Director: King Vidor
Cast: Miriam Hopkins, Lionel Barrymore, Franchot Tone, Beulah Bondi
The most notable aspect of this Vidor Pre-Code film is the mutual fondness that emerges on the screen between Hopkins and the great Lionel Barrymore. Their tender moments really sustain the picture and become its backbone.
Louise Starr (Hopkins) is a big city woman with small country roots. She divorces her husband at a time when a girl emerging from the dissolution of a marriage was looked down upon. On a holiday, this metropolitan woman decides to re-discover her sense of self and visit the old family farm. Grandpa Storr (Barrymore) couldn’t be more thrilled to have his granddaughter back in the fold. She gets a much cooler reception from her relative Beatrice — played by Beulah Bondi — who runs the household and cares for Barrymore’s character. Quite active for a man of his years, Grandpa takes great delight in showing his granddaughter just how addictive rural life can be. When he introduces Louise to his favorite neighbor, Guy (Franchot Tone), she is instantly enamored with the intelligent farmer and surprised by his sophistication. Unfortunately, Guy is married with a young child and unavailable. Still, the two spend much time together because they find common interests. Naturally, the town is rife with gossip. Despite these ill-feelings, our lead finds that the farm has grounded her and the longer she stays, it becomes harder to leave.
The biggest source of aggravation between Beatrice and Louise is the question of inheritance. Bondi’s house frau has put all her eggs in one basket, weezling her way into what she thinks is a massive inheritance when the patriarch passes on. With Hopkins’ character in the picture, will she get screwed? The elderly former military man has no intention of dying quickly, however, and he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve.
The Stranger’s Return is not a great film. What it does have is Miriam Hopkins @ the pinnacle of her physical perfection. She is a star in the biggest sense of the word and the performer’s onscreen magnetism will leave you wanting to see as much of her work as you can.
By James White