Love With The Proper Stranger (1963)
A review by Shlomoh Sherman
November 25, 2020
Read about Love With The Proper Stranger (1963)
On the Internet Movie Data Base

Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)
Plot Summary: A salesclerk at Macy's department store finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand with a musician, who does not even remember her. Eventually, they get to know each another and fall in love.
Plot Keywords: love - abortion - Italian-American - musician - pregnancy
Director: Robert Mulligan
Writer: Arnold Schulman
Stars: Natalie Wood, Steve McQueen
Tagline: There is a moment - a long moment - when everything is risked with the proper stranger
Genres: Comedy - Drama - Romance
Certificate: Unrated - See all certifications below
Parents Guide: See below
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: December 25, 1963 (USA)
Filming Locations: New York City, New York, USA
Company Credits: Production Co: Pakula-Mulligan, Boardwalk Productions
Runtime: 102 min
Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color: Black and White
Nominated: 5 Oscars, 1 win, 6 nominations. See below


Natalie Wood was a beautiful woman and an adequate actress. Much ado has been made about Steve McQueen and I don't see why. I never found McQueen to be anything extraordinary but there is no accounting for taste.

Okay. The story, in short. Somewhere before the movie begins, Angie Rossini, a clerk at Herald Square's Macys, has been knocked up by useless loafer and musician, Rocky Papasano.
Angie confronts Rocky with the news that she is pregnant and that he is the father. Rocky chivalrously offers to help her by finding a certain kind of doctor to relieve her of the pregnancy. The film came out in 1963 and Hollywood is not yet ready to pronounce the word "abortion", and who remembers, maybe New York City ethnics, in this case, Italians, were also not comfortable using the word.

Angie, a maybe not so good Catholic girl, surprisingly agrees to the operation. The abortionist wants $400 and it's upto the two of them to come up with the money. Between the two of them and some financial help from Rocky's unknowing parents, they get the cash. But when they arrive at a Bronx apartment, they find, not a doctor but some sleezy woman who will do it. At the last minute, Rocky stops Angie from going through with the proceedure and offers to marry her.

But the offer is half hearted and Angie can tell he really would rather not get married to anyone. So she refuses to marry him.

Scene shift, Scene shift, Scene shift, Scene shift. Later

Rocky goes to Angie's brother, Julio, and confesses that his sister is pregnant and that he, Rocky, is the father. Next scene; Julio and Rocky, sporting a black eye, show up at Angie's apartment and tell her that Rockly will marry her. Rocky had previously told her that married men are "Prisoners Of Zenda", and she throws it back in his face.

Scene shift, Scene shift, Scene shift, Scene shift. Rocky visits Angie at her job at Macys and after some small talk, she invites him to dinner at her apartment. He arrives at the apartment and begins to make out with Angie. Angie stops him and tells him that when they first had sex, she didn't know him and he meant nothing serious to her. But now, she tells him, she does know him and has feelings of affection for him [even though he is a bum - my edit] and so she doesn't want to engage in loveless sex with him. He again offers to marry her but she throws him out of the apartment.

Next day as she is leaving work, Rocky appears outside Macys carring a sign that reads BETTER WED THAN DEAD. Angie feels that this time, he really wants to marry her for love. They embrace and kiss on the streets of Herald Square and the words THE END appear on the screen.

I almost refrained from reviewing this movie as I do not wish to sully my keyboard!

Could the acting be worse?
Could the directing be worse?
Could the casting be worse?

Yeah! If the story line were more ridiculous than it is.

Steve McQueen as an Italian? It just might be as ludicrous as a white guy playing Charlie Chan or King Foo!

And Jewy Herschel Bernardi as Angie's brother, Dominick?
If it weren't such an overly sebsitive era, I'd say N-word please!

One thing I don't understand [ Only one, Shlomoh?] - Angie is pregnant and yet at least in two scenes she is offered and drinks wine.

Natalie Wood was really a hottie but I could do a better job weeping over my sad state of being pregnant without free choice!

I could also do a better job than McQueen, at being a sleezy bum who kisses and runs away.

Okay, the cinematography wasn't bad, even if stark black and white. At least they didn't use studio lots for scenes in New York. They filmed on location.

The movie was made at an intersting time, as the Motion Pciture Production Code, with all its censorship, was passing away. They couldn't say "abortion" yet but they were able now to say "sex" and to portray a movie about a woman having engaged in pre-marital sexual activity.

Maybe someone will have the decency to do a remake without using stereotypical Italian gestures and complaints.

As usual, I append to my own review, that of one review found at IMDB. Here is an excerpt from the October 21, 2003 review by teejay-4. Apparently, he feels somewhat differently about the movie than I do.

