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Subtext in THE STRANGER (1946)

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 One thing that has always surprised me was Robinson missing Kindler's giveaway remark

about Marx being a Jew not a German. I figured a crack Nazi hunter would have

immediately realized the significance of that remark instead of not doing so until

he woke up in the middle of the night. Of course that was much more dramatic.

 

True, but it was not surprising to an American movie audience in 1946. This was probably the first time they had heard it.

 

In speeches and interviews, back in the early 1920s, Einstein often said that if his theory turned out to be wrong, the German physicists would call him a Jew, but if it turned out to be right, they would call him a German. But that little joke of his never became widespread public knowledge. :)

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I also have to respectfully disagree with Osborne's opening remarks that there were no American films that showed Nazis in America- has he forgotten Saboteur, All Through the Night ...etc.

Yes-- I think his being billed as a film historian is stretching it sometimes. A true film historian would have pointed that out.

 

Getting back to the gay subtext-- the scene with the boys playing and the two men having intense physical contact in the bushes is very odd, to say the least-- it is like what one often sees with Hitchcock, that murders and sex are symbolically linked. This is a very perverse death in THE STRANGER, and the way it is juxtaposed with a parade of adolescent boys in the woods underscores the idea that unnatural activities are occurring in this sleepy hamlet. Later, the dog's determination to dig up the body and the killing of the dog re-emphasizes such unnaturalness. And then there's the dinner table scene where Mary tells Mr. Wilson that she doesn't want the town clock to work, even after her honeymoon-- a knowing nod to the strangely dysfunctional dynamic between her and Kindler and their brand of intimacy. In the end, their intimacy is exposed for the fraud it is--she reasons that her reputation and her love have been ruined, to the extreme lengths that it is now her turn to die and to take Kinder with her in the fall-- borrowing imagery from the myth of Orpheus in the Underworld.

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I love this movie, but I didn't pick up on a whit of gay subtext...

 

I will also add that (as much as I love it) The Stranger was a very poor choice for inclusion as part of "The Jewish Experience" and Dr. Goldman's rather unfocused remarks didn't do a thing to show why it should have been. There are no Jews in this film and to say it is a Jewish film simply because it has Nazis and/or Holocaust footage is a bit belittling to Jews and shallow in thinking- there is so much more in the definition and depiction of the culture and the people than that dark part of their history.

 

The Eddie Cantor Story which aired at 6 pm today- for all its numerous faults- was a better choice for inclusion in The Jewish Experience than The Stranger.

 

I also have to respectfully disagree with Osborne's opening remarks that there were no American films that showed Nazis in America- has he forgotten Saboteur, All Through the Night and Tomorrow: The World! ? (That last one is camp and a bit of a stretch, I admit.)

It was my understanding that he was referring to Nazis hiding in America after the war. The films you mentioned were made while we were involved in WW2. "The Stranger" takes place after the war and Nazis hiding here with or without the Governments knowledge.One of the very best films regarding the Nazi menace was the pre war "Confessions of A Nazi Spy" with {again the wonderful Edward G. as the FBI agent} going after agents sent by the German Government in the months before we entered the war. It was released in 1940 and was the first anti Nazi film produced by a major studio. It was banned in Germany, Japan and some other European countries.

 

Ironic that "The Stranger" was the only film Welles directed that was a box office hit on its first release. Another fact was that Welles wanted Agnes Moorehead to play the role that Eddie Robinson played, but the producer was firm on Edward G....

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no way i would've ascended (or descended) that bloody ladder; no way.        smh.gif

 

if you ask me, it was the creepiest part of the movie.

 

astranger8.jpg

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. Another fact was that Welles wanted Agnes Moorehead to play the role that Eddie Robinson played, but the producer was firm on Edward G....

Or, to find a male who looks like Agnes Moorehead, they could have just used Martin Kosleck, except he looks and sounds too much like a Nazi.

