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I try not to miss this film when it's shown on TV. The sound track is a little syrupy, and the acting a little overly dramatic by todays standards. But that only detracts slightly from this great old film about life on the home front during WW II. It's a long film, but that only allows you to get to know the characters all the better, and thats where the strength of this film is. I find myself caring very much about these people. I think of this as a classic amongst the WW II films.
This is a Selznick-size ten hanky wartime soap opera without peer. Sort of
like Best Years of Our Lives: The Homefront Years; or Mrs. Miniver Moves to
the Midwest. It's huge fun of the sentimental kind, tugging heartstrings
over every kind of romantic, family, or patriotic theme. Even when the
acting is bad you can't take your eyes off the actors they are cast so well;
even when the writing is bad you can't take your eyes off the compositions,
one amazing tableau or landscape or mammoth interior shot after another. The
score by Max Steiner is one of his best; the credit sequence alone might be
the most beautiful two minutes of music he ever wrote. There's the
historical aspect, too, since the film gives one a real sense of day to day
life during the war. The film's length allows it time to include many
snapshots of not necessarily dramatic incidents that, taken together, add up
to a compelling portrait of upper middle class life during that time.
And then there is Guy Madison. If you've ever seen him in 'Til The End Of Time you know what I mean. He appears about an hour into the film in a cameo of a lonesome sailor on leave. Frankly, except for Marilyn Monroe's debut in The Asphalt Jungle, I can't think of any actor's debut in a film that can match his for jaw dropping beauty. Oh that face! Was he a Selznick discovery? Clearly he is included in the film simply to introduce him to the filmgoing public. Anyway, he has a few short lines and he hops a bus and he's gone. Would that the film got on that bus with him! After he's gone, Robert Walker says to Jennifer Jones "He was a good looking guy" or something like that. Given what we've just seen on screen, the line is an hilarious understatement.
The acting in this three hour family drama ranges from terrific to pretty
bad. There are some very artistic shots and some genuine emotions on
display, but the whole thing is too long!
Best scene-Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones meet Guy Madison at a bowling alley and they all converse briefly. It might have seemed like a throwaway scene but something about the chemistry the three of them shared really ignited my interest, which was waning at that point to say the least.
Another excellent scene was an immigrant friend of Colbert expressing her love for her new country; this was easily the most emotional scene in the whole movie for me.
You have to wade through a lot of schmaltz to get to the good stuff.
I recommend the movie mostly for the talent on display-personally, Jennifer Jones and Agnes Moorehead are among the best there ever was, even if this does not show either at her best. Its always great to see Hattie McDaniel even if her dialogue makes you cringe once or twice; I don't gain a lot of pleasure hearing a line like "When I'm alone I likes my solitude and my privation" spoken by anyone, much less a really good actress who had to say lines like that in order to stay working in movies. Claudette Colbert and Shirley Temple are Hollywood-bred actresses whose talents were not entirely utilized to their best here. Shirley pouting at age six was adorable; Shirley pouting at age sixteen is less so. Agnes Moorehead tries her best with a badly written part that even she cannot rescue.
As far as the men go, Joseph Cotten is interesting because his role is somewhat vague; you can't tell if he really wants to bed Colbert or just refers to it a lot. Robert Walker probably does the best acting in the movie, in a role that he was pretty familiar with - being in love with Jennifer Jones. I believe they were divorcing when this was being made, though.
A lot of scenes are filmed in shadows, as in 'the shadow of war' is upon them. The musical score is very effective and overblown at times but I'm sure it was supposed to be.
Moorehead and Cotten would meet up later on in 'Hush..Hush Sweet Charlotte', Jones and Cotten would do a couple of movies together too.
THIS IS ANOTHER example of one of those pictures that stands by itself;
that is, seemingly without any other quite like it. It is the
beneficiary of having the best of everything there is in film-land. MGM
endowed it with the finest of cast members (being a veritable All-Star
ensemble crew), the multi-faceted story, multiple film units and the
greatest of the most convincing sets. The filming included both in
studio and a great variety of locations.
WHEN IT CAME out, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY was playing to and intended for a war weary America; which was then in its third year of active participation in hostilities in Europe, North Africa,Asia, the Pacific and the Atlantic. In short, War was everywhere; being truly a World War.
