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.

Conte and Hayward: A match made in noir heaven.

Conte and Hayward: A match made in noir heaven.

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 tension between the brothers was so thick you could spread it on toast.

The tension between the brothers was so thick you could spread it on toast.

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.

Trust me.

And join me tomorrow for Day 11 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 10, 2014.

11 Responses to “Day 10 of Noirvember: House of Strangers (1949)”

  1. Glad you’ve highlighted House Of Strangers, one of Richard Conte’s best roles. The plot ws popular and used for Broken Lance and The Big Show.

    • Hi, Vienna — I had no idea about Broken Lance and The Big Show! I happen to have Broken Lance (I’m totally not a western fan, but I’ve been told it was good) — you’ve just caused me to move it up on my watch list! 🙂

  2. Conte/Haywood was quite a combination !

  3. The cast list alone is enough to “walk a mile for” but when you have directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and script by Phillip Yordan it becomes a no brainer. Thanks for the find and the alert to see.

  4. I love Edward G. Robinson and for some reason have never seen Susan Hayward. I will definitely have to check this out. Thanks for highlighting a film noir you don’t often hear about!

  5. I love this one too! Really glad you wrote it up and in general am having a blast following all these Noirvember posts!

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