The Stranger is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel, released on September 29, 1977, by Columbia Records. While his four previous albums had been moderately successful, The Stranger became Joel's true critical and commercial breakthrough, spending six weeks at #2 on the U.S. album charts. Considered his magnum opus, it remains his best-selling non-compilation album to date, and was ranked number 70 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The Stranger is often considered Orson Welles' most "traditional" Hollywood-style directorial effort. Welles plays a college professor named Charles Rankin, who lives in a pastoral Connecticut town with his lovely wife Mary (Loretta Young). One afternoon, an extremely nervous German gentleman named Meineke (Konstantin Shayne) arrives in town. Professor Rankin seems disturbed–but not unduly so–by Meineke's presence. He invites the stranger for a walk in the woods, and as they journey farther and farther away from the center of town, we learn that kindly professor Rankin is actually notorious Nazi war criminal Franz Kindler. Conscience-stricken by his own genocidal wartime activities, Meineke has come to town to beg his ex-superior Kindler to give himself up.
Taking the identity of a dead postal inspector found on the trail, a stranger rides into a small western town and finds himself in the middle of a stagecoach robbery perpetrated by a gang of twenty ruthless desperados. Finding out the object of the heist was not a strongbox as it seemed but a solid gold stagecoach, he enlists the aid of a down-and-out old preacher and tracks down the dangerous gang and their unsuspected ally.
A well-off family is paid an unexpected, and rather unwanted, visit by a man claiming to be the woman's long-lost uncle. The initial suspicion with which they greet the man slowly dissolves as he regales them with stories of his travels, tales that are at odds with their conventional middle-class perspective on the world.