Saturday Night Cinema: House of Strangers


Tonights Saturday Night Cinema feature is the 1949 classic, House of Strangers, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.Starring Edward G. Robinson, Richard Conte, Susan Hayward.

Robinson plays an Italian-American banker who runs roughshod over his four grown sons. When the ruthless Robinson is arrested for illegal business practices, three of his sons attempt to take over the business. Only son Richard Conte remains loyal to his father.

“A hardboiled tale of warfare within an Italian banking family, it is absorbing and powerful.”

Variety: Robinson is especially vivid when he realizes that the three sons have turned against him and when he seeks revenge through his fourth son. Conte is excellent, and Susan Hayward chips in with one of her standout performances as a society beaut.

Richard Conte, Susan Hayward, Edward Robinson in ‘House of Strangers’ at Roxy

By Bosley Crowther, New York Times, July 2, 1949

As nasty a nest of vipers as ever you’re likely to see outside of a gangster picture or maybe a jungle film is assembled in “House of Strangers,” which came to the Roxy yesterday. Indeed, there’s a very strong resemblance of this film to the gangster type, not only in the natures of the characters but in the pat manipulation of the plot.First there is “Papa” Monetti, an Italian-American banker on the lower East Side, who has raised himself to power and affluence by the practice of outrageous usury. Next there is Max Monetti, his younger but favorite son, who is cynical, ruthless, hard-hitting, very much like the old man. Then there is Joe, the eldest, a low and cowardly sort, and finally Pietro and Tony, who are weak, stupid younger sons.All of these pretty people are more or less respectably engaged in the law and private banking, but actually they seem to spend their lives in endless snarling, quarreling and pushing one another around. For “Papa” Monetti is a tyrant who treats his resentful sons with the same high-handed overbearance as he uses upon his customers. All except Max. He spoils Maxie. And Max, being an independent cuss, loves it and takes advantage of it. Therein the whole trouble lies.As a sizzling and picturesque exposure of a segment of nouveau-niche life within the Italian-American population, this film, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and based on a Jerome Weidman novel, has its decidedly entertaining points.

The picture which it offers of family gatherings in a horrendously vulgar uptown home, with “Papa” playing gramaphone music and “Mama” hustling spaghetti for the mob of sons, daughters-in-law and others, has a genuinely flavored quality. Likewise, the various transactions of “Papa” with the poor on the East Side and his arrogant run-ins with his offspring are rich and believable.

For Edward G. Robinson, as usual, does a brisk and colorful job of making “Papa” Monetti a brassy despot with a Sicilian dialect, and Paul Valentine, Luther Adler and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. are good as his weak sons. Likewise Richard Conte plays Max with a fine, superior air. And, say what one will, Mr. Mankiewicz knows how to make points when he directs.But, as happens in so many pictures, the effectiveness of this one breaks down as the consequence of contrived plotting and inconsistent demonstration of characters.

The tyranny of the old father is vitiated, to a large extent, by frequent and elaborate indications of his generosity and benevolence. It is hard to perceive in him the ogre that the story alleges him to be. And Max, who is early demonstrated as a man coldly bent upon revenge, is suddenly turned into a softie by an hour or so of reverie.Also the girl whom Max finds fetching and who plays a big part in his life is a curiously nondescript creature, so far as personality is concerned. At one point, she is a hedonist, at another she is a virginal type, and always she is, like a chameleon, adapted to the coloration of the plot. As played by Susan Hayward, she is a nifty to look at—and that’s all.It is such stuff as this that turns “House of Strangers” into an ultimate house of cards.
On the stage at the Roxy are Janet Blair, the Blackburn Twins, the Martin Brothers, Herb Shriner, the Roxyettes and an ice show featuring Carol Lynne.

HOUSE OF STRANGERS, screen play by Philip Yordan, from a novel by Jerome Weldman;
directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Sol C. Siegel for Twentieth Century-Fox. At the Roxy.
Gino Monetti . . . . . Edward G. Robinson
Irene Bennett . . . . . Susan Hayward
Max Monetti . . . . . Richard ConteJ
oe Monetti . . . . . Luther Adler
Fietro Monetti . . . . . Paul Valentine
Tony . . . . . Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Maria Domenico . . . . . Debra Paget
Helena Domenico . . . . . Hope Emerson
Theresa . . . . . Esther Minciotti
Elaine Monetti . . . . . Diane Douglas
Lucca . . . . . Tito Vuolo
Victoro . . . . . Albert Morin
Walter . . . . . Sid Tomack
Judge . . . . . Thomas Browne Henry
Prosecutor . . . . . David Wolfe
Danny . . . . . John Kellogg
Woman Juror . . . . . Ann Morrison

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