A stranger calls

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German title A stranger calls
Original title Phone call from a stranger
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1952
length 95 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Jean Negulesco
script Nunnally Johnson based
on a story by
I.AR Wylie
production Nunnally Johnson
music Franz Waxman
camera Milton Krasner
cut Hugh Fowler

A Stranger is Calling (Original title Phone Call from a Stranger ) is an American film from 1952, directed by Jean Negulesco . Gary Merrill plays David Trask, one of the few plane crash survivors who, after a phone call, takes on the families of victims Binkie Gay ( Shelley Winters ), Dr. Robert Fortness ( Michael Rennie ) and Eddie Hoke ( Keenan Wynn ). The film is based on a story by Ida Alexa Ross Wylie .


It's pouring rain. The Attorney David Trask enters the airport hall and booked a flight to Los Angeles . He calls his wife from the airport; both have an agonizing conversation. Jane Trask wanted to leave her husband for another man, but then changed her mind. David cannot forgive her. Although Jane urges him to stay, he does not respond. After finishing the conversation, Jane finds a letter from her husband on her bedside table in which he tells her that he simply cannot get the events out of his head.

While Trask is waiting for departure, he meets other passengers on the flight: Binky Gay, a beautiful blonde singer who was aiming for a career on Broadway , as he later learns, Dr. Robert Fortness, an introspective, personable doctor, and Eddie Hoke, a sales rep who constantly jokes and plays himself in the foreground. He explains what can go wrong on a flight and worries Binky Gay, who is flying for the first time, very much. David Trask and Binky Gay sit next to each other on the plane. When it starts, Binky asks David to hold her hand. The persistently bad weather - it continues to rain extremely heavily and then there is also a thunderstorm - makes the captain stop over. The team of four finds itself together at a table while waiting. You talk about this and that and also exchange addresses and telephone numbers on this occasion. To the amazement of the emergency community, Eddie Hoke shows a photo of a very pretty young woman in swimwear around. He proudly tells the others that this is his wife. Dr. Fortness confides in David Trask in a private conversation that he is on his way to the prosecutor to finally face his guilt, which he had already charged many years ago. At that time he was responsible for the death of his friend and two other men because he drove a car while drunk. He had claimed at the time that it was not he but his friend who was killed in the accident who had been behind the wheel. His wife confirmed his testimony and no charges were brought. After that, Claire turned away from him, disappointed. He also tells Trask the story that reveals why Claire's behavior toward him has changed from being affectionate to being aloof. You have lost respect for him. He also mentions his son Jerry, who owns all of his love.

The weather has finally calmed down and the flight continues. Binky Gay tells Trask how happy she is to finally see her husband again and that her mother-in-law Sally Carr, with whom she doesn’t get along, was the reason she went to New York . The longing for her husband Mike had become so great that she decided to return.

Then the unbelievable happens: The plane gets into a cloud cover, loses course and crashes. The newspapers are full of unfortunate reports about the tragic events. David Trask is the only one of the four to get away with his life. He sends his wife Jane a telegram that he has survived. But his thoughts belong to the three people he only knew so briefly. A stranger calls three times. First he calls Claire Fortness and then goes to her for a personal interview. He tells her about meeting her husband. Claire, trying to keep a low profile, then hands him a crumpled piece of paper on which Jerry asks his mother not to look for him because he does not want to come back and he does not want to be found. Despair and confusion speak in his words. Claire also collapses crying. Trask looks for the boy and is able to prevent him from being signed on board a ship heading for South America . Claire Fortness gratefully welcomes her child. Then he tells mother and son that Dr. Fortness was on his way to the prosecutor to surrender and finally wanted to take responsibility for his crime.

Back at his hotel, Trask calls Binky's family. On the line is Binky's mother-in-law Sally Carr, who coldly and emotionlessly informs him that her son has initiated the divorce proceedings, which he also wrote to Binky. David Trask then goes to the Carrs Club . After another conversation with Sally Carr, he can finally speak to Mike, who assures him that he only wrote this letter at the urging of his mother, and that he is a little comforted by the fact that Binky no longer received the said letter.

