Young Stranger (1957): Frankenheimer’s Directing Debut, Juvenile Delinquence Drama, Starring Kim Hunter

John Frankenheimer made his directorial debut with Young Stranger, a low-budget juvenile delinquency damaa, based on Robert Dozier’s teleplay “Deal a Blow.”

Hal Ditmar (James MacArthur), the teenage son of a wealthy film producer, gets into argument in a movie house, which leads to his hitting the manager. However, neither the police nor Hal’s father believe Hal’s claim that he acted in self-defense.

Sgt. Shipley, the police officer at the local station, considers the delinquent act more serious than the father, who then berates his son. The next day, Hal is teased at school ny his mates, and told that he’s considered bad influence by other parents.

In the tale’s most touching and tender scene, Hal questions his father’s love, but his mother tells him that he was the only thing he did love, implying that he did not love her.

Mrs. Ditmar tells her husband that she has considered separation for years. motivating him to declare his love.

The police offer to keep Hal’s transgression out of juvenile court if he will confess, but Hal refuses. The theater manager drops the charges because of Mr. Ditmar, and to give Hal a break. Asked to apologize, Hal arrogantly refuses. Mrs. Ditmar apologizes for Hal and promises no more trouble.

Mr. Ditmar learns of Hal’s surly behavior at the police station and threatens to ground him. Hal explodes telling his father that he only talks to him when he’s upset with him. Prohibited from driving, Hal leaves on his bicycle. Mrs. Ditmar tells her husband that he only sees Hal at dinner and Hal doesn’t even know his father loves him.

Hal goes to the theater and apologizes to the theater manager, but he asks the manager to call his father and say that it was self-defense. The manager refuses and the two begin scuffling, ending with Hal hitting the manager again.

Back at the police station, Hal explains to Sgt. Shipley what happened. Shipley questions the manager about the first assault, who admits Hal acted in self-defense, but denies the second assault was.

This time around, Sgt. Shipley doesn’t believe the manager, and asks Mr. Ditmar why he didn’t believe Hal the first time. Mr. Ditmar finally realizes he was wrong.

In the last scene, Mr. Ditmar tells Hal about the manager’s admission, and says that he’s glad Hal hit the manager and not him.

Reconciling, father and son leave the police station with Mr. Ditmar putting his arm around Hal.

Cast

James MacArthur as Hal Ditmar
James Daly as Tom Ditmar
Kim Hunter as Helen Ditmar
James Gregory as Sgt. Shipley
Whit Bissell as Theater Manager