The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) Poster

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Another fine showcase for marvelous Irene Dunne
Poseidon-313 August 2002
One of the great crimes of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is that Dunne was never given an Oscar....not even an honorary one! Most of her performances transcend time and come off as fresh and natural today as when they were first delivered. She just must have made it look too easy. The woman could do everything! At any rate, this film features another strong performance from her. She plays a young American girl who comes to England with her father (the irascible Morgan) and is soon swept off her feet by dashing and wealthy Marshall. Before they can enjoy any sort of life together, he is called to serve in WWI and they are separated. This is only part of the story as her life unfolds through the next decades and she struggles with letting her son (McDowall, then Lawford) serve in WWII. The film is obviously patriotic and propaganda filled, but understandably so as WWII was still being waged! Dunne is luminescent in the role and is surrounded by a strong array of familiar supporting actors. Notable are Cooper (endlessly watchable in anything!) and Witty (wonderfully crotchety, yet sentimental.) It is a touch jarring to see Taylor grow into Lockhart (young Taylor barely says anything, but "Yes, Sir John".) Lawford is at his most youthful and appealing. The film has a lot of sentiment and melodrama, but also a lot of heart and a little humor. It winds up being quite touching at times and displays a time long gone, but a patriotism that can still be resurrected when events call for it.
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Great story of 2 World Wars with Irene Dunne is still not dated.
bettiem17 December 2002
It is almost Christmas 2002, a difficult year for Americans and a perfect time for World War II nostalgia. I was 16 years old when this moviecame out, I am 76 now and "Cliffs" is as fresh today as it was then. The songs, English and American are marvelous, and Irene Dunne shines. Supporting cast is typical of the wonderful character actors of the time plus Elizabeth Taylor. We are moved by an American woman (Dunne) who loses a husband in World War I and a son in World War II. Frank Morgan, who is always Frank Morgan even in the "Wizard of Oz" is marvelous as Dunne's Father. Dame Mae Whittey, Gladys Cooper, Allain Marshall, C. Aubrey Smith as the very British Colonel -- everyone adds to the beauty of this movie, and we must not forget that Irene Dunne is the narrator of the famous poem of World War II, "The White Cliffs of Dover" which is still available in bookstores. I would put this movie in well-done Black and White, right up there with "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (Van Johnson has a bit part in "Cliffs"), "Mrs. Miniver" with Greer Garson, and the magnificent World War 2 Series, "War and Remembrance" and "Winds of War". I am amazed that "black and white" is still effective. I hope this movie is presented as often as "It's a Wonderful Life" every year in the future.
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An Unhurried Masterpiece of Tranquility
jzappa7 September 2008
Irene Dunne is all in all herself, tender, transformative and powerful as an American girl who travels to England and falls in love with an English member of the aristocracy. Beautiful Irene marries the Englishman but their honeymoon is cut short on its first day as World War I breaks out. Director Clarence Brown's leisurely mood effect causes us to feel as disrupted as they do. Perhaps it is the soothing joy derived from the old-style black-and-white 35mm Spherical look, a classicism in George J. Folsey's cozy cinematography, that creates such a peaceful atmosphere. Believe me: This feeling is augmented by seeing it on a VHS tape, almost as though you are watching a timeworn relic. When the film quietly, serenely begins, Irene reflects upon her feelings relating to her life in England, a life she never expected to lead from event to event beginning with her purely dabbling arrival. The moving musical score fits like a velvet glove over the sustained close shot of her gorgeous face and the iceberg-thawing sound of her voice.

The backbiting between Irene and her English counterparts early in the film is funny, posing one of the movie's unanxious emotional successes which as well include strong romantic and maternal joys and longings, WWI, brief bursts of rage, mourning, WWII, and the like. A scene in the movie circa the early 1930s sends a chill down the spine, illustrating two polite adolescent German boys, part of an exchange program, staying at the English family's countryside manor. Intimating they were part of early Nazi invasion plans, the boys let it slip in a conversation's startling turn for the less comfortable that they are pondering how the estate's large green would be perfect on which for troop gliders to land.
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White Cliffs of Dover
nyescape25 February 2006
This was an incredible War movie which spanned WWI and WWII. It was a romance/drama. Irene Dunne is the female lead who falls in love with and marries a man who soon goes off to fight in France during World War I. He dies and she had his child, a boy.

The boy grows to manhood and is played by Peter Lawford. As the movie ends, Dunne is seeing her son, Lawford go off to fight in WWII. You can see the pain and the pride in Dunne's eyes.

