Orson Welles may very well be the greatest filmmaker of all time. The American director, writer, and actor had ties to all areas of the entertainment realm, including radio and theatre, but he made his biggest mark on the world of cinema. His 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.
Although “Citizen Kane” was widely critically acclaimed, it 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 Stranger” is available to stream on Netflix.