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I saw this yesterday on TCM. Yes, it is sentimental, patriotic, and a bit syrupy in the dialog. But it was released in 1944 (filmed right in the middle of the war), so the sentiment and especially the times are aptly reflected. More than anything else, the film's virtues are the performances. Claudette Colbert reminds me very much of Norma Shearer's matriarch in 'The Women:' warm, intelligent, and very likable, but surrounded by the constrictions and circumstances of the time. (It's interesting to hear her tell Joseph Cotten two hours into the film that she feels useless and is not contributing to the war effort when in fact she's been contributing all along.) Cotten is wonderful as her surrogate mate (still carrying a torch after all these years) and daughters Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple are quite good. The standout scene, of course is Jones and real-life husband Robert Walker parting at the train station. The Steiner score (echoing the chugging of the train) and especially Jones' tearful run as the train departs are especially heartbreaking. (Does she sense her soldier's fate? There's something almost psychic in her face as she reads the engraving on the watch.) Good performances also from Agnes Moorehead and Selznick veteran Hattie McDaniel. Nominated for a ton of Oscars, and deservedly so.
Subtle and nuanced in most places, a bit obvious in others, Since you
went away may be the best war movie ever made that doesn't have a war
scene. It follows the life of a family in the early days of America's
entry into World War II. The coming of age thrust upon young men and
women is splendidly captured, but central is the silent pain and worry
of those who with loved ones in harm's way. Watch for the scene when
Mr. Mahoney leaves the movie theater. There is no dialog, and there
need not be.
This movie is often shown near the Holidays because of a great Christmas scene,it's general warmth, and its theme of Country, God, and Family.
One of Jennifer Jones' best performances, with strong work by Claudette Colbert, Shirly Temple, Joseph Cotten, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniel and Monty Woolley. Agnes Moorehead foreshadows her role years later in the series 'Bewtiched', playing the town 'witch'.
As I watched this recently on Turner Movie Classics, a number of trivial
points ran through my mind. David O. Selznick certainly had a knack for
making clear statements and making sure that everything in his productions
(at least up to this time) was easily understood by viewers of all
As his cinematographer, Lee Garmes, was noted for his tendency toward dark images, I was constantly aware of the many shadows in his shots. For his actors to move from one position to another they walk through at least one area of total darkness. There are many shadows on their faces, many profiles, and sharp light and dark contrasts in the background. While Selznick reportedly didn't appreciate Garmes' signature style for GWTW, David certainly tolerated it here, and this dark ambiance gave "Since You Went Away" a quality of depth and substance it might not otherwise have had.
David's effort to get the "perfect" cast paid off. With Colbert anchoring the enactment with a great performance, the film was also blessed with excellent work from Cotten, Jones, Temple, Wooley, McDaniel, Moorhead, et al.
It looks like Colbert's preference for being photographed from the left side is valid. On my system, motion can be stopped and slowly forwarded, observing her from the right side when she turns. In real time one only glimpses; in slow motion one can see her point.
Max Steiner's themes are quite haunting (one of his main ones reveals generic influences of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde--another the basis for a later Christmas song) and his careful underscoring of every action works well here. TMC Channel's inclusion of the complete Overture and Entr'acte enhances the presentation's effectiveness. It's a joy to see material once cut from so many "classics" now sensitively restored.
Knowing what the Walkers were going through in real life (marital separation) during this filming does indeed make me further appreciate the fine quality of their work. Though Jennifer reportedly often left the set in tears, not a hint of that shows. That indeed is strong acting.
The volume of sad and tragic events depicted in this film now seems, by the end, a wee bit much. Still, this "tear jerker supreme" continues to be enjoyed by many viewers, and "Since You Went Away," remains a nostalgic enactment of an emotional period in American history.
Watching this film, we couldn't help drawing a parallel between what
the Hilton family went through in the early 40s to the actual conflict
in Iraq. The film makes clear the hard times on the families left
behind. The government, unfortunately, doesn't provide for the people
that have to sacrifice a great deal by making do with a reduced income
in order to survive, while the men, or women are away in combat.
John Cromwell directs the film with an accurate eye for details. There is a lovely sequence at an airfield hangar where we see couples in silhouette dancing a waltz. It's at that time when war seems so far away from the lives of the family at the center of the story. This is a distraction that is shattered shortly thereafter when Anne Hilton learns about the airplane accident where the young son of her grocer dies. War shows its ugly face no matter how far removed one is from the actual theater of operations, as it is in this case.
David O. Selznick adapted the novel in which the film is based. It runs for almost three hours, and it could have used some cutting, but this movie has proved to be a favorite for many that have discovered it years after it was first released.
Claudette Colbert was an accomplished actress who made this Anne Hilton come alive. Jennifer Jones is a compelling Jane, a girl deprived of a father and confused about what she want from life. Joseph Cotten plays Tony, the man who comes into the lives of the Hilton women. Monty Woolley, Robert Walker, Agnes Moorhead all have excellent moments where they shine.
It was also good to see in minor roles people that would go on to have careers of their own. Guy Madison, Keenan Wynn, Craig Stevens appear in the film shortly, but they leave their mark on it.
This is a film that will not disappoint.
Call 'Since You Went Away' schmaltzy, cliched, idealized, propaganda, soapy
- whatever you like: I LOVE this movie. It was made when we called them
movies, not films, not cinema.