It was a fabulous movie. It dramatizes the great sacrifices made by the British in both World Wars. Britain lost so many of her sons in WWI, I believe the stats were approximately 50% of men between the ages of 18 and 45. The movies points up the fact that the loses, pain and suffering of the English were about to be revisited in WWII.

I can appreciate this and other war movies as I am the mother of a Marine who is about to be sent to Iraq.
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Beautiful film with a strong performance by Irene Dunne.
kip_92 January 2005
This film is both tender and powerful-with a very moving score. If, like me, you enjoy lying down at night just listening to the voices and music coming from an old classic film-this is the one for you. At the beginning when Ms. Dunne is telling her story and reflecting on her life in England-the music fits perfectly, the mood is wonderful, and her voice just makes you want to melt. Then, before you know it, even though you thought you just might want to "half" watch this film on a lazy night-you find yourself caught up in it all. The English/American bickering becomes quite funny, the romance, the war, the drama, the sadness, the next war... Irene Dunne at her best-and beautiful as ever-with that strange, knowing almost mischievous look in her eyes. I truly believe that films like these are healthy for us(sort of like watching fish in an aquarium-or shopping for antiques, petting a dog, etc.) Do yourself a favor and watch/listen to this lovely movie. If you're an Anglophile then you are really denying yourself a great pleasure by not seeing it.
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Holds up quite well, in almost every respect.
Greg Couture19 August 2005
Finally caught up with this one on a recent Turner Classic Movies broadcast and found it quite enthralling, despite its rather protracted length and of-its-era WWII wartime propagandizing. It's exceptionally smoothly directed by Clarence Brown and mounted in the very plushest M-G-M manner. It's impossible to imagine a story like this being as lavishly produced today. The cast is attractive and capable, with Irene Dunne (beautifully gowned and coiffed throughout) more than holding her own amidst a virtual platoon of marvelous British actors and actresses. The ubiquitous Frank Morgan manages to be minimally irritating; in fact he's quite credibly effective as Dunne's irascible American father. And even Herbert Stothart, whose scores often sound rather syrupy and intrusive to these ears, provides one of his best accompaniments to a story that spans decades and quite a gamut of emotions. Those whose attention spans haven't been stunted by the fragmented way we receive so much information and entertainment today should find this a rewarding example of how cinema audiences of several decades ago were respectfully treated by the Hollywood studio system at its professional best.
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Star-Studded War Romance.
nycritic13 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Irene Dunne stars as the American woman who is romanced by an Englishman (Alan Marshall), then loses him to the first World War and who decides to raise her son (Roddy McDowell) in England, only to have him go to war once he grows up (as Peter Lawford) and die in battle. A little too weepy at times, the movie tries to convey its message of the dangers of Germany in the scene where the two teenage boys proclaim an almost fervent admiration for their own country and that they most definitely have not lost the war (and their pride) yet.

A salute to the British and American soldiers who fought World War II, THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER features a massive cast of established actors and rising stars: Gladys Cooper, Van Johnson, Dame May Witty, an uncredited June Lockhart, Peter Lawford, and Elizabeth Taylor. A good movie that only was Oscar nominated in technical categories that has Irene Dunne aptly playing her role as if Greer Garson would have; it's a shame that she never received a recognition for her body of work and here her work makes watching the movie worth the effort even if it goes on for a little too much.
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One of the best films of World War II
Ron Oliver26 December 1999
This is the story of an American woman who marries into a rich English family in the early part of the 20th Century. We become involved in her experiences during the World Wars and see how these conflicts affect her family.

Produced while the Second World War was still being fought, this film was intended to be both a morale booster for American audiences and as a salute to our British allies.

The film boasts a great cast, each perfect in their role. Irene Dunne is the American lady; Alan Marshal the dashing knight she marries. Roddy McDowall & Peter Lawford portray their only son at different ages. Bumptious Frank Morgan is Dunne's irascible father; Dame Gladys Cooper is Marshal's aristocratic mother. Dame May Witty is the sweet old nurse. Van Johnson is a young American friend headed for war. Norma Varden is the proprietress of a London boarding house. John Warburton, Jill Esmond & Brenda Forbes are various English relatives. Wonderful old Sir C. Aubrey Smith is an opinionated retired Major.

In the unbilled cast, film mavens should be able to spot George Davis, Tom Drake, Ethel Griffies, Lumsden Hare, Doris Lloyd, June Lockhart, Arthur Shields, a young Dame Elizabeth Taylor & Ian Wolfe.