MAKING USE OF several loosely interconnected stories, the message is clearly one of both reluctant thanks, congratulations and a bid of encouragement in continuing in the same mode; until the War could be prosecuted to a successful conclusion. Without it being mentioned, all knew of the seriousness of the World situation at that time and there needn't have been any reminders saying so.
ALTHOUGH ALL OF Hollywood had done its part in mobilizing whatever movie offerings they had, be they cartoons, short subjects, Westerns, the "B's", Serials or Features; this film has proved itself to be at the very zenith of the wartime fair. As a portrayal of American life back home during the years of strife, it has no peers.
IT MAKES A GREAT companion piece to THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES; which provides the same sort of fine storytelling; but, in this case, its an homage to the early Post-War period and the problems of the returning Veteans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THREE hours long, it's crammed with 1940s stars in main or cameo roles:
Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Joseph Cotten, Monty
Wooley, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniels, Agnes
Moorehead, Keenan Wynn, etc. Set in the middle of WW-II, a caring
husband leaves his wife (Colbert) and daughters (Jones, Temple) to
enlist and serve in the Army. The plot deals with his family's coping
with his absence, being patriotic & supportive of the war effort,
hoping to help him & all others return home safely.
This was produced in the middle of WW-II (but, of course, they'd have no idea at that time it was then the halfway point): when food & gas rationing was the norm, tin cans*, kitchen grease*, and scrap metal* were being harvested from all civilians to help the war effort, and women were suddenly, increasingly, being recruited and trained to work in "defense plants:" shipyards, aircraft building, machine tool making, or truck driving, etc., and all kinds of jobs formerly served only by men.
It's mainly, patently, a work of wartime patriotic propaganda, exhorting viewers to keep the faith with American ideals, enlisting God, to stay faithful to the brave men defending our country, and "keep the home fires burning" so that all will treasure a return to the land, family, and values they love. It's idealistic--displaying a family with "all the right" motives and responses. It seems designed to provide patterns for ideal behaviors by civilians while also assuring those in the military that their family members, absent from them, were behaving conscientiously at home.
This film is definitely a period piece, depicting fairly accurately the idealized family values & roles (including race relations), etc, of THAT era. And, despite the severe limitations of the screenplay & plot, IMO these actors do a great job: Colbert provides the solid foundation on which all is built; Jennifer Jones (then 24) is a convincing teenager (17-->20) whose first love is KIA (Killed in Action); Shirley Temple (then 15-16) is a maturing mid-teen. Hattie McDaniels, Hollywood's first notable black actress, plays a stereotyped loyal family maid who always mangles the English language in "Amos & Andy" fashion.
Ratings: for its worth as an interesting narrative, possibly 5 or 6 of 10. BUT, for its worth as a record of our "ideal" template of American family's values and functioning DURING THAT WARTIME ERA, I'll give it a 9 of 10. Averaging these two --> 7 of 10.
(My companion couldn't stand the over-the-top feel of the patriotic propaganda and "patness" of the story line; she walked out at the 150 minute mark. Many will feel the same way; I did, too, but wanted to see if the ending I forecast would be fulfilled. It was. Not hard to do: it was produced to make both civilians & military peeps feel comforted & supported.)
[* For those unfamiliar with the extensive WW-II civilian recycling, see http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/page/page/1652512.htm or google "WW-II civilian kitchen grease, cans, paper" for many other descriptions.]
(And FWIW, I'm a veteran of WW-II & the Korean War.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A sentimental romantic drama directed by John Cromwell. Its World War II and many soldiers have left loved ones behind to mind the homefront. Annie Hilton(Claudette Colbert)is trying to make the best of it while her husband is away. Times get tough as she struggles to raise her two daughters, Jane(Jennifer Jones)and 'Brig'(Shirley Temple). To fortify her budget, she must take in two borders, an old ex-soldier Col. William Smollett(Monty Woolley)and a dashing Lt. Tony Willet(Joseph Cotten). The extended household pulls together putting a buffer on hardships. Melencholia starts affecting the affairs of the heart as Tony escorts Annie to functions to take her mind off of her husband at war. Jane falls in love with old Col. Willett's disowned grandson(Robert Walker), who has washed out of military school. Lt. Willet gets his orders to ship out and breaks the heart of young 'Brig', who has a teenage crush on him. M-G-M has a genuine heart warming hit on its hands. Miss Colbert is always filmed from her favorite angle while Cotten is smooth as silk. This also marks the first success of Miss Temple past her childhood. The overly talented cast also features: Lionel Barrymore, Hattie McDaniel, Keenan Wynn, Guy Madison and Agnes Moorehead.
