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Rachel and the Stranger Reviews

Mitchum had just been busted on his famous marijuana charge, and the studio, wanting to take advantage of the publicity (albeit unfavorable), rushed this movie into the theaters. The movie did well, turned a profit, and showed another side of Mitchum, as he twanged a guitar and sang a few tunes. It's a pleasant film which unreels a trifle slowly in the first half but then has a smashing action sequence. It's the early 1800s on the frontier of the Great Northwest. Holden is a widower who feels that he can't raise his son, Gray, without the aid of a female around the farm, so he goes to a nearby town and buys Young, a woman who is a servant. For the sake of chatterboxes, he marries the woman but the union is loveless and sexless and she is a combination nanny-maid. Gray rejects her, as he misses his dead mother and Young cannot be an adequate substitute. The same thing holds true for Holden, who lives in the glow of memory. Mitchum, a happy-go-lucky scout, enters and sees that neither Holden nor Gray pays much attention to Young, so he begins to court her, which makes Holden jealous. Holden asks Mitchum to leave, and Mitchum counters by offering to buy Young. She learns of this and exits angrily back to the town she came from. Mitchum, Holden, and Gray rush off after her and vainly attempt to change her mind. There's an Indian attack, and all four race to Holden's cabin where they manage to fight off the tribe until they are saved. Watching this, Mitchum realizes that Young's place is with Holden and Gray, so he moseys out and leaves them to remain as a family. There are similarities between this tale and PAINT YOUR WAGON that can't be overlooked. Screenwriter Salt, who would later win an Oscar for adapting MIDNIGHT COWBOY, wrote the tunes with composer Webb. They include "Just Like Me," "Foolish Pride," and "Oh He, Oh Hi, Oh Ho" (sung by Mitchum), "Summer Song," and "Tall, Dark Stranger" (sung by Young and Mitchum as duets). With five tunes, it's darn close to a musical. Lots of comedy, warmth, action, and human interest, deftly directed by former actor Foster. Mitchum gives one of his rare performances that doesn't appear to be under the influence of torpor.