More than a MRS. MINIVER wannabe, THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER has a charm all its own.
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Two weeks vacation
jotix10021 December 2005
The only reference to the White Cliffs of Dover comes in at the beginning of the film as we watch Susan and her friend, Sam Bennet, as they are approaching England by sea. The magnificent cliffs are seen in the distance in all their splendor. Susan, clearly moved by the sight, revels on the many things that await her in London where she and her father are going to spend two weeks vacation.

Alas, when they arrive, they are treated to the typical rainy weather, that puts a damp, no pun intended, in her enjoyment of a city and all things English she has always admired. Instead of finding a place that meets all her expectations, Susan has to endure the weather and the prospect of going back without seeing the sights and places she really wanted to see.

Enter the kind Colonel, the man living in the modest hotel where the Dunns are staying. He invites Susan to a society ball where she meets Sir John Ashwood, the man who will become her husband. John is instrumental in her staying in England. Susan never expected to be married into the rich gentry that John belongs to. In fact, the beginning of her life in the family country estate convinces her she doesn't belong.

It's 1915 and WWI arrives without warning. Susan sees in horror how John goes to his regiment and to the front. He eventually dies, but the son that arrives for her is, in a way, a painful reminder of the great loss she suffered. Like his father, the boy grows up and has to go to war, as it's expected of his kind.

"The White Cliffs of Dover" was directed by Clarence Brown, who gave it a great look. Irene Dunne makes a good impression as Susan, the courageous woman who stays in a strange country and has to make a new life for herself and her new family. Alan Marshal is perfect as the dashing John Ashwood.

In minor roles we see Roddy McDowall, who plays the young John Ashwood. Harry Morgan is Susan's father. Gladys Cooper, May Witty, Peter Lawford, Van Johnson, C. Aubrey Smith, and the rest of the cast do good work. The young Elizabeth Taylor is seen as the young Betsy and June Lockhart appears as the grown up girl in uncredited roles.

"The White Cliffs of Dover" is about loyalty for one's country and how tradition plays a role in the lives of all the people one meets in the story, even during the difficult times these characters had to live.
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This film makes me proud to be an American!
PudgyPandaMan5 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I really liked this movie. Although much is predictable about the plot, I found the music, cinematography, the history, aristocracy etc. very enjoyable. This clearly is a propaganda piece, but you can't help but find yourself swept away in the patriotism willingly.

It reminds us of how our great country was once heroes to the world. We were the great saviors of freedom. It is a little sad now, some 60+ years later, that our country has lost favorable opinion in the eyes of the world. The parade scenes where Irene Dunne's character watches the US troops arriving and marching through town can bring tears to your eyes.

The characters are all quite endearing and believable. Dunne is quite sweet. Marshal is so dashing. As a woman, I can imagine myself being swept up in such a man at the onset of WWI ( as Dunne was) or WWII (which the viewers themselves were in the midst of).

The intertwining of US & British history is a nice reminder that we are really made from the same beginnings in our country. Even though we eventually sought our freedom from the British, which is pointed out in the movie, it also points out our common heritage in being derived from Sir Walter Raleigh & the Mayflower. Our countries have been great allies over the past century. I'm sure there have been prejudices between yanks & Brits, as pointed out in the scene where Dunne breaks down over her future in-laws prejudices of Americans. But clearly the movie is designed to foster a common bond among the US & Britain, while acknowledging our differences.

My absolute favorite scene is at the end. It is especially poignant - the dying son is relaying to his mother about an American soldier that said before he died :

"God would never forgive us, neither England or America, if we break the faith with our dead again", that he would "really start to fight the day the war ended, for a good peace, a peace that would stick."

