AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Rachel and the Stranger
Alternate Title: Tall, Dark Stranger
Director: Norman Foster (Dir)
Release Date:   2 Oct 1948
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 18 Sep 1948; Los Angeles opening: 23 Sep 1948
Production Date:   12 Aug--22 Oct 1947
Duration (in mins):   92-93
Duration (in feet):   8,335
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Cast:   Loretta Young (Rachel)  
    William Holden (Big Davey)  
    Robert Mitchum (Jim [Fairways])  
    Gary Gray (Davey)  
    Tom Tully (Parson Jackson)  
    Sara Haden (Mrs. Jackson)  
    Frank Ferguson (Mr. Green)  
    Walter Baldwin (Gallus)  
    Regina Wallace (Mrs. Green)  
    Frank Conlan (Jebez)  

Summary: In the mid-1800s, after his wife dies, Big Davey, an isolated Ohio backwoodsman, becomes concerned that, without a woman in his life, his young son Davey will grow up "wild." To assure his son's civility, Big Davey rides to the local stockade to secure the services of a housekeeper and is told about bondwoman Rachel. Although Big Davey buys the enslaved Rachel for eighteen dollars, Parson Jackson insists that he must marry her for the sake of propriety. Upon returning to the wilderness, Davey, who is still in mourning for his mother, rejects Rachel, while Big Davey regards her merely as a servant. The hard-working, gentle Rachel accepts her position in the household and dutifully follows Big Davey's orders. When her skills are compared unfavorably to Big Davey's first wife, however, Rachel determines to educate herself in backwoods' ways and secludes herself in the cabin cellar to learn rifle shooting. Soon after, Indian scout Jim Fairways, a longtime friend of Big Davey's and a former rival for his first wife's affection, shows up at the cabin. The flirtatious, handsome Jim is immediately attracted to Rachel and brings her out of her shell with his singing and guitar playing. Rachel surprises Big Davey when she accompanies Jim on his first wife's spinet and reveals her musical talents. After Jim leaves that night for the stockade, where he hopes to find his own wife, Big Davey tries to romance Rachel under a moonlit sky. His efforts are thwarted by a jealous Davey, however, and concerned about his son's insecurities, Big Davey tells Rachel that he is not ready to fall in love. Soon after, Jim returns to the cabin bearing gifts but no wife and begins a prolonged stay at the cabin. Jim quickly deduces what Rachel is doing in the cellar and offers her instruction on how to shoot. Jim's continued attentions to Rachel provoke Big Davey, and one night, he confronts his friend about his intentions. The scout freely admits his interest in Rachel and offers Big Davey forty dollars for her. Outraged with jealousy, Big Davey begins to brawl with Jim in front of Rachel, who then denounces both men and leaves the homestead in a huff. Jim, Big Davey and Davey soon catch up to Rachel in the woods, but she rejects their entreaties and beds down for the night by herself. Jim and Big Davey set up camp a few yards away, and although hungry, each man refuses to go hunting, fearful that while one is gone, the other will woo Rachel. Finally, Jim tells Rachel that he loves her and wants to marry her, while Big Davey asks Rachel to return with him but is unable to admit his love. Rachel's romantic dilemma is soon forgotten when she sees smoke in the sky and realizes that Shawnee Indians are attacking Big Davey's homestead. After racing back to the cabin, Big Davey and Jim confront the Indians, who are releasing the stock. Rachel is then captured by a Shawnee as she attempts to help her husband, but is rescued by Big Davey and is able to shoot the Indian. When the Indians set fire to the barn where Rachel, Jim and Big Davey are hiding, Rachel battles the flames and the men do their best to fend off the attackers. Eventually, the three are rescued by men from the stockade, and the Shawnee are forced to flee. In the wake of the attack, Jim decides to leave to pursue the Indians, while Big Davey finally embraces Rachel as his wife. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Norman Foster (Dir)
  Harry Mancke (Asst dir)
Producer: Dore Schary (Pres)
  Jack J. Gross (Exec prod)
  Richard H. Berger (Prod)
Writer: Waldo Salt (Scr)
Photography: Maury Gertsman (Dir of photog)
  Edwin Pyle (Cam op)
  Alex Kahle (Stills)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Jack Okey (Art dir)
Film Editor: Les Millbrook (Film ed)
  Harry Marker (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  John Sturtevant (Set dec)
Costumes: Edith Head (Miss Young's cost by)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Roy Webb (Mus)
Sound: Earl Wolcott (Sd)
  Terry Kellum (Sd)
Special Effects: Russell A. Cully (Spec eff)
Make Up: Gordon Bau (Makeup supv)
Production Misc: Dewey Starkey (Prod mgr)
  Lou Shapiro (Loc mgr)
  Ann Pyle (Script supv)
  Peter Bernard (Grip)
Stand In: Virginia Griffith (Stand-in for Loretta Young)
  Byron Fitzpatrick (Stand-in)
  John Bambury (Stand-in)
  Boyd Cabeen (Stand-in)
Country: United States

