Love and a Murder Trial Complicate Perfect Strangers (1950)
Twelve not-so-angry men and women hash out guilt
or innocence in an L.A.
murder trial, two debating illicit love in addition to final verdict. Perfect
Strangers begins with careful depict of the jury process, names drawn, letters
sent, civilians reporting for duty, all after semi-doc fashion of Louis De
Rochemont or Eagle-Lion true crime mellers. Support folk engage more than
dullish principals Ginger Rogers andDennis Morgan, Perfect Strangers typical
of Warner output after Jack cinched belts to offset a plunging boxoffice. He
had revived a B unit for increase of volume and use of overhead, idle stages
and personnel a drain on dollars, but what came out of WB by 1949 and after
reflected well on nobody, output looking cut-rate beside free spending
of wartime's boom. Still, there was increased production, Warners getting out
23 features in 1948, 27 for 1949, then 29 in 1950, the studio not doing
better, but at least doing more.
Trialprogresses as background to drama
among jurors, the twelve sequestered in as comfortable a drab hotel as Warner
set-dressers could afford. If real-life deliberations were like here,
I'd figure little justice to have been done, or by sheer inadvertence if it
was. Still, this was near-first for the process half-seriously portrayed, and
since most of us get jury summoned eventually, the topic had relevance and might
in itself have sold curiosity tickets. Producing was Jerry Wald, Perfect
Strangers an oasis of modesty among lots more ambitious Warner projects he'd
done. Story had been told on stage by writer team Hecht/MacArthur, and I'm
wondering if censorship might have taken juice out of dialogue these two penned
for the play. Certainly nothing heard here suggests the celebratedteam.
Bretaigne Windust had directed several for Warners, none distinguished
save a Bogart, The Enforcer, that's said to have been salvaged by Raoul Walsh,
sans credit. Windust would move on to television, die young, be more/less
forgotten. His last credit was a Leave It To Beaver. TCM runs Perfect
Strangers, and there's a DVD from Warner Archive.