Like all my 10/10 movies, this one taught me something and moved me. It
showed me the many facets of the home front during World War II. It
touched me with sweetness, humor, tragedy, love, and hope. The film's
theme echoed through every scene. I loved how the camera passed people
in crowd scenes, it paused briefly to give ear to their individual
lives as they spoke.
And it was all so real. In this movie, there isn't that and-it-all-worked-out feel. People miss trains, romances cannot be fulfilled, triumphs are small and unglorified, loss is real, and expectations are not always fulfilled so grandly. The relationships are unique, not cliché, and very much like what you'd find in real life.
Perhaps it is sappily idealistic, but I believe that ideals are what you reach up to achieve, and with movies like this, that journey is that much more inspired.
What's different about this war-era film is that it's not about
military battles, but rather about the emotional battles faced by those
left at home during the war. And it does a particularly fine job in
portraying the long wait to see the end of the war and see if loved
ones were coming home. I can't really think of another film that
accomplishes this, and subtlety demonstrates the little things that
Americans endured throughout the war. It's a long film, but then again,
it was a long war.
I should mention one thing that I found annoying -- the lovely score by Max Steiner -- which won him an Academy Award. A wonderful score...but too loud and overpowering, nearly drowning out some of the dialog. I was reminded of an Oscar broadcast years ago when Dean Martin and Raquel Welch were presenters for the best score award (pun obviously intended). Welch said that it had been noted that the best score enhances the film while not being noticed. To which Dean replied, "To which the late Max Steiner said, 'Then what the hell good is it.'" That may have been an accurate story based on this film.
David O. Selznick created a wonderful film here, based on a true story. The performances were superb, with the possible exception of Shirley Temple as the younger daughter. Claudette Colbert is simply superb, and of course, that's not unusual. Jennifer Jones -- not usually a favorite of mine -- was wonderful as the older daughter. Monty Woolley doesn't play a buffoon in this film, but instead turns in a sensitive performance as an uncle of a man who is about to go off to war. Joseph Cotten is believable as a family friend who is a bit of a Navy playboy. And the wonderful Hattie McDaniel has, perhaps, her best role since GWTW. Agnew Moorehead played a real b---- in this film...not an appealing role at all.
This is a memorable film not to be missed.
David Selznick cast the superb Claudette Colbert in his return film
after winning back to back Oscars for Gone With The Wind and Rebecca,
and was rewarded by the lovely star giving one of her trademark
professional performances. While we all rave over the highly charged
performances of Bette Davis, Susan Hayward, Barbara Stanwyck, Miss
Colbert along with Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur is an actress whose body of
work deserves review and applause.
This is a story of a normal family during WWII, and beautifully acted by a supporting cast of Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten and Shirley Temple. David Selznick obsessed with Jennifer Jones cast Ms. Jones as Colbert's daughter and wickedly cast Jones' estranged husband Robert Walker as Jennifer's romantic lead. Of all the actors in Hollywood, why did Selznick put Jennifer thru the emotional wringer of working with her estranged husband Robert Walker? Why did Walker accept the role in a movie produced by his estranged wife's Lover?
This is a beautiful movie, my favorite Holiday movie. A special note of kudos to the great Stanley Cortez for his memorable cinematography. This is the movie where one of the most famous, most iconic film moments of all time: The Train station sequence where Jennifer Jones chases after her lover played by Robert Walker as he departs for War.
A Great Movie
I never grow tired of seeing this film and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Though not America born, Claudette Colbert is easily embraced in her performance as a wife, mother and patriot of the United States. Of the war movies I have seen Colbert in, So Proudly We Hail and Three Came Home, I love this one most. There is a scene early on in the movie where after she takes her husband to the train depot,she takes refuge in the bedroom she shared with him. It is so authentic and heartrending, a scene which I'm sure was played out in many homes of the wives who were left behind. The character portrayals are all wonderfully done and the Christmas scene at the end is one to rival the classic final scene in Its a Wonderful Life. As is The Best Years of Our Lives, Since You Went Away is also a must-see WWII film about the effects of war on the families of our soldiers.
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