This 1955 little remembered Stanley Krammer classic highlight post World War II medical practice with standout performances by all. Lucas Marsh feels he is destined to be a great doctor and no obstacle will get in the way of his dream even if it involves breaking hearts. The film adapted from a Morton Thompson novel, shows the transition of Dr. Lucas Marsh, an ambitious medical student played by Robert Mitchum into a work consumed doctor. The film opens with Marsh and Alfred Boone played by Frank Sinatra, as two medical student roommates with different goals. Boone is enjoying life making wise cracks at the expense of his teachers, while Marsh is unwilling to give in to distraction. When Marsh is unable to pay tuition fees, and threatened with being withdrawn from the course, he is desperate to find a quick solution. Which he finds in the company of an older woman, a Swedish nurse named Kris played by Olivia de Havilland. Though a talent nurse Kris is meek and lonely and her obvious crush on Marsh is one he uses to his advantage when he discovers Kris has amass a great savings. A whirlwind romance leads to marriage that even the convincing Boone, can’t talk Marsh out of. Kris tutors Marsh through medical school but once he becomes a doctor he has little interest in continuing to pretend in his marriage. Marsh is also so determined to be a good doctor he is interested in nothing else until a pretty wealthy divorcee entraps Marsh with her charms…
This classic film has three strong performances by Sinatra, Mitchum, and Olivia de Havilland, despite De Havilland being completely miscast as Kris. One of the main character traits of de Havilland is that she is an older woman who isn’t as attractive as the younger nurses, but de Havilland is not a plain woman and she was only a year older than Mitchum- who looked appeared older in the film. Kris’ is meant to have a Swedish accent, which wasn’t consistent, though there was far less scrutiny at the time for accents.
Many seem to forget Academy Award winner Frank Sinatra’s film career. For those who recall it, its easy to dismiss his Oscar win as having been fixed by the Italian mob, and many of his roles won by his celebrity status- all those things may be true- but in this performance he stands his ground amongst two talented screen actors proving his acting ability is stronger than many remember it to be.
In some ways this film does feel dated by its slow pace, and the annoying 1950s trend of explaining anything subtle to the audience with trite dialogue without allowing the audience to think. Yet, with the exorbitant cost of education, it’s easy to sympathize with someone drowning in debt, at no fault of his or her own. One might even be tempted to take drastic measures to pay of student loans, as Marsh did. With some adaptations to the story, this film could easily be remade. The film strikes hard with adult themes and has all the elements an incredible film, but falls short despite its best efforts.
However, the film is well worth seeing for the acting alone, if not for the intriguing insiders look at what 1950’s medical school practice was like. While not a great film, it is easily a more compelling story than any of the February’s new cinema releases.
Not as a Stranger is available on DVD now via Simply Media.