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This was Deanna Durbin's third take on Penny Craig, who by now has
grown into a beautiful young woman featuring in the gossip columns with
tit-bits about her love life. She falls in love with dashing young
pilot Bill, even volunteers for work at the aircraft factory where he
works, but Bill is afraid to commit to her, and when he learns that he
is about to go overseas and join the armed forces, he dumps her. But
Penny is nothing if not resourceful ...
This is not among the handful of really wonderful Deanna Durbin vehicles, although sworn fans won't be disappointed. Her character here is a gutsy, no-nonsense go-getter, and it is quite a moving experience to watch and hear her, as she takes the podium in the factory canteen, singing first 'Begin the Beguine', this most glamorous of show smoochers, in her assembly-line outfit, no MGM glitzy witzy style her, and then when she touches everyone's heart with the languid and heartfelt 'Say a Pray'r for the Boys Over There', one of the great Durbin moments.
Joseph Cotten certainly never looked handsomer, oozing charming insolence, as aviator Bill.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although I am a certifiable, rabid, card-carrying fanatic lover (at a
distance, alas) of Deanna (nee Edna Mae) Durbin, it does not follow
that I found all of her films of ****, academy award (copywrited
phrase), quality. Oh, Deanna was always a delight, whatever nonsense
Universal gave her to do. But after 63 years (for some reason I missed
seeing this in general release in 1943, due to service in a film unit
making training films for the USAAF in WWII), I am saddened to report
that I found it dull, apart from Deanna, of course. It is a routine,
formula, wartime romance yarn, with the usual lovers separated by the
There are some high spots, though. The background of what looks like a real wartime WWII aircraft plant manufacturing B-17s, is an eye stopper. Deanna works there in order to be near the object of her affections. And when she sings "Begin the Beguine" to the work force during the lunch break, both eye and ear, not to mention the heart, stop.
Universal could have done much better by Deanna with a better constructed story on the formula theme. SHOPWORN ANGEL, with Margaret Sullavan, on much the same subject, was quite a bit better, with complicating and interesting plot twists that considerably improved the essentially trite underlying story. I am not suggesting a remake was in order, just that writers with imagination could have done a lot better than they did.
As has been said by others, Hers To Hold, is not the greatest movie
ever made story wise. But there have been much worse. I personally
adore those black and white wartime romances.
The main purpose though of watching this movie is to see Deanna Durbin at her most beautiful. Rarely have I seen any actress of any period look so lovely as she does here. Without her the movie would be nothing. But with her it becomes compulsive viewing for any Durbin fan.
Joseph Cotten is excellent as the love interest. And the rest of the cast do what they had to competently. As always Deanna is very engaging in her part. She had great talent as an actress. She also had that wonderful voice, that is on display here. What a delight to hear her sing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Hers to Hold' is not rated as highly as it should be because most
people don't remember what the world was like in 1943. Hollywood was
heavily involved in propaganda helping the war effort, and 'Hers to
Hold' was one of the best home front propaganda efforts of the war. It
opens in a blood bank at a time when many people were quite fearful of
allowing someone to stick a needle in their arms and drain blood. Ten
minutes into the movie Penny's mother calls Penny (Deanna) her 'brave
darling' and Penny responds that giving blood is less trouble than a
The scene shifts to an aircraft manufacturing factory where most of the production workers are women, and most of the women have men in the service, thus emphasizing that women getting jobs will aid the war effort and help their guys overseas. Penny, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, decides that she is interested in Bill Morley (Joseph Cotten), an engineer at the factory, and gets a job there to be near him. We see that on the factory floor that there is no distinction between rich and poor, or even between Black and White (rather novel for that period). When Penny sings 'Begin the Beguine' (the finest vocal version that I have heard) during the lunch hour, everybody likes her and Bill Morley finds her.
Several days later comes the propaganda highlight of the film. Penny sings 'Say a Prayer for the Boys Over There' (the song that should have won the Best Song Academy Award), and the camera pans the worried faces of crowd. Shortly after lunch, one of the women gets a telegram telling her that her husband has been shot down and killed in action. No doubt, many in the 1943 audience gasped. More than 2,000 such telegrams were delivered on a average day, saying, 'The Secretary of War (the Navy) regrets to inform you that your husband (son, father) is missing (has been wounded, has been killed) in action'.
Panicked, Penny goes to her very powerful father and asks him to keep Bill from going into combat. Her father, played by Charles Winninger, ostensibly tells Penny that he can't do that, but he is in fact talking to all the women of America who have guys in the service. The comic actor Charles Winninger and the musical comedy actress Deanna Durbin put on great dramatic performances here, especially Durbin.
I think that this was Deanna's finest dramatic role, even better than "Christmas Holiday' that she liked so much. She was never more beautiful than in the scene at the beach.
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