Day 10 of Noirvember: House of Strangers (1949)
Everybody knows about Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Laura. But for today’s celebration of Noirvember, I’m taking a closer look at a noir that you don’t hear a lot about: House of Strangers (1949). It’s available on DVD and it’s definitely worth a look. (And I’m going to use every restraint at my disposal to steer clear of any major spoilers! I promise!) Check it out…
House of Strangers tells the story of the Monetti family, which is torn apart following a banking scandal. The father of the clan, Gino Monetti (Edward G. Robinson), owns a bank which he operates with total disregard of the rules of commerce. Gino’s four sons all work in the bank for meager salaries – there’s petulantly ruthless Joe (Luther Adler), weak and pliable Tony (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), dull-witted Pietro (Paul Valentine), and the favorite of the group, shrewd lawyer Max (Richard Conte). Although Max is engaged to a “nice Italian girl,” he falls for Irene Bennett (the always great Susan Hayward) when she comes to him for legal advice.
Susan Hayward’s Irene is strong-willed and passionate, the diametric opposite of Max’s unassuming fiancée, played by Debra Paget. This is vividly illustrated in Irene’s first meeting with Max, when she barges into his office and finds him on the telephone. “Doors are made to knock on,” Max tells her. “I haven’t got time,” Irene replies. “Whoever it is, say you’ll call them back.” Max does.
The tensions in the Monetti family reach the boiling point when Gino is arrested for his illegal practices. Although Max begs his brothers to aid their father, they refuse, and Max is later imprisoned for trying to bribe a juror. When he is released from prison seven years later, he is a bitter man seeking revenge on his siblings: “Vengeance is a rare wine,” Max says. “I’m gonna get drunk on it.” And that’s when the movie REALLY gets going.
House of Strangers was described by one critic as a “rich, colorful, full-bodied drama of New York’s East Side. If you’re a fan of Edward G. Robinson, Richard Conte, or Susan Hayward (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), you’re going to enjoy this one.
And join me tomorrow for Day 11 of Noirvember!