Rachel and The Stranger is the second Robert Mitchum western released by Warner Archive this month. While it was RKO’s most successful film of 1948, the story slipped under the radar by the time the 50s started. After all, how many people remember movies about female indentured servitude from the 19th century? Not many. So, let’s take a look at the story that Norman Foster laid on us with a scripting assist from the legendary Waldo Salt.
William Holden and Loretta Young don’t work for me. I get that the setup is played for almost sitcom style shenanigans, but I thought they could’ve sold the authenticity of the situation better. Loretta Young played a woman in trouble and William Holden had the means to buy her a new life. However, they both felt societal pressure to make their sham marriage look real to the outside world. It’s only when get someone that can threaten the sanctity that makes it real.
Robert Mitchum had just got busted for marijuana possession when Rachel and The Stranger was released. RKO jumped on this, as they were desperate to find a way to angle this movie. When it’s not quite a Western and not quite a domestic drama, movies like Rachel and The Stranger are a hard sell regardless of the decade. So, a little bit of tabloid sensationalism goes a long way.
While it gets said way too much in modern coverage, this is a film that wouldn’t be made anymore. Hell, the average Twitter user couldn’t stomach rather humorous Western short story adaptations in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Staring down a period story like Rachel asks a lot of an audience that expects history to curtail to their last 6 years of being.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray comes with no special features. But, you get that stunning A/V Quality on for a Black & White movie. Norman Foster doesn’t have any other films on Blu-ray, so hopefully this is the start of getting a Golden Age journeyman representation during the HD age. I’m not holding my breath, but if anyone is going to resurrect offbeat Westerns…it’s going to be Warner Archive.