Wow - what a message that must have truly resonated with the WWII audience, especially those who had also lived through WWI. I don't think my generation can relate to having been through 2 such costly wars back to back. Women who lost husbands in the first war were now faced with the loss of sons in the 2nd war, as Dunne's character was. What tremendous sacrifice was made by that generation! We should be forever grateful!
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Romance in Great Britain with a Message
gloryoaks9 February 2005
I have a dissenting voice about White Cliffs of Dover. Most reviewers seem to love it. I thought the movie began well, but descended into sappiness before it (mercifully) ended. When did it lose its way? Probably around the 2/3 mark. The plot line of a high-spirited Yankee being swept off her feet by a member of the "landed gentry" caught my interest. One knew from the date of their meeting that WWI was looming over their romance. And knowing that the movie was produced during WWII, I could almost write the rest of the plot. The problem with the film, for me, was in the execution. The last third of it became self-consciously sentimental and dreary, the weepiness intermingled with the over-the-top attempt to stir the fires of patriotism in viewers. The sounds of a military band and the sight of our soldiers marching on a heroic mission always thrill me, personally. My son is in the military. And WWII is the epitome of heroic times. But I did not appreciate the way the movie clumsily tried to manipulate my thoughts and feelings. What I did love about the film were the superb character actors--Frank Morgan at his best, Dame May Witty, Gladys Cooper, C. Aubrey Smith, and the young Roddy McDowall. It was fun seeing other familiar faces--Van Johnson, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Drake. Again, I have to differ with viewers who loved Irene Dunne in this part. Her portrayal just didn't work for me. I could see Greer Garson as better suited for the role. I felt the others--Morgan, Smith, Witty, Alan Marshal who played her husband, and even McDowall--carried Dunne along and gave her believability. Two aspects of the movie I especially applaud. First, the significance of Dieppe in the lives of the main characters brought an emotional weight and synchronicity to the film that has stayed with me. And Nanny's final scene helped me to understand the whole situation through her sad, old eyes. I will remember that touching moment when all the marching bands have passed.
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Liked It More After I Just Wrote About it!
ccthemovieman-113 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I had a good attitude going in since I like a number of the cast members, beginning with Irene Dunne. However, one viewing was enough because (1) this is a woman's movie; (2) there are way too many "darlings" spoken in the dialog; and (3) the film is just a bit too boring in too many spots.

There are some good points to this movie. The story is involving and a tragic one that tugs on your heartstrings. Dunne's character,Susan Dunn Ashwood," is American. She marries an Englishman "Sir John Ashwood" (Alan Marshall) who dies in World War I. She raises their son "John, Jr." (Roddy McDowell, as young boy, and then Peter Lawford as an adult). He dies in the end, too, so you see there is a lot of sadness in this story. I appreciated the nice photography in here, too, and Dunne's role as a patriotic American who sticks up for her country on a foreign soil most of her life.

This is one of those rare films that seem better afterward that when you are watching it!
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British -USA relations
Briwilmen29 December 2007
This movie telecast recently on TCM was one of many made to promote better relations between the ordinary people of Britain and the USA. Michael Korda claims in his book that his father, Sir Alexander Korda was sent to Hollywood by Churchill, before the USA entered the war, with a mission to persuade his movie mogul friends to make movies with pro British themes. By the time this movie was released,there was a large build up of US service personnel in the UK in preparation for invasion of Europe and resentment towards the GI's was not uncommon. For many of todays viewers it may seem to be a little over the top. Howerver it is a classic, if for the only reason, it was our first glimpse of the fabulous Liz Taylor.
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Where Those Bluebirds Come Over
bkoganbing17 June 2008
With a title based on a very popular song on both sides of the pond in those World War II years, The White Cliffs Of Dover is seen in flashback by Irene Dunne of her life as an American in Great Britain in the years covering two World Wars. It was one of those hands across the oceans films so popular in those days.

I heard it said that the main fact about the 20th Century that one should realize in studying it is that the United States and Great Britain both spoke a common language. That fact made us overcome a few cultural differences and was the reason America entered two World Wars to save a Great Britain from invasion.

Thus it was for Irene Dunne who came over with her father Frank Morgan on holiday in 1914 and met and married a minor titled fellow played by Alan Marshal. Marshal is killed and she spends a long widowhood raising their son and heir to his title. She lives with her mother-in-law, Gladys Cooper and raises her son who at various times is played by Roddy McDowall and Peter Lawford. The son rather fancies the daughter of one of their tenants played at various times by Elizabeth Taylor and June Lockhart.

Of course this interoceanic love feast has a rather rocky beginning, especially when Frank Morgan while arguing chess with C. Aubrey Smith gets confronted with the fact that the chess board and pieces were the property of the looted White House from the War of 1812. It's my favorite scene in the film.

Dunne who ages gracefully and magnificently gives a stirring performance as a woman who lost what she loved in one war and is ready to sacrifice again for her adopted country. I've a feeling that the folks at MGM might have had her character as an answer to that real female American expatriate, Lady Nancy Astor and that we were all not members in good standing of the Nazi appeasing Cliveden set.

There's also a scene similar to the one in Mrs. Miniver where Greer Garson has to entertain a wounded German flier, Helmut Dantine where he's made a symbol of what they're at war against. Dunne, Morgan, and McDowall entertain a pair of German boys on holiday and when the discussion turns to politics it gets pretty heated. These two are thinking nothing more than winning what they should have won back in 1918.

