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Orson Welles Directing Forgotten Film ‘The Stranger,’ 1946

Orson Welles The Stranger
Orson Welles The Stranger

Orson Welles has always been a filmmaker far ahead of his time, perhaps too far for those to appreciate his work at the time of its release. Fortunately for modern folks, his filmography is deservedly being heralded more than ever, with David Fincher’s Academy Award-winning “Mank” being just the most recent example.

Welles’ film “Citizen Kane,” which he directed, co-wrote, and starred in, is consistently hailed as the greatest film ever made. Did I mention it was his debut film?  Not a bad first project.

“Citizen Kane” didn’t perform well at the box office upon its release.  That seemed to be the norm for Welles’ films.  It wasn’t until 1946’s “The Stranger” that Welles proved he could release a film that achieved success both financially and critically. Interestingly enough, over time, “The Stranger” has proven to be one of Welles’ most underrated and overlooked projects.

The social and cultural relevance of “The Stranger” greatly contributed to its box office success. The film noir follows Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), a war crimes investigator, as he engages in a deadly pursuit of Nazi fugitive Franz Kindler (Orson Welles).  When Mr. Wilson discovers that Kindler has settled down in a small Connecticut town and plans to marry a woman named Mary Rankin (Loretta Young), he shows Rankin real footage of Nazi concentration camps, exposing the true horrors of Kindler’s past.

“The Stranger” was the first Hollywood film to depict documentary footage of the Holocaust.  This came during a time when many Americans had yet to learn about the existence of concentration camps. By forcing his characters to witness the atrocities of the Holocaust, Welles in turn opened the eyes of American moviegoers to the horrific acts being committed just an ocean away.

The trailer for “The Stranger” can be viewed below and the full feature is available to stream on Netflix.