House of Strangers (1949): Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Film Noir, Starring Edward G. Robinson, Susan Hayward, Richard Conte (Family, Father and Sons)

Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed The House of Strangers, a psychological film noir starring Edward G. Robinson, Susan Hayward, and Richard Conte.

House of Strangers
House of strangers68.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The screenplay by Philip Yordan and Mankiewicz (uncredited) is the first of three film versions of Jerome Weidman’s novel “I’ll Never Go There Any More.” The other two are the western Broken Lance (1954), with Spencer Tracy, and The Big Show (1961).

Gino Monetti is a rags-to-riches Italian-American banker in New York City whose methods result in criminal charges. Three of his four grown sons, the ambitious Joe, playboy Tony, and physically imposing Pietro, unhappy at their domineering father’s dismissive treatment of them, refuse to help Gino when he is put on trial. Max, a lawyer, is the only son who stays loyal to his father, and he serves as Gino’s attorney during the trial.

When Gino signs ownership of his bank over to wife Theresa as  temporary protective measure, Joe persuades his mother to sign it over to him. Gino is relegated to an early retirement with a meager monthly allowance. The three brothers conspire to send Max to jail as well.

When Max tries to bribe a juror, his crime is exposed; he is disbarred and sentenced to prison. Max must leave behind Maria, his fiancee, and Irene, a client he fell in love with.

Humiliated by Joe’s betrayal and directionless without his bank to run, Gino’s health declines and he dies before Max is released.

At his father’s funeral, Max vows revenge on his brothers, but he has a change of heart when he realizes that his father was the cause of all the family tensions. The three brothers, still worried about Max quest for vengeance, confront him.

Max saves Joe from Pietro’s wrath by reminding Pietro that if he kills Joe, he would be following in their father’s footsteps.

Max then leaves his brothers to rejoin Irene and travel to San Francisco, where they plan to start a new life together.

The film played at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival, where Edward G. Robinson won the Best Actor prize.

Cast
Edward G. Robinson as Gino Monetti
Susan Hayward as Irene Bennett
Richard Conte as Max Monetti
Luther Adler as Joe Monetti
Paul Valentine as Pietro Monetti
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Tony Monetti
Debra Paget as Maria Domenico
Hope Emerson as Helena Domenico
Esther Minciotti as Theresa Monetti, Gino’s wife

Credits:

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay by Philip Yordan, Mankiewicz (uncredited), based on I’ll Never Go There Any More, 1941 novel by Jerome Weidman
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Edited by Harmon Jones
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Color process Black and white

Production and distribution: 2oth Century Fox

Release date: July 1, 1949

Running time: 101 minutes
Box office $2 million