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The Young Stranger

At the Kenmore

By Thomas K. Schwabacher

The Young Stranger is a modest film that tells a small story, but it might well be used as an example of what a good motion picture should be. With restraint and intelligence and great skill, the makers of this film lay bare the relationship between three people: a successful Hollywood producer, his wife, and his teen-age son. The plot focuses on the boy, who gets into trouble with the police by--justifiably--hitting a movie theatre manager. But this is not, and does not pretend to be, another of those romanticised pseudo-Freudian essays on the causes of juvenile delinquency. It is a story of people who are sane and whole, but who have the same problems of knowing and communicating with each other that the members of all families have.

Like so many other stories about boys growing up, The Young Stranger could easily have slipped into a bog of sentimentality and muddy emotions. But the skill of the actors, of director John Frankenheimer, and particularly of writer Robert Dozier saves the tone of the picture every time. For example, when the mother explains to the boy that his father really does care for him, Dozier finds way to make such a statement fully convincing. "Your father," she says very quietly, "once told me that you are the only thing in the world he really loves."

The dialogue, good as it is in itself, still gains a great deal from the performances of the actors. The first efforts of many young actors rate the description of "promising," but James MacArthur '60, does much more in his first picture than give a hint of a promise which may develop in the future. He turns in a mature, sharply delineated performance which demonstrates his intelligence as an observer as well as his technical ability as an actor. Every facial expression and nearly every intonation of voice is appropriate to a boy who is struggling to understand his parents and to be understood.

In the role of the father, James Daly presents a convincing portrait of a man who is too busy being successful ever to know his own son. While this is something of a stock part, Daly lends it brashness and polish. The sequences when the idea finally penetrates into the producer's mind that he is largely to blame for his son's predicament are genuinely touching. Finally, Kim Hunter manages to show the mother's love for her son without once becoming mawkish.

Much of the credit for the picture's complete lack of false histrionics and general restraint belongs to director Frankenheimer. He is content to tell his story simply, without trying to make it a world-shaking catastrophe. The good taste of everybody concerned with the production is further evident in a happy use of black-and-white film and a regular screen. As a result, The Young Stranger emerges as one of the few wholly satisfactory American films in quite a long time.

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