he says since hitting town has been a lie, but his faux sincerity works on everyone. When do his feelings become real and when does he realize it? Perhaps it is not until he feels the noose tighten and confesses to Elaine that he didn't realize he could have what he wanted any other way. Perhaps it was when he realized that what he wanted wasn't what he needed.


Trivia:


Cotten's character takes on the name of Chris Hale when he moves to Ashton. Chris Hale was the name of co-star John McIntire's character on TVs Wagon Train.


Joseph Cotten guest-starred twice on Wagon Train. Above he is pictured with John McIntire in The John Augustus Story from season 6.












22 comments:

  1. So we know from the start he's not who he says he is?

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    1. Yep. He's a liar to the core. A flim-flam man. A nogoodnik. However, he is Joseph Cotten with all his courtly charm. His landlady, the heiress and her housekeeper all fall for him. Even the landlady's dog likes him, so he can't be all bad.

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  2. I've been wanting to see this for such a long time. Now I have to invest the money in a DVD. That's OK though. I'll gladly do that.

    Cotten and Valli again. Maybe this time around he gets the girl.

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    1. Be sure and wait for a sale. There's always a sale. Sometimes I'll buy a DVD and the day it arrives, that's when it shows up on TCM or I find it on YouTube.

      Joseph Cotten continually impresses me and the duality of his character here is a lovely test of his skill.

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  3. Paddy Lee, your good write-up has intrigued me about this movie. I have never seen it. While looking up some background on WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER I read that it was actually filmed before THE THIRD MAN(1949), but released afterward.

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    1. Fascinating. I hadn't stumbled across that fact. I love the way they subverted that for the publicity. Of course, it is true for the audience but most fun trivia. Thanks.

      It is not a groundbreaking classic, but I found much to enjoy in this little movie.

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  4. Paddy Lee, these are the type of movies that are just fine with me, especially if I like the actors and actresses.

    WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER was shelved by Howard Hughes for whatever reasons, while he was majority owner of RKO Radio Pictures.

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    1. Hughes didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to some of his actions. I really enjoyed the mood created in Walk Softly, Stranger.

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  5. An intriguing plot, to be sure! And yes, I remember Chris Hale from the final days of WAGON TRAIN! I also like the Joseph Cotton romance LOVE LETTERS, which which involves an assumed identity of sorts (in regard to writing the letters).

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    1. Love Letters is a haunting movie. I don't think I've ever stopped to appreciate how good Cotten is at various movie romances.

      The first time I saw Walk Softly, Stranger I was channel surfing and came across a scene where John McIntire called Jo Cotten "Chris Hale". That I have got to see! It took a few years before we connected.

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  6. Another film to add to my watch list! I had heard of this before, but never knew what it was about. I'm also curious to see Valli -- I've only seen her work in The Third Man and The Paradine Case, but I find her to be very interesting.

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    1. Valli plays a very vulnerable character, but there's nothing weak about her. I think you will like what you see.

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  7. This sounds terrific! Joseph Cotten would be a perfect choice in this role.

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    1. He really is perfect for this role. A cool detachment, but the emotions showing in his treatment of people he comes to care for. Very interesting.

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  8. I always want to call him "Joseph Cotton". Anyway, no one did phony sincerity better. The man with the silver voice and the counterfeit ring. He went through a phase during WW 2 as a "leading man" but he was really a great film actor. He was perfect in the role.

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    1. And a lump of lead cold as steel where a leading man's heart should be.

      The "e" is like the "a" for K. Hepburn. Once you got it, you got it.

      Indeed, I can't think of anyone who could handle this role better.

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  9. Hi Paddy Lee!
    I have often seen you commenting on other blogs and decided to check yours out! I am glad I did so. I love your friendliness and your articles! I will surely read them.

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    1. Thanks so much. I'll be looking for you.

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  10. I love Cotten but never heard of this film. Sounds like his character here is similar to his character in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. I like your term "faux sincerity". That describes his Uncle Charlie character perfectly :-).

    Tam May
    The Dream Book Blog
    https://thedreambookblog.wordpress.com

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    1. Cotten had a way with these duplicitous characters that was subtle and believable.

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  11. I saw this one for the first time a few months back. I really enjoyed it and Joseph's performance played a major role in my enjoyment. A very good film which deserves to be much better known. Thanks for joining our blogathon with this post.

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    1. My pleasure. It is a low-key, under-the-radar sort of film yet I found it very worthy.

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