A Stranger in Town

From 1943 and available for streaming on Prime Video, this is a comedy-drama film with a political message applicable to the current day.  The star, Frank Morgan, had a 35+ year stage and screen career; however, he is probably best known for the multiple roles played in The Wizard of Oz.  His performance in Stranger does not disappoint!  In the opening scene, a bit fed-up with the day to day grind of his work on the U.S. Supreme Court as associate justice John Josephus Grant (aka Joe Grant), he tells his secretary Lucy Gilbert (Jean Rogers) that he has decided to go duck hunting.  He makes clear to Lucy that he wants no one to know where he has gone (and the smallish rural area where he has gone is never revealed to the viewer).  In the next scene, Grant is confronted by a fish and game warden who asks to see his hunting license which Grant produces, however, it doesn’t have the appropriate county stamp, which the fellow offers to sell Grant with a little “tip” added.  Because Grant refuses, he ends up in court facing the local judge where he settles the matter by paying a $100.00 fine.  It’s in the court room that Grant learns that local lawyer Bill Adams (Richard Carlson) is running for Mayor against the incumbent Connison (Robert Barrat) who appears to have most of the community leaders, including the local judge, Austin Harkley (Porter Hall) in his pocket.  Adams gets into a tiff with Connison, throws a punch and this lands him in jail where Grant intervenes to get him out.  Sensing that things could use some sorting out in this election, Grant sends for secretary, Lucy, to help him out.  Grant sends Adams to the train station to pick up Lucy and, as you can guess, an immediate attraction leads to a flirtatious relationship.  When Lucy arrives at the hotel to check in, she is denied a room because she has no luggage.  Adams comes to her defense which lands both in jail.  Ultimately, Grant reveals who he really is, and with his help Adams is elected mayor and weds Lucy.  Near the end of the film Grant gives a compelling speech during his defense of Adams about citizens’ responsibility for preventing the election of corrupt officials.  His eloquent description of the dangers of political indifference is reminiscent of words that could be spoken today but all too often are not.  A relatively short film (70 minutes) we were surprised at how much it amused us and were glad we stumbled upon it.  We give it a Good for an Afternoon rating.

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