Songs: "Rachel," "Tall, Dark Stranger," "Foolish Pride," "Summer Song," "O-he-o-hi-o-ho" and "Just Like Me," music by Roy Webb, lyrics by Waldo Salt.
Composer: Waldo Salt
  Roy Webb
Source Text: Based on the short story "Rachel" by Howard Fast in his Patrick Henry and the Frigate Keel, and Other Short Stories of a Young Nation (New York, 1945).
Authors: Howard Fast

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 11/9/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1864

PCA NO: 12670
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  with songs
Subjects (Major): Jealousy
  Marriage--Forced by circumstances
  Romantic rivalry
  Scouts (Frontier)
  United States--History--1815-1861
Subjects (Minor): Cabins
  Fathers and sons
  Indentured servants
  Shawnee Indians

Note: The working titles of this film were Rachel and Tall, Dark Stranger . Although modern sources claim that the picture was based on Howard Fast's short story "Good Neighbor Sam" as well as his story "Rachel," only "Rachel" is credited in contemporary sources. Waldo Salt's two writing credits were not included in the viewed print, but were listed in the copyright cutting continuity. Salt was blacklisted in 1951 as a result of his testimony before the HUAC, and it is possible that Howard Hughes, who controlled RKO at that time, may have ordered Salt's credits removed from later prints of the film. For additional information on HUAC and the Blacklist, see entry below for Crossfire .
       HR news items and the RKO Production Files contained in the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library add the following information about the production: Just prior to directing this film, Norman Foster had worked extensively as a director in Mexico. Tested for roles were Bobby Driscoll, Dick Tyler and Kirk Douglas. Joel McCrea was offered one of the male leads in the picture. At an RKO sales meeting, production head Dore Schary took an impromptu vote for casting the role of "Jim," and Robert Mitchum won by an overwhelming majority. RKO borrowed William Holden from Paramount for the film.
       Some exterior scenes were shot in and around Eugene, OR, including Fox Hollow and the MacKenzie River Stockade. HR announced that Arizona was being scouted as a location as well, but it is not known if any shooting was actually done there. In one pre-production news item, Walter Daniels and Harold Barry were reported to have accompanied producer Richard Berger and art director Albert D'Agostino on location, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources note that RKO rushed the picture into release to take advantage of the publicity surrounding Mitchum's Sep 1948 arrest for marijuana possession. (See entry above for The Big Steal for more information about Mitchum's arrest and trial.) According to modern sources, the film earned $395,000 at the box office and was one of RKO's top grossers of 1948. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Aug 1948.   
Daily Variety   3 Aug 48   p. 3.
Film Daily   4 Aug 48   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Mar 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 May 47   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 47   p. 10, 13
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 47   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jul 47   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jul 47   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Aug 47   p. 4, 9
Hollywood Reporter   16 Sep 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Sep 47   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Oct 47   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jan 48   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Aug 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Sep 48   p. 8.
Los Angeles Daily News   24 Sep 1948.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   31 Jul 48   p. 4258.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Aug 48   p. 4265.
New York Times   20 Sep 48   p. 21.
Variety   4 Aug 48   p. 11.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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