From a bestselling novel by Morton Thompson (1909-1953), Not as a Stranger (1955) stars Robert Michum as Luke Marsh, a self-pitying egoistic guy from the poor side of town, struggling to stay in medical school.
Success wasn't handed to him on a gold plate. When at last he reaches his goal of becoming a doctor, he does so with a god complex.
He has worked miracles, bolstering his meglomania. He's unforgiving of those who fail. And for its day, Not as a Stranger has some frightfully realistic surgical scenes, including open heart surgery.
Obviously enough Doctor Marsh will eventually be confronted by his own terrible fallibility, humbled by the fact of mortality, & by the loneliness to which his ego has consigned him.
Nurse Kristina (Olivia de Haviland affecting a ludicrous Swedish accent) loved him, but Lucas used, abused, cheated on her, coming too late & too tragically to realize he could not live without.
Though Not as a Stranger falls short of being a classic, it's a reasonably good melodrama, with some fine support performances balancing Mitchum's intentionally emotionless posturing throughout the story.
Frank Sinatra as a children's doctor isn't permitted to express his role with charisma but he's fun to see. Broderick Crawford as the Jewish pathology professor is growly & impressive. Gloria Graham, Charles Bickford, Harry Morgan, Whit Bissell & Lee Marvin are among the miscellaneous players who are always a delight to see.
But the champion scene-stealer is Lon Chaney, Jr. In real life Lon ruined his acting career through alcoholism. Here he gives a stupendous character performance, with a heartfelt speech about his alcoholism & humanity.
Lon's rather too meaningful speech could've been for Crawford, Marvin, Sinatra, & Mitchum too. Director Stanley Kramer reminisced that Mitchum worked up a special hangover remedy while filming Not as a Stranger. Sinatra having found the remedy especially useful took to calling Mitchum "Mother" & for years sent him a card on Mother's Day.
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