One of Steve McQueen's Best!
This has always been one of my absolute favorite movies! Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood were perfectly suited for each other. She played brave Angie Rossini wonderfully - trying so hard to break away from her protective Italian-American family, trying to be strong and capable in the face of such a difficult situation, trying not to show how scared she really is.
But Steve McQueen is the real sweet part of this couple. He is corrupt and funny and unsuspectedly tender and responsible and caring. It should be noted for the fact that it marked his departure from the anti-hero roles that he specialized in (and excelled in). This wasn't an action movie but it was one of Steve's absolute best performances. She was nominated for an Academy Award and deservedly so but he was overlooked and that is criminal!
Can you tell that I love this movie?? Well, I do!

KUDOS to Natalie Wood for looking as beautiful as ever
KUDOS to Steve McQueen for - Thanks for nothing, Steve
KUDOS to Edie Adams for playing Barbie, McQueens girlfriend and for being Ernie Kovacs' wife.
KUDOS to Tom Bosley as the gentleman neighbor who agrees to marry Angie despite her being in a family way. He was a superb actor and once magnificently played Mayor LaGuardia in the Broadway show, FIORELLO.

The last day of filming was also the day Natalie Wood and then newcomer Warren Beatty ended their two-year affair.
Natalie Wood said that working on this film was "the most rewarding experience I had in all films, all the way around."
Unclear whether this is a bizarre coincidence or inside joke, but when the character played by Natalie Wood is taking a taxi home from the abortionist, it passes a large billboard mentioning New York Mayor Robert Wagner. Robert Wagner, of course, was also the name of Wood's former (and future) husband Robert Wagner.
Film debut of Tom Bosley.
In the opening scenes of the movie you hear Rocky Papasano's full name called out over the loudspeaker just before he meets Angela in the crowd. Papasano is a made-up Italian surname.
In the opening scene, the booking agent asks Rocky if he "wants a wedding," meaning does Rocky want a paying gig. But the question "do you want a wedding" also foreshadows what Rocky struggles with later in the film.
Natalie Wood's early film "Miracle on 34th Street" also centered on Macy's department store.
Because of the subject matter, this was a strange movie to release on Christmas Day 1963.
The Rossini family is ethnic Italian. Angie Rossini is portrayed by Natalie Wood, who is ethnic Russian. Dominick Rossini and Julio Rossini are portrayed respectively by Herschel Bernardi and Harvey Lembeck, who are both ethnic Jewish.

Referenced in Murder, She Wrote: The Search for Peter Kerry (1989)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) - mentioned at least twice, once by Natalie Wood and once by Steve McQueen
The Outlaw (1943) - Steve McQueen mentions Jane Russell and Billy the Kid.
The Lawrence Welk Show (1955) (TV Series)- Rocky's friend mentions that he thought he saw Rocky on the show.
Alex notes that this movie is playing while he is reading the newspaper.
Title Reference - The Cavanaughs: Love with an Improper Stranger (1986) (TV Episode)
Title reference - Murder, She Wrote: The Search for Peter Kerry (1989) (TV Episode) - Edie Lorraine complains that she had to watch this movie on the television in the bar since there were apparently no other TV sets in Andrew Kerry's house.

Love with the Proper Stranger Written by Johnny Mercer and Elmer Bernstein Performed by Jack Jones


MPAA - Unrated

Certification: Argentina:16 Australia:A Finland:K-16 Hungary:16 (original rating) Italy:VM18 Norway:16 Sweden:15 United Kingdom:X United States:Unrated United States:Approved (certificatte #20506) West Germany:16

Several scenes show Natalie Wood in a slip, bra and panties

One scene shows Rocky with a black eye which he received from Angie's brother off camera

Deity's name invoked at least once for emphasis

Constant use of smoking and wine drinking.
Angie is pregnant and yet at least in two scenes she is offered and drinks wine.

The scene in which Angie is getting prepared for her abortion is very intense.

Read about Love With The Proper Stranger (1963)
On the Internet Movie Data Base

Cast overview, first billed only:
Natalie Wood ... Angie Rossini
Steve McQueen ... Rocky Papasano
Edie Adams      ... Barbie
Herschel Bernardi ... Dominick Rossini
Tom Bosley      ... Anthony Columbo
Harvey Lembeck ... Julio Rossini
Mario Badolati ... Elio Papasano
Penny Santon ... Mama Rossini
Elena Karam      ... The Abortionist
Virginia Vincent ... Anna
Nina Varela      ... Mrs. Columbo
E. Nick Alexander ... Guido Rossini
Marilyn Chris ... Gina
Augusta Ciolli ... Mrs. Papasano
Wolfe Barzell ... The Priest

See full cast at

Return To The Reviews Index Page

Return To The Site Index Page

Email Shlomoh