Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)

95-96 mins | Drama | February 1952

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HISTORY

Much of this film takes place in flashbacks, which occur when the characters tell their stories to Gary Merrill's character, "David Trask." According to a modern source, producer-screenwriter Nunnally Johnson originally wanted to cast Lauren Bacall as "Binky Gay," but she was unavailable. Although HR news items include Bob Adler, Robert B. Williams and Guy Zannette in the cast, their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed. Keenan Wynn was borrowed from M-G-M for the production, and Shelley Winters was borrowed from Universal. Broadway actress Beatrice Straight made her screen debut in the picture, which received an award for Best Scenario at the 1952 Venice Film Festival.
       Merrill and Winters reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of the story on 5 Jan 1953. Portions of Phone Call from a Stranger were included in an hour-long television remake of the story, entitled Crack Up , which was broadcast on the 20th Century-Fox Hour in Feb 1956. The show, directed by Ted Post, included footage from the film, featuring Bette Davis as "Marie Hoke" and Merrill as David Trask, as well as new material performed by Merrill and co-star Virginia ... More Less

Much of this film takes place in flashbacks, which occur when the characters tell their stories to Gary Merrill's character, "David Trask." According to a modern source, producer-screenwriter Nunnally Johnson originally wanted to cast Lauren Bacall as "Binky Gay," but she was unavailable. Although HR news items include Bob Adler, Robert B. Williams and Guy Zannette in the cast, their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed. Keenan Wynn was borrowed from M-G-M for the production, and Shelley Winters was borrowed from Universal. Broadway actress Beatrice Straight made her screen debut in the picture, which received an award for Best Scenario at the 1952 Venice Film Festival.
       Merrill and Winters reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of the story on 5 Jan 1953. Portions of Phone Call from a Stranger were included in an hour-long television remake of the story, entitled Crack Up , which was broadcast on the 20th Century-Fox Hour in Feb 1956. The show, directed by Ted Post, included footage from the film, featuring Bette Davis as "Marie Hoke" and Merrill as David Trask, as well as new material performed by Merrill and co-star Virginia Grey. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Jan 1952.
---
Daily Variety
8 Jan 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
10 Jan 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 51
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
21 Feb 1952.
---
Motion Picture Daily
8 Jan 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Jan 52
p. 1185.
New York Times
31 Jan 52
p. 23.
New York Times
2 Feb 52
p. 11.
Time
18 Feb 1952.
---
Variety
9 Jan 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novelette Phone Call from a Stranger by I. A. R. Wylie in McCall's (Nov 1950).
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 31 January 1952
Los Angeles opening: 21 February 1952
Production Date:
20 August--mid September 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 February 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1620
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95-96
Length(in feet):
8,617
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15492
SYNOPSIS

Late one night, Iowa lawyer David Trask leaves his wife Jane, who has recently confessed to having a brief affair, and buys an airplane ticket for Los Angeles. When the plane is delayed, Trask sits in the airport restaurant, where he is joined by three strangers: actress Binky Gay, whose real name is Bianca Carr; Dr. Bob Fortness; and traveling salesman Eddie Hoke. Trask and Fortness attempt to calm Binky, who is nervous about her first flight, and all three are irritated by Eddie's loud, crude behavior. The plane finally takes off, but a heavy storm forces them to land at a small airport in Vega. Four hours later, the foursome have become friendly, and Eddie, who has dubbed them "The Four Musketeers," suggests that they have a reunion someday. Trask, who does not know where he will be staying, takes down the addresses of the others and promises to get in touch. After Eddie shows them a photograph of his wife, a beautiful, young woman in a bathing suit, Trask and Fortness go outside, where Fortness hires Trask as his attorney and reveals that he is returning to Los Angeles to confess to his part in a five-year-old crime. Fortness describes how he and a fellow doctor were summoned from dinner to the hospital, and during the drive, the drunken Fortness collided with another automobile. Everyone except Fortness was killed, and when the police questioned him, he claimed that his friend was driving. Fortness' wife Claire lied to protect him, but their marriage has foundered ever since. Hoping to restore Claire's respect for him, Fortness plans to tell all to the district ... +


