The Young Stranger (1957):

Though already featuring several themes he would later pursue further, John Frannkenheimer's feature debut (after years of work on live television) is strictly in the Delbert Mann-Lumet-Mulligan kitchen sink mold. Blocky-faced Beverly Hills teen James MacArthur gets booked after a movie theater ruckus ends with the manager getting a bloody nose. His neglectful, string-pulling movie producer dad (James Daly) gets him in the clear, but MacArthur can't knock the chip off his shoulder until he's proven he only acted in self-defense. Like the troubled youngsters of Rebel Without a Cause, MacArthur (the first of Frankenheimer's outsiders) is driven by a strong but barely articulated sense of personal honor. Unlike that Nicholas Ray masterpiece, however, the movie never comes close to suggesting how being young, white, and moneyed in the 1950s could lead to delinquency -- ostentatiously modest and "sincere," it argues for intergenerational harmony through paternal (or is it patriarchal?) acceptance. The lack of tension is reflected in the movie's undernourished visuals: even a father-son staircase faceoff, usually a cinch for dramatic intensity, gets fumbled via prosaic camera placement. With Kim Hunter (who finds some shading as the mother, a benevolent forerunner to the Angela Lansbury harpies of All Fall Down and The Manchurian Candidate), James Gregory and Whit Bissell. Robert Dozier wrote the screenplay from his television play Deal a Blow, which Frankenheimer had directed in 1955. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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