Based on Carol Brink's novel, Stopover, this is not one of Ms. Stanwyck's best films, the primary reason being her leading men. It's hard to understand why an attractive and intelligent woman like Naomi would want to be with either Henry or Dutch Heinemann (Lyle Bettger). Henry is an oblivious cypher, who neglects his children, ignored his wife, and is totally unaware that his colleague, teacher Sara Harper (Maureen O'Sullivan) is madly in love with him. Dutch, on the other hand, is a bully and just short of a stalker. They make quite a pair. On some levels, you want Naomi to go back to vaudeville.
Ms. Stanwyck (who is, as always, magnificent) was not the only person considered for the role of Naomi. Both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were discussed as possible candidates for the part (AFI catalog). Either would have been fine, but Ms. Stanwyck brings a vulnerability to Naomi that is important for the audience's relationship with her. This New Yorker discussion focuses on Ms. Stanwyck's invaluable contribution to the film.
One of the more interesting friendships in the film is that of young Ted Murdoch (Billy Gray) and Dutch. Ted appears to be the only person in the town for whom Dutch has any affection; he's kind to the boy, and has taught him to fish and shoot a rifle. It's apparent Ted has no real tie to his father - it made us wonder if Dutch (and perhaps Henry) suspected that Ted was the result of Naomi's affair with Dutch. The film never states it, but given the information we have, it seems a logical premise.
The lovely period costumes by Rosemary Odell and an amazing set by art directors Bernard Herzbrun and Alexander Golitzen create a convincing reality to the turn of the century backdrop. Sirk had also wanted a different ending to the film. We wondered if he might have been right in his original concept.
We were intrigued to see both Stuart Whitman and Guy Williams appearing in uncredited parts in the film. And it was quite enjoyable to see Richard Long working with Ms. Stanwyck twelve years before they would appear as mother and son in The Big Valley (and in a horseback riding scene, no less!). Mr. Long was a terrific actor - he started his career with a substantial role - as Claudette Colbert's son in Tomorrow Is Forever (1946). After several years in film (mostly as the juvenile), he went over to television in shows such as Bourbon Street Beat and Nanny and the Professor. He was married twice - his first wife died of cancer about a year after their marriage. His second marriage (to actress Mara Corday) produced three children and lasted until his death at the age of 47 from a heart condition.