Late one night, Iowa lawyer David Trask leaves his wife Jane, who has recently confessed to having a brief affair, and buys an airplane ticket for Los Angeles. When the plane is delayed, Trask sits in the airport restaurant, where he is joined by three strangers: actress Binky Gay, whose real name is Bianca Carr; Dr. Bob Fortness; and traveling salesman Eddie Hoke. Trask and Fortness attempt to calm Binky, who is nervous about her first flight, and all three are irritated by Eddie's loud, crude behavior. The plane finally takes off, but a heavy storm forces them to land at a small airport in Vega. Four hours later, the foursome have become friendly, and Eddie, who has dubbed them "The Four Musketeers," suggests that they have a reunion someday. Trask, who does not know where he will be staying, takes down the addresses of the others and promises to get in touch. After Eddie shows them a photograph of his wife, a beautiful, young woman in a bathing suit, Trask and Fortness go outside, where Fortness hires Trask as his attorney and reveals that he is returning to Los Angeles to confess to his part in a five-year-old crime. Fortness describes how he and a fellow doctor were summoned from dinner to the hospital, and during the drive, the drunken Fortness collided with another automobile. Everyone except Fortness was killed, and when the police questioned him, he claimed that his friend was driving. Fortness' wife Claire lied to protect him, but their marriage has foundered ever since. Hoping to restore Claire's respect for him, Fortness plans to tell all to the district attorney. The passengers then re-board the plane, and during the journey, Binky tells Trask that her mother-in-law, vaudevillian Sally Carr, was so demanding and judgmental that Binky left her husband Mike, even though she loved him, to establish her own career in New York. Binky states that after a year of failure and loneliness, during which she worked as a stripper, she has now decided to return to Mike and learn to ignore Sally's jibes. The plane suddenly crashes, however, and Trask is one of the few survivors. In his Los Angeles hotel room, Trask decides to contact the family members of his three companions, and begins with Claire. Claire is at first happy to see Trask, but soon breaks down and admits that her teenage son Jerry, who idolized his father, blames her for his death and has run away. Remembering Fortness' musings about traveling with Jerry, Trask locates the boy at a pier and returns him to his mother. Despite Claire's objections, Trask tells Jerry the truth about his father, and that he was a good man because he wanted to right the wrong he had committed. Having forgiven his mother, Jerry sobs in her arms as Trask leaves. Trask next visits the seedy nightclub run by Sally Carr, where both she and Mike perform. When Trask meets the caustic Sally, who announces that Mike had just filed for divorce from Binky, Trask lies, telling her that Binky has been cast as Mary Martin's replacement in the Broadway production of South Pacific , and that she recommended Sally for an important role. Sally is suitably ashamed of her harsh treatment of Binky, and Mike, who has received a telegram about his wife's death, is relieved to learn from Trask that Binky did not know about the divorce. Later, Trask visits Eddie's wife Marie, and is startled to find that she is an invalid, paralyzed from the waist down. Marie laughs, knowing that Eddie must have shown Trask the old bathing beauty photograph of her, then shocks him by describing her late husband as vulgar and tiresome. Marie relates how, early in her marriage, she grew tired of Eddie and left him for another man, Marty Nelson. Marie and Marty drove cross-country to Chicago, and during their journey, Marie hit her head on a floating dock when they stopped to go swimming. Several days after her accident, Marie became paralyzed and Marty deserted her. In the hospital, Marie was confined to an iron lung and was despairing about her future when the still-loving Eddie arrived and greeted her with a heartfelt "Hi, Beautiful." Marie then tells Trask that despite how he appeared to others, Eddie was the most generous, decent man she had ever known, and that he taught her the true nature of love. When Marie questions Trask about his wife's infidelity, and the fact that they still love each other, Trask realizes that he should forgive his wife. Trask then calls Jane from Marie's room, and she eagerly tells him to come home immediately. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.