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Another fact was that Welles wanted Agnes Moorehead to play the role that Eddie Robinson played, but the producer was firm on Edward G....

 

I've heard this; and it would have been really interesting- adding a little unconventionality to what is perhaps Orson's most conventional film. As terrific as Eddie G. is in this, casting him in the role is sort of a no-brainer- it's got his name all over it.

 

With Aggie in the Robinson role, the climax in the belfry would take on an interesting subtext- two women- traditionally seen as nurturers and givers of life- take on (and take out) a man whose main aim in life was to exterminate as many lives as possible.

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It was my understanding that (Osborne) was referring to Nazis hiding in America after the war. 

No. He did not clarify it that way. Also, Dr. Goldman even said there had been films during the war that played up the idea that the enemy could turn up on American shores. So there was an opportunity for Osborne to clarify and to mention a film like SABOTEUR.

 

Another thing that Osborne didn't clarify was he mentioned GILDA in reference to Nazis in South America, but then when he discussed THE STRANGER again, he said it was the first time Nazis had been in America (presumably after the war). But South America is part of America, so he should have said that THE STRANGER shows Nazis for the first time after the war in North America-- and this is provided that Mexican and Canadian cinema did not already beat Hollywood to the punch.

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I think maybe what Dr. Goldman meant -- and I tend to agree with him -- is that The Stranger was the first mainstream American film to mention Nazi atrocities. Yes, there were plenty of films up to that time depicting evil Germans as enemies of America in World War II, but none that really presented and mentioned the details of the camps. I think to do that was an important motivation to Welles, and makes The Stranger different.

 

This is reflected first in Rankin's rehearsed speech about the "fiery sword of Siegfried," and later, and much more emphatically, in Wilson's speech about Nazi atrocities.

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As terrific as Eddie G. is in this, casting him in the role is sort of a no-brainer- it's got his name all over it.

 

 

I completely agree.  And audiences would have remembered his work in CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY as well as DOUBLE INDEMNITY when they saw the posters advertising this film. So casting Robinson brings that built-in audience and helps ensure its box office success in a way that casting someone else wouldn't.

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I love this movie, but I didn't pick up on a whit of gay subtext...

 

I will also add that (as much as I love it) The Stranger was a very poor choice for inclusion as part of "The Jewish Experience" and Dr. Goldman's rather unfocused remarks didn't do a thing to show why it should have been. There are no Jews in this film and to say it is a Jewish film simply because it has Nazis and/or Holocaust footage is a bit belittling to Jews and shallow in thinking- there is so much more in the definition and depiction of the culture and the people than that dark part of their history.

 

The Eddie Cantor Story which aired at 6 pm today- for all its numerous faults- was a better choice for inclusion in The Jewish Experience than The Stranger.

 

I also have to respectfully disagree with Osborne's opening remarks that there were no American films that showed Nazis in America- has he forgotten Saboteur, All Through the Night and Tomorrow: The World! ? (That last one is camp and a bit of a stretch, I admit.)

 

 

Didnt Saboteur take place in England?

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Didnt Saboteur take place in England?

Nope. You're thinking of SABOTAGE (also by Hitchcock). SABOTEUR definitely takes place in the U.S.

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Nope. You're thinking of SABOTAGE (also by Hitchcock). SABOTEUR definitely takes place in the U.S.

 

No, I was thinking of Foreign Correspondent. All similar subject matter.............

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I have always liked THE STRANGER, and while I have thought there were strange goings on, I had never thought of a gay subtext. So having followed this thread, I was curious to see it yesterday with that in mind. Several things early on I could see as maybe playing up to that: the aforementioned furtive meeting in the woods seems like sexual encounters between men in such places; there is an early line of dialogue about "you can't help who you fall in love with"; the husband saying, "I need to take a walk, I'm much too restless". These all are rather obvious references, but as I watched more, it seemed less and less likely that the gay subtext had been intentional, except maybe Robinson bringing Long into his confidence, with a "Why don't you like your brother in law" lead in. But some of the symbolism mentioned here seems very heavy handed.at best; that poker does not seem very phallic at all.

