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Richard Quine — Strangers When We Meet

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Here’s a link to an excellent article by Philippe Garnier in the LA Weekly on director Richard Quine — usually noted for his comedies — and his deeply personal film Strangers When We Meet, one of the most acerbic and cynical takes on American society in the 1950s ever produced, right up there with Martin Ritt’s brutal No Down Paymentboth unavailable on DVD. (Strangers When We Meet has apparently gone out of print; a few used copies circulate on Amazon. No Down Payment has never been available as a DVD, or even on VHS.)

Garnier notes that the film was really a reflection of what was going on behind the scenes – a passionate affair between Quine and the film’s star, Kim Novak. As he writes, “In 1959, when [Quine and Novak] were shooting Strangers When We Meet around Bel Air and Malibu, their romance was so public that the brass at Columbia took the unusual decision to build a real house instead of a set. They bought — not leased — the plot in Bel Air where Kirk Douglas’ architect is building client Ernie Kovacs’ house in the movie. The studio planned to give the house to Quine and Novak as a wedding present, as Quine was to marry his star right after the shoot — the wrap party to end all wrap parties. But Novak panicked, bolted and left him at the altar, with only the key to happiness (he got the house).”

Richard Quine

This is a melancholy, doomed look at the emptiness of suburbia that lingers long in the mind after the film is over; my thanks to colleagues Gwendolyn Audrey Foster and Christopher Sharrett for bringing this underrated, deeply felt film to my attention. It plays from time to time on TCM; catch it if you can.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books and more than 70 articles on film and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu.

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