House of Strangers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay byPhilip Yordan
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (uncredited)
Based onI'll Never Go There Any More
1941 novel
by Jerome Weidman
Produced bySol C. Siegel
StarringEdward G. Robinson
Susan Hayward
Richard Conte
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Edited byHarmon Jones
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
Color processBlack and white
Production
company
20th Century Fox
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 1, 1949 (1949-07-01)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$2 million[1]

House of Strangers is a 1949 American film noir directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Edward G. Robinson, Susan Hayward, and Richard Conte.[2][3] The screenplay by Philip Yordan and Mankiewicz (who chose to go uncredited) is the first of three film versions of Jerome Weidman's novel I'll Never Go There Any More, the others being the Spencer Tracy western Broken Lance (1954) and The Big Show (1961).

Plot

Gino Monetti is a rags-to-riches Italian-American banker in New York City whose questionable business practices result in a number of criminal charges. Three of his four grown sons, the ambitious Joe, playboy Tony, and physically imposing Pietro, unhappy at their domineering father's dismissive treatment of them, refuse to help Gino when he is put on trial. Max, a lawyer, is the only son who stays loyal to his father. He believes Gino has done nothing that warrants punishment by jail time, and serves as Gino's attorney during the trial.

After Gino signs ownership of his bank over to his wife Theresa as a temporary protective measure, Joe persuades his mother to sign it over to him and seizes control. Gino is relegated to an early retirement with a meager monthly allowance. The three brothers conspire to send Max to jail as well. When Max tells Joe of his plan to bribe a sympathetic juror to ensure a mistrial for Gino, Joe arranges for the police to catch him in the act. Max is disbarred and sentenced to seven years in prison; Max's fiance Maria Domenico breaks off their engagement to marry Tony, but Irene Bennett, a former client of Max's whom he fell in love with, waits for him.

Meanwhile, Gino's trial ends in an acquittal, but he remains humiliated by Joe, Tony, and Pietro's betrayal and is directionless without his bank to run. He drinks and smokes heavily, and writes countless letters to Max decrying his other sons' mistreatment of them both. Irene urges Gino to stop sending the letters, knowing that Gino is trying to divide the brothers and provoke Max to take revenge, but the Monetti patriarch refuses to relent. Eventually, Gino dies, and Max is let out of prison for a half-day to attend the funeral. There, Max vows revenge on his brothers and ignores his mother's pleas to let go of the hate that Gino had cultivated between them.

Max returns to the family home after completing his sentence, intent on enacting plans to destroy his brothers and their bank, but has a sudden change of heart when he realizes that his father had been the source of the family's conflict. Max is then confronted by his brothers, who still believe Max will follow through on his vow. After a fight in which Max is incapacitated, Joe orders Pietro to throw Max off their house's balcony to his death. Pietro hesitates, and Joe begins insulting Pietro in the same way their father always had, prompting Pietro to turn on Joe instead. Max saves Joe from Pietro's wrath by convincing Pietro that if he kills Joe, he would be doing exactly as their father would have wanted. Max then leaves his brothers to rejoin Irene and travel to San Francisco, where they plan to start a new life together.

Cast

Reception

Critical response

Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, writing, "Joseph L. Mankiewicz stylishly helms the dark screenplay by Philip Yordan of Jerome Weidman's novel I'll Never Go There Any More ... It's a bitter psychological family drama that focuses on hatred as the family's driving force instead of love. Max is the ambivalent hero, the only one in the film who is a true film noir character, who is punished for being loyal to his father yet is someone who has rejected the ways of the old-country and its traditionalism for the ethics of the New World. Superb performances by Conte, Robinson, and Adler lift the ordinary dramatics into loftier territory."[4]

Accolades

The film was entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival[5] and Edward G. Robinson won the prize for Best Actor.[6]

References

  1. ^ "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  2. ^ "House of Strangers". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  3. ^ House of Strangers at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Dennis Archived 2013-12-19 at the Wayback Machine. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 13, 2004. Accessed: July 12, 2013.
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: House of Strangers". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Awards 1949". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-09.