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Monday, February 1, 2021

"Rachel and the Stranger" (1948)

If there’s such a thing as a chastely sexy movie this is it. A farmer the in mid-1800’s Ohio valley William Holden) becomes a widower and wants a mother for his young son. He settles for an indentured servant (Loretta Young). Yes, the premise is as gross as it sounds, but American history is not pretty. Now, no indentured servant ever looked like Young, perfect makeup, a mane of beautiful windblown hair, form fitting blouses, and no farmer ever looked as thirst-trappy as Holden either, golden blonde and shirtless. You know they’ll eventually fall in love just as sure as as their icy wariness of each other begins to thaw. The sexual tension builds through all the butter churning and back forty plowing when, lo,  the third part of the triangle shows up just to complicate things. Robert Mitchum is a wandering stranger with a guitar, he’s almost the sexy good version of the iconic bad man he would portray in “Night of the Hunter” seven years later. Young nicely underplays her part, this was her follow-up to her Oscar worthy performance the year before in “The Farmer’s Daughter”, and Holden and Mitchum are game for the romantic interplay. Things even turn adventurous for a climactic frontier face-off with some angry Shawnee who just want their land back. 

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