 

In this day and age, with gay rights and gay marriage accepted by a majority of society, and more all the time, I find it appalling that, even in that time, someone might equate the horrors of nazis and the holocaust with being gay. Yes I know it was conxidered a serious disorder then, something to be ashamed of, to deny and hide, even be persecuted over, but I don't think a liberal like Welles would have couched his film with what the "real menace" to America might be, homosexuality.

 

PS....it seemed clear from the comments that this film.was.included because it depicted the horrors of the holocaust for the first time, in a Hollywood movie. Also, that it was the first Hollywood movie to deal with nazis coming to America, and hiding their identity, AFTER the war.

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I find it appalling that, even in that time, someone might equatr the horrors of nazis and the holocaust with being gay. Yes I know it was conxidered a serious disorder then, something to be ashamed of, to deny and hide, even be persecuted over, but I don't think a liberal like Welles would have couched his film with what the "real menace" to America might be, homosexuality.

Unless Welles saw it as rich material to explore in an indirect way given the constraints of the production code. For all we know, he (or any of the other four writers on this project) might have thought the Nazis were all closeted homophobes. The murder scene in the woods is very kinky-- we have Meinike talking about Jesus and passionately praying as Kindler attacks him. And just a short while earlier, Meinike had attempted to kill Wilson. It's a twisted org-y of violence, playing out across several scenes with an unsuspecting community the backdrop. So while the area's residents would not even consider the threat of Nazism encroaching upon their scenic idyllic part of the world, we can suppose they would be just as oblivious to the presence of homosexuals.

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Does anyone know where The Stranger was filmed? I'm assuming some place in CA? It looked like a real town (at least the church area)........or was it filmed somewhere else?

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Does anyone know where The Stranger was filmed? I'm assuming some place in CA? It looked like a real town (at least the church area)........or was it filmed somewhere else?

According to the trivia section at the IMDB, it was filmed primarily on the backlot at United Artists:

 

The vast New England town exterior sets, including the church with its 124-foot clock tower, were constructed in Hollywood on the back lot of the United Artists studio located on Santa Monica Blvd. In some production shots taken by LIFE Magazine, the circular metal scaffolding of a huge collapsible natural-gas storage tank can be seen behind some of the sets. The only such tank near a Hollywood studio was a block away from UA.

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Unless Welles saw it as rich material to explore in an indirect way given the constraints of the production code. For all we know, he (or any of the other four writers on this project) might have thought the Nazis were all closeted homophobes. The murder scene in the woods is very kinky-- we have Meinike talking about Jesus and passionately praying as Kindler attacks him. And just a short while earlier, Meinike had attempted to kill Wilson. It's a twisted org-y of violence, playing out across several scenes with an unsuspecting community the backdrop. So while the area's residents would not even consider the threat of Nazism encroaching upon their scenic idyllic part of the world, we can suppose they would be just as oblivious to the presence of homosexuals.

I don't buy for a minute that there was an undercurrent of homosexuality in this film.

 

Consider the source - the posters at IMDb are out to lunch on a good day.

 

Makes for a good thread, though, especially for those who heard messages from Satan in the vinyl albums of yore.

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According to the trivia section at the IMDB, it was filmed primarily on the backlot at United Artists:

 

The vast New England town exterior sets, including the church with its 124-foot clock tower, were constructed in Hollywood on the back lot of the United Artists studio located on Santa Monica Blvd. In some production shots taken by LIFE Magazine, the circular metal scaffolding of a huge collapsible natural-gas storage tank can be seen behind some of the sets. The only such tank near a Hollywood studio was a block away from UA.

 

 

They did a good job. Considering the budget of the film, I didnt think they'd ok going on location, but I thought maybe the town square was somewhere in CA....

