Mr. and Mrs. Beasley build a veterans hospital in memory of their son
Donald, who was killed a few years ago. He was washed off the life raft
after the airforce aircraft crashed, which Major Pike Yarnell flew
together with him. Yarnell survived and reported that Donald had died
bravely. Donalds widow Christina Beasley begs Yarnell to attend to the
opening ceremony of the hospital, but Yarnell refuses.
Christina lives in the old Beasleys mansion cut off from the outside
world. Mr. Beasley and his daughter Pat think that it does not make
sense for Christina to bury herself, she ought to go out and have dates.
But Christina wants to stay and take care of Mrs. Beasley, who insists
that Christina must never forget Donald.
At the ceremony Mrs. Beasley unveils a monument dedicated to her son's
glory. Yarnell is there, too, he changed his mind, because he wants to
meet Christina again. Pat approaches Yarnell and makes him invite her
into a bar. She flirts with him recklessly, until Christina turns up to
invite Yarnell for tea. At the Beasley's mansion (Yarnell gets to see
Pat both in a bathing suite and in a Kimono) Mrs. Beasley incessantly
wants to hear how brave Donald was. She shows Yarnell Donald's
museum-like room, and the orchid that she named after him.
But Yarnell is much more interested in Donald's widow. The next day
Yarnell, Christina and Pat ride out together and visit the place where
Donald startet to build a home for himself and Christina. Pat knows what
she has to do: She leaves Yarnell and Christina alone.
At dinner grandfather Vance Beasley asks Yarnell to testify Donald's
bravery, so that Donald can be awarded a medal of honour posthumously.
Yarnell says that Donald does not deserve that medal, and when Vance
offers him money, Yarnell walks out. Christina runs after him. He asks
her why she stays with the Beasleys as a living monument to Donald,
whereas Donald tried to get away from his domineering mother all his
life by enlisting and by marrying Christina. Christina realizes that
Mrs. Beasley always resented her for taking Donald away. She follows
Yarnell to his hotel, and they decide to leave the past behind.
The Beasleys come to the hotel to try to bring little lost lamb
Christina home. But Yarnell and Christina are not afraid any more.
Yarnell accuses Mrs. Beasley of never having loved Donald. He unveils
that Donald did not die bravely and was not swept of the raft, but that
Donald shot himself, because he figured that to be the only way out for
himself and Christina. His mother had always taken from him until there
was nothing left but the empty shell of a man. Yarnell hands Mrs.
Beasley Donalds testimony. She breaks down when she reads how her son
hated her. Now Christina is free to follow Yarnell, and Mr. Beasley and
Pat can draw hope, too.
"A Stranger In My Arms" is a very tense, play-like drama about a mother,
who does not love her son but possesses him, and when he dies she
possesses his widow instead. The leads June Allyson and Jeff Chandler
give in a convincing performance, but it really is Mary Astor as
menacing Mrs. Beasley who dominates this film. And of course Sandra Dee
displays marvelous charm to brighten up the drama, which was
June Allyson's last film for twelve years. Sandra Dee however starred in
two even more successful dramas still in 1959: "A Summer Place" and
"Imitation Of Life".