Proper Stranger is a somewhat unstable picture, fluctuating between scenes of a substantial, lifelike disposition and others where reality is suspended in favor of deliberately exaggerated hokum. Fortunately the film survives these shortcomings through its sheer breezy good nature and the animal magnetism of its two stars.
Arnold Schulman’s scenario describes the curious love affair that evolves between two young New York Italians – a freedom-loving freelance musician (Steve McQueen) and a sheltered girl (Natalie Wood) – when she becomes pregnant following their one-night stand at a summer resort.
Wood plays her role with a convincing mixture of feminine sweetness and emotional turbulence. McQueen displays an especially keen sense of timing. Although he’s probably the most unlikely Italian around (the character could and should obviously have been altered to Irish Catholic), he is an appealing figure nevertheless.
Fine supporting work is contributed by Edie Adams as an accommodating stripper, Herschel Bernardi asWood’s overly protective older brother and Tom Bosley as a jittery suitor.
Robert Mulligan’s direction runs hot and cold, like the screenplay and the film itself.
1963: Nominations: Best Actress (Natalie Wood), Original Story & Screenplay, B&W Cinematography, B&W Costume Design, B&W Art Direction