When Strangers Marry (AKA “Betrayed”)
Directed by William Castle
Written by Philip Yordan and Dennis J. Cooper; story by George Moskov
King Brothers Productions
First viewing/for rent on YouTube
What a nifty little B noir from poverty row! The King Brothers got their hands on a great cast early in their careers, including Robert Mitchum in his first leading role.
A face wearing a lion’s mask fills the screen. It belongs to the very drunk Sam Prescott who aims to party all night long and is flashing around a wad of bills. The bartender asks him if he would be willing to let a patron, whose back is facing us, use his room for the night as all the hotels are full up with a convention.
There is a change of scene and Mildred Baxter (Kim Hunter) takes a seat in the compartment of a married couple. We find out she is a naive young newlywed traveling to New York to meet up with her husband, whom she hasn’t seen since their wedding day. She is unable to tell her traveling companions exactly what he does or much else about him because she went on exactly three dates with him before their marriage.
Mildred proceeds to the named hotel but her husband has not checked in. She runs into an old boyfriend, Fred Graham (Mitchum), almost immediately. He keeps her company through many hours during which she does not hear from the husband. When she finally does, he does not come to the hotel but asks her to meet him in the seedy part of town. Graham, although he has been spurned for another man, keeps a watchful eye on Mildred.
When we finally meet Paul Baxter (Dean Jagger), he is living under an assumed name and wants to keep his wife strictly to himself. There is an atmosphere of secrecy over everything he does and eventually Mildred catches him in a series of lies. It would not be fair to continue describing the many twists and turns in the plot.
I did not know quite what to expect from a film directed by schlock-master William Castle but I thought he did a great job. He is a master of the shocker jump cut and it worked quite well with the story line of this shortish film. It is remarkably polished for a low-budget effort. Mitchum was born to play these parts and is already a master at it this early in the game. I enjoyed every minute and would recommend it as a fun minor noir gem.