The last thing David Trask calls Mrs. Hoke to announce his visit. He is very astonished to find the woman so beautiful in the photo helpless in bed. Marie Hoke is paralyzed. She tells him how it came about. The photo that her husband carried is almost ten years old. She had married Eddie because she had liked his manner, but quickly got tired of his and his eternal jokes and had left her husband for another man. When the two of them were swimming together, Marie bumped her head under a wooden plank after she wanted to reappear after jumping into the water and suffered irreversible injuries, which was not found out until many weeks later. Her lover, too weak and selfish to stand by the side of a disabled woman, left her. But for Eddie she always remained the beautiful young woman he loved, and so he took her back.

Deeply touched by the stories David Trask has heard, he calls his wife Jane to tell her that he will be home as soon as possible. You can tell both of them how happy they are to have found each other again.



Gary Merrill , who stars in this episodic drama, was married to Bette Davis since July 1950 . Because of him, Bette Davis took on the small role of Marie Hoke, a bedridden invalid, who is visited by David Trask (Merrill) in this film. It was the smallest role that Bette Davis had ever played since beginning her acting career. In doing so, she anticipated the later accepted tradition of established stars taking on so-called cameo appearances : supporting roles that offer an opportunity to master a scene or two.

For the role of Binky Gay, the producer and screenwriter Nunnally Johnson wanted Lauren Bacall , but she was not available. Keenan Wynn was loaned to MGM to produce and Shelley Winters was loaned to Universal . Beatrice Straight made her screen debut in this film.

Production Notes and Marketing

The film was shot from August 20 to mid-September 1952 at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles , USA. The buildings are by Lyle Wheeler , the furnishings by Thomas K. Little . Charles Le Maire (also cloakroom) and Elois Jenssen were responsible for the costume designs . The instrumentation of the film was the responsibility of Leonid Raab and Bernard Mayers. The make-up artist in charge was Ben Nye. Ray Kellogg took care of the special effects; Eugene Grossmann and Roger Heman senior were responsible for the sound.

The film premiered on February 1, 1952 in the United States . It started in the Federal Republic of Germany on December 22, 1952. In Austria it started in April 1953. The ARD showed the film on July 27, 1971 for the first time on German television .

So far this film is only available in the original English version on DVD: Cinema Classics Collection: Phone Call from a Stranger


In February 1953, the jury of Evangelical Film Work recognized the film as “Film of the Month” and justified it as follows: “Again, as in a number of other recent foreign films, the focus is on the current issue of guilt and forgiveness in marriage. The unusually serious and realistic script succeeds in addressing the viewer in his own language and in making him think and self-criticize. Supported by significant acting achievements, the film can become an aid in life's needs and at the same time, in its own way, prepare the understanding of Christian preaching. "

At the time, Bosley Crowther found in the New York Times that the plot was so smooth and efficient that it ran with clockwork precision, which very soon gave the impression of mechanism, and was determined by the imagination of a storyteller, the actual Life but have little in common.

“The only survivor of a plane crash visits the relatives of the dead and comes to know about his own situation through confrontation with the fate of others, which helps him to save his marriage. The episode film, artfully told in flashbacks, captivates with its intense presentation and humane attitude. "

"In terms of film, this strip offers nothing special, but it should be emphasized because of its valuable ethical content."


At the Venice Film Festival in 1952, the film was awarded a prize for best screenplay.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jerry Vermilye: Bette Davis Your Films - Your Life , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, 1988,
    Heyne Filmbibliothek No. 32/4, pp. 132, 134
  2. Phone Call from a Stranger Notes at TCM - Turner Classic Movies (English)
  3. Phone Call from a Stranger ( Memento of the original from January 8, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. at spielemagazin.de. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.spielemagazin.de
  4. A stranger calls filmdesmonats.de.
  5. Bosley Crowther : , Phone Call From a Stranger ', Nunnally Johnson Movie, Opens at Roxy Theater
    in: The New York Times , February 2, 1952. Accessed October 29, 2017th
  6. A stranger calls. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  7. A stranger calls the Evangelischer Presseverband München, Critique No. 31/1953
  8. A stranger calls ( Phone Call from a Stranger ) at cinomat.kim-info.de. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  9. Phone Call from a Stranger at Turner Classic Movies (English)