Thanks, Roger, for clarifying that typo. It's in the original copy, and I could not think, for the life of Welles, how he stepped on "a bay coffin"! I imagined him leaping from small coffin to small coffin in the Bay of Rio.
"A baby coffin," of course, but the reference is still somewhat enigmatic.
Jaime: James Naremore, in his discussion of THE STRANGER, noted that John Huston wrote the screenplay and was interested in directing it, but that RKO owned the original property, and he was still under contract to Warner Brothers. Besides, just after the War, he was still in uniform. Welles took over, and after revisions by Welles, and contributions by Speigel, Anthony Veiller got sole credit. (The original story by Victor Trivas was nominated for an Academy Award.)
And Jaime: One of the original sources for the story of the thirty minutes cut from THE STRANGER, which has been widely discussed in reviews, and summarized in the "trivia" section for the film on the IMDb, appears to be a letter that Welles wrote to Peter Cowie, years after shooting the footage. As described by Frank Brady, in Citizen Welles (p. 179), Welles explained to Cowie that two reels of film dedicated to the South American hunt -- according to him, the best thing he contributed to picture -- were scrapped by the producers.
Of course, the metaphor of "the paper chase" in THE STRANGER would have fitted into the symbolism of wasting time, Jaime, in the touches you found about "the clocks," and would have been strongly reinforced by the absurd spectacle of Agent Wilson following the converted Meineke following the Nazi Kindler from Europe to South America, and from there to the bower of New England's First Families; Kindler, by then, reinvented as Charles Rankin, teacher at a kind of Phillips Andover, prep school for future Presidents and Supreme Court Justices. What could be a more beautifully ironic description of the real life paper chase which was allowing thousands of Nazi war criminals to slip from Europe to South America, and in many cases, to the United States -- where some of them became important U.S. Government officials?
On a day when the archly conservative Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was proclaimed the first German Pope in history, it might be useful, if spooky, to look carefully at Welles' fear that Hitler's Kindlers would form a "Fourth Reich" which might envelop America.
Here is the URL for my review of THE STRANGER; it contains a number of further details from the Video Watchdog cutting continuity of the missing footage (a request for which began this thread), and observations on this theme:
[It is, of course, too early, and no doubt unfair, to characterize the new Pope. However, it is astounding that Ratzinger is a former Nazi Youth, a former teenage antiaircraft Flack crew helper, and ex-German war prisoner. After his rapid rise to Cardinal, he became known as "Gott's Rottweiller" and "The Pope's Enforcer." He is on record as feeling that the former Pope was far too liberal, and he lists himself as opposing almost every modern political philosophy, which he calls examples of "relativism." But nowhere in those quotes I've read so far does he mention fascism.]
I know I've referenced the above review before, but maybe we should be digging around for those two reels of old negatives. They might add to the meaning of what should have been one of Welles' most prescient motion pictures: THE STRANGER.