THE INTIMATE STRANGER (Joseph Losey, 1956)

In this engrossing melodrama a film cutter (Richard Basehart, excellent) has lost his Hollywood career as a result of an affair with his boss’s wife. Reggie Wilson moves on to England, where he marries (for love) the daughter of a studio head (Roger Livesey, marvelous), and becomes the director of a film-in-progress titled Eclipse. He starts receiving letters from a girl named Evelyn Stewart pleading to retain, despite his marriage, some peripheral place in his life. Stewart, who knows intimate details about Reggie, claims that she and he had been lovers in New York three years earlier as well as since; but Reggie insists he has no recollection of her. Reggie’s marriage to Leslie all but disintegrates amidst considerable evidence of Reggie’s guilt. Meanwhile, Kay Wallace (Constance Cummings, giving perhaps the best performance), the star of Eclipse and a former lover of his, tells Reggie, “Sometimes the things we haven’t done pays us for the things we have.”
     The Intimate Stranger—released in a cut version in the States as Finger of Guilt—was directed by American-born Joseph Losey, who as a result of being blacklisted for his alleged Communism moved on to England, where his career continued, and indeed blossomed well beyond its former Hollywood incarnation. (Producer Alec C. Snowden was credited as the director, for the sake of securing U.S. distribution; sometimes Losey was credited as the film’s co-director, but only under the pseudonym Joseph Walton.) Losey directed from a script by Howard Koch, who also had been blacklisted. Their film is an allegory of the blacklisting phenomenon—more specifically, an attempt to convey its recklessness and how utterly helpless victims of it felt.
     Reggie reclaims his second chance at a career by solving the mystery. A scheming, spying informer is involved.

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