Rachel and the Stranger is a Western romantic comedy with an interesting premise that causes it to bear a passing relationship to the much later film version of #Paint Your Wagon}. Indeed, it's part of that very premise -- that a man would buy a wife much as the way he could have at one time bought a slave -- that will make Rachel a bit heavy going for many modern viewers. Granted, Loretta Young's character is treated much more kindly than a slave could have been, but her indentured status is still tricky business and might go down easier if the issue had been explored in greater depth rather than just used as a plot point that is ultimately washed away by an oversimplified "love solves everything" ending. All that said, there's plenty to enjoy in Rachel. Despite problems with the story, there are a number of good scenes, and director Norman Foster handles the back-and-forth romantic triangle with just the right touch. While the film could use more excitement in its first half, the decision to save this until the film's big event not only makes that event stronger but also emphasizes the normal day-to-day activities of pioneer life. Finally, the cast is a treat. Young is a bit seasoned to be playing this character, but her grace and ability quickly overcome these objections. William Holden captures the fatherly love, the deep faith and the orneriness of hi character, while imbuing him with some much needed appeal. And Robert Mitchum is absolutely top drawer as th fly in the romantic ointment.
by Craig Butler review