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According to the trivia section at the IMDB, it was filmed primarily on the backlot at United Artists:

 

The vast New England town exterior sets, including the church with its 124-foot clock tower, were constructed in Hollywood on the back lot of the United Artists studio located on Santa Monica Blvd. In some production shots taken by LIFE Magazine, the circular metal scaffolding of a huge collapsible natural-gas storage tank can be seen behind some of the sets. The only such tank near a Hollywood studio was a block away from UA.[/size]

I had always figured that it was done on a studio backlot because, unfortunately, when the town is first shown, going from postcard to the real deal, in the far center right background you can see two Mexican fan palms. Ruins the New England townscape for a bit lol.

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I had always figured that it was done on a studio backlot because, unfortunately, when the town is first shown, going from postcard to the real deal, in the far center right background you can see two Mexican fan palms. Ruins the New England townscape for a bit lol.

 

 

LOL. I didnt see those............

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I don't buy for a minute that there was an undercurrent of homosexuality in this film.

 

Consider the source - the posters at IMDb are out to lunch on a good day.

 

Makes for a good thread, though, especially for those who heard messages from Satan in the vinyl albums of yore.

 

I am with you primosprimos, I have never received the impression that The Stranger had undercurrents of homosexuality. And I've seen it several times including the other night. I really think it's a terrific movie with all the actors doing very valid work.

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I am with you primosprimos, I have never received the impression that The Stranger had undercurrents of homosexuality. And I've seen it several times including the other night. I really think it's a terrific movie with all the actors doing very valid work.

 

Is seeing a subtext or not,   like feeling fear about something or not?   i.e. It is 100% from the POV of the individual.   

 

That based on one's own experience they may see a subtext that someone without those experiences would NOT see?

 

Therefore one isn't wrong if they see a  subtext someone else doesn't see.    Just like one cannot be wrong for fearing something someone else does NOT fear.

 

I have sat with ancestors of the holocaust and slavery and they often see subtext in films I don't.   I see them get emotional because something in the film triggers a memory or experience.    Something that I can't see and that had no impact on me.

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Does anyone know where The Stranger was filmed? I'm assuming some place in CA? It looked like a real town (at least the church area)........or was it filmed somewhere else?

 

that's crazy- I wanted to ask the same question. (it bore a resemblance to the "town square" set on the WB lot, which is still extant.)

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Is seeing a subtext or not,   like feeling fear about something or not?   i.e. It is 100% from the POV of the individual.   

 

That based on one's own experience they may see a subtext that someone without those experiences would NOT see?

 

Therefore one isn't wrong if they see a  subtext someone else doesn't see.    Just like one cannot be wrong for fearing something someone else does NOT fear.

 

I have sat with ancestors of the holocaust and slavery and they often see subtext in films I don't.   I see them get emotional because something in the film triggers a memory or experience.    Something that I can't see and that had no impact on me.

Ah, that then is different from the original post. If a subtext is seen only by those who have an emotional reaction to a movie due to a trauma in their background, then those who created and produced the film didn't expect the rest of the audience to extract that subtext from the movie.

 

As you said earlier:

 

People do tend to see things in films or song lyrics,  based on their own upbringing, that the creator of the work never intended.

 

Then like the tree in the forest, doesn't that mean they're not really there?

 

Other than the view of a poster on IMDb, are there any treatises on the undercurrent of homosexuality in The Stranger? I certainly can't find any.

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Too bad Kindler wasn't on the V-2 team, he would have had no problems. :)

 

LOL

 

OR, as the old joke goes:

 

(...somewhere inside a German high school classroom circa 1925...)

 

"You KNOW Herr von Braun,  you've missed school THREE TIMES this week ALREADY!", says his teacher.

 

Little Werner replies: "Yah, I know Herr Teacher, but these last few times, ONLY by a few hundred meters!"

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