Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Love With the Proper Stranger (1963)

An erratically employed musician learns that a Macy's salesgirl he doesn't remember is expecting his baby. The couple get to know one another as they try to decide how to deal with the situation, and eventually both wonder if perhaps they've found LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER.

Rocky (Steve McQueen) and Angie (Natalie Wood) are nice kids who both have some growing up to do. Rocky has been a commitment-shy ladies' man who doesn't put much effort into relationships, whether it's the sort-of girlfriend he lives with (Edie Adams) or his parents, whom he doesn't see often. Angie, on the other hand, is being suffocated by her mother and three brothers, who track her every move and try to plan her love life. She longs to move out and have some independence.

It's an interesting and absorbing film as Rocky and Angie wrestle with the consequences of their past and current choices, develop into more mature people, and inch toward a relationship with one another. The situation shocks Rocky into acting like a responsible adult who cares about someone else's feelings, while Angie, having faced up to the situation with her family, spreads her wings and rents her own apartment for the first time.

The two leads are excellent; they are both very expressive, and much of their communication is nonverbal. Wood was nominated for Best Actress for this film.

The supporting cast includes Tom Bosley, in his film debut, as the man Angie's brothers want her to date. Angie's brothers are portrayed by Herschel Bernardi, Harvey Lembeck, and E. Nick Alexander, with Penny Santon playing her mother.

A nice touch: in the background in the Rossini home are portraits of Natalie Wood as a little girl.

The movie has a great sense of style. It was filmed on location in New York, in beautiful black and white, by Milton Krasner. Krasner received one of the film's five Oscar nominations. Edith Head was also nominated, for best costume design; Angie certainly had a beautiful wardrobe for a shopgirl on a budget. Her coats are gorgeous, and the black dress she wears in the next-to-last scene is a knockout. The film was also nominated for Art Direction and Writing.

The score is by Elmer Bernstein, who cowrote the title song with Johnny Mercer.

LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER was directed by Robert Mulligan, who had directed TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) immediately prior to making this film.

It's rather surprising that this movie isn't yet available on DVD. It has been released on VHS.

This film can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER takes tough subject matter, including the possibility of abortion, and turns it into a positive story of growth, maturity, and commitment -- and happiness too. A very enjoyable film.

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