Every Christmastime I HAVE to watch 'Since You Went Away'. The laughter - that good, clean kind of fun laughter that gets trashed nowadays by the many who like to affect "sophisticated" jadedness - it provokes from my heart, and the tears it pulls from my eyes are worth every second of this Selznick masterpiece (in my opinion this movie trumps the overblown, talky, overpraised 'Gone With The Wind').
I laugh and cry, especially, watching and listening to the gifted, lovely Hattie McDaniel handling her role, a good measure of which was written in the period's typical "Negro dialect," with dignity and aplomb. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with one person I'd hope it could be McDaniel, a woman who embodied grace under pressure.
Claudette Colbert simply glows throughout. Jennifer Jones oozes smoldering sexuality, but manages to convince us that she's a teen verging on responsible adulthood. Shirley Temple tugs at your heartstrings. McDaniel radiates strength, stamina, and tenderness. Monty Woolley irritates and charms. Joseph Cotten brings a healthy dose of class and charm. Agnes Moorehead infuriates - she was one of the most talented actresses ever to grace the screen. Robert Walker exemplifies the innocence that war guts from the young, and the sacrifice made, like his character, by thousands of young people in defending, and assuring the legacy, of America's founding ideals.
Have your tissues - a whole box - handy. And let 'Since You Went Away' make your heart soar.
Yes, this film can be accused of being cliched and peppered with
It had it's share of critics even when it was released. It had the tall
task of being compared to " Mrs. Miniver" but in the end it stands on it's
own as a classic gem. To really enjoy and understand this movie (and
all vintage movies)you must place yourself in their time and place.. the
context of the times.
I grew up hearing the stories of the hardships of the depression and WWII. My family was not as well off as the family in this film but the emotions were the same. If "since you went away" seems at times to be a little preachy, consider it a peak into a long gone America that we sorely could use a lot of today.
In the meantime, enjoy the wonderful acting, direction, lighting and beautiful score- and of course, the greatest goodby scene of all time! The train station farewell is a masterpiece by itself...get your kleenex!
Saw it last evening on TCM. Excellent performances by a stellar cast, filmed at a time when Hollywood and American movie audiences were fully experiencing World War 2 on the "home-front". This film has somehow managed to avoid becoming "dated" and remains entertaining, appealing and instructive to a contemporary audience. The story is primarily about a middle class family and its attempts to deal with problems caused by the war. The characters are decent people confronted by issues that test their faith and ability to carry on with life in a normal way. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Claudette Colbert and Monty Woolley, although the entire cast did excellent jobs. The music was appealing and appropriate and helped create the mood intended. TCM played the opening "Overture" which added to the production quality. Three hours is a long sitting but this one is worth it.
This movie has managed to stay so watchable because the people
portrayed in the movie are so real. Strip away some of the obvious 40s
references and you get people facing issues that could occur in any
Agnes Moorehead's character, Mrs. Emily Hawkins, is alive and well and living in your city. Look at how some of the comments after Sept. 11 reflect the same mean-spirited mindset her character displayed.
More than a mere war story, this is a great character study, one that should be viewed several times, the more you watch it the more you get out of it.
I thought this film was nicely naturalistic rather than melodramatic- in that the naivete, sincerity and hopeful nature of people in the context of 1940s smalltown America was honestly portrayed by all of the principle actors. A pleasant counterpoint to "The Best Years of Our Lives"- yes, admittedly much more of a striving to be cheerful/optimistic bit of propaganda than "Best Years", but similar in tone nonetheless. I also recommend this film for the intriguing casting of Robert Walker (best known as psychopath Bruno Antony in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train") as Jennifer Jones' somewhat wishy washy yet ultimately tragic boyfriend- the infamous scene where Jones tearfully bids him farewell as his battlefield destined train departs is classic. Genuinely emotional. Not one of the all time best movies I have ever seen, but certainly worth a watch. Probably of interest to Shirley Temple fans, too, as it is one of her 'young adult' roles.
This movie is beyond words. Filmed and released during the war and
dealing with the war, this film would have attracted many to the
theater being that those at home were faced with the same issues. They
would have seen that they are not alone in their battle and that even
Hollywood can show that they are not by themselves.
I have never seen a movie that touched me quite as well as this one. I find it interesting that when the movie first opens, Mr. Hilton has just left for the war, so you don't see him. And then when it closes...not to give anything away...but, hence, the title, "Since You Went Away." You'll get that if you watch the movie. The acting is superb, as well as the script, direction, etc. The whole movie is just wonderful. It all seems natural and it's almost like you were watching in through a window at these people's daily lives during the war. It's a good insight to see what it was like during that time. It's almost flawless.
And might I add that I fell in love with Robert Walker as Bill, and I was just rooting for that relationship between him and Jane Hilton. Their love gives you a chance to see love blossoming during the war, and then what happens when he's sent away to war.
Claudette Colbert was a very warm, understanding mother in the film, and you see the effect that a husband's going away to war has on a wife/mother. You find out that they lead two lives: one, in the public, where they appear to be strong and leading their lives as if nothing has happened, war or not. And then there's the second, where they're by themselves, lonely, sad, weak. But in reality they are not, and they are even stronger for leading this double life because it keeps the morale high in the home, helping their children realize not to dwell and to be strong.
This movie must have helped and/or touched many people when they went to see it, realizing that they must be strong. It helped me to really see what everyone when through those days, and let me see now, in today's world, most people are ignorant and don't realize some people are living with those sorts of things happening to them, having people go away in war and maybe dying or missing in action. It's pretty horrible, actually.
I give this movie 10 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes a really excellent movie.
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