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Edward Everett Horton
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Propaganda Piece Marred by Occasional Treacly Sequences
The plot of this propagandistic tearjerker has more than a passing resemblance to LITTLE WOMEN, even down to the central character's name, Jo Jones (Ginger Rogers). Four women whose spouses are fighting abroad during World War II set up home together and learn how to survive. One of them, Barbara Thomas (Ruth Hussey), loses her husband during the Battle of Midway, while another, Doris Dumbrowski (Kim Hunter) has the pleasure of an unexpected visit from her newly-married spouse Mike (Richard Martin). Meanwhile Jo remembers about her courtship and early married life with Chris (Robert Ryan) in a series of extended flashback sequences. Manya Lodge, their newly-engaged housekeeper (Mady Christians) looks back on her early life in Nazi Germany and contrasts it with the happier existence she enjoys in the United States. Inevitably the film has a sad ending. As might be expected from Dalton Trumbo, who later in the decade was to experience several dealings with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the script preaches an egalitarian message, of everyone pulling together in order to defeat the perceived threat of Nazism. While family bereavements are inevitable, individuals should realize that this is a consequence of war, and should therefore be spurred on to fight harder. This is as important on the Home Front as it was on the battlefields: in one climactic scene, Jo berates Barbara, who displays a regrettable tendency towards xenophobia, for putting self-interest above community concerns. At the end Jo realizes the importance of practicing what she preaches, so as to ensure a better world for her newly-born child once the war has ended. Despite the undoubted seriousness of its message, the action of TENDER COMRADE tends to drag a little; there are certain sequences (especially the flashbacks to Jo and Chris' early life) that become so treacly that the plot tends to get lost. Rogers gives a creditable account of herself, although it's noticeable that she manages to go through the film without one strand of her impeccably coiffed hairdo falling out of place, in spite of her responsibilities both inside and outside the home.
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