The White Cliffs Of Dover is a nice film, typical of the era it came out of. You do wonder though if Irene Dunne had met a nice German guy from the Weimar Republic days how that might have been dealt with.
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A wartime romance that covers generations.
mark.waltz4 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Women in war were just as important as the men off in combat, even if these women were at home. This is the story of one of those women, an American who has gained a noble title, and is utilizing it to give her all to the causes of protecting the home in England she has come to love.

An American millionaire (Frank Morgan) has come to England with his daughter (Irene Dunne) for a holiday, and due to lousy weather (and boiled potatoes), pops is in a bad mood. But thanks to a British nobleman (C. Aubrey Smith), Dunne gets to go to a local ball, where she meets the man of her dreams (Alan Marshal) and agrees to marry him much to daddy's dismay. But can an American fit in with British society? After a shaky start, Dunne comes to love her new family, especially her kind-hearted mother-in-law (the very gracious Gladys Cooper) and the family retainer, nanny/nurse/companion Dame May Witty. Through World War I (during which she is widowed) through the onslaught of World War II, she perseveres, becoming as legendary a lady as those in the portraits which hang on her country home's corridor walls.

Roddy McDowall plays the young son (who grows up to be Peter Lawford), paired with a freckle-faced youngster named Elizabeth Taylor for a youthful romance. Van Johnson appears in several scenes as an American attracted to Dunne, while scenes between Morgan and Smith offer a comical running gag concerning a priceless chessboard which was obtained in a very amusing way.

Sweetly sentimental, this is a love story, not only of man and woman, but humanity and tradition, beautifully directed by Clarence Brown, one of MGM's greatest directors. It is poignant yet entertaining. In fact, fans of BBC's popular "Downton Abbey" will appreciate this as it covers similar territory with similar themes, particularly Gladys Cooper's more gentle version of Maggie Smith's family matriarch.
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Wonderful film
seriesbooks13 May 2002
A flashback brings us to 1915 and Britain in the midst of the Great War. An American lady, Susan Ashwood (Irene Dunne) vacationing in Britain with her father (Frank Morgan) meets the British gentleman, Sir John Ashwood (Alan Marshall) who would become her husband. A heartwarming depiction of the joys of life alongside the tragedies of war. Marked with a splendid supporting cast of characters including the charming Mr. Dunn (Frank Morgan), the veteran Colonel (C. Aubrey Smith), a youthful Peter Lawford, a young Roddy McDowall and a very young Elizabeth Taylor (in a surprisingly uncredited role).
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Just a brief comment, not a full review
Cue-ball25 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I only had one thing to add to the other reviews. But first I'll note that this is one of those "Golden Age" movies where every member of the cast is a pro. What a great scene between C. Aubrey Smith and Frank Morgan, both extolling the virtues of their own countries to the other's detriment (England v. USA). And the star of the movie is the great, under-rated Irene Dunne.

But, if for no other reason, you should see this movie just to hear our (America's) national anthem, played in a context that will absolutely make you cry. It rivals the "Marseillaise" performance in "Casablanca" for bringing a lump to your throat -- only this time, it is not a gesture of defiance, but of gratitude.
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Great Romance & War Picture Classic !
whpratt123 December 2004
Have not viewed this film in years and greatly enjoyed seeing this Great Film Classic and the fantastic cast of all time great actors from the 40's. Irene Dunne(Susan Dunn Ashwood),"I Remember Mama",'48 was an American gal who loved England and its great History and was overwhelmed with the countryside and its grandeur. Susan visited England with her father, Frank Morgan(Hiram Porter Dunn), "Green Dolphin Street," '47, a newspaper editor and a very out spoken man concerning his opinions of the English and there way of living and came into conflict with his daughters feelings. While in England they stayed at a sort of Bed & Breakfast and Susan ran into Alan Marshall,(Sir John Ashwood),"House on Haunted Hill",'59, who fell madly in love with Susan despite their family backgrounds. Van Johnson,(Sam Bennett),"Clowning Round",'92, made a few brief appearances and was very young and attractive and seemed to meet Susan always on the run or with bad timing. Hiram Porter Dunn ran into a conflict with C. Aubrey Smith,(Colonel),"Little Woman",'49 over a chess board that belonged to Dolly Madison, and Hiram felt that he should return it back to the White House. This is a great film concerning Romance and the horrible effects of War on all the families involved. Enjoy!
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Adjudication of Chess Dispute
howardmorley13 October 2009
As an avid chess player whose interest also extends to the history of the royal game and to 1940s films in particular, I feel qualified to adjudicate on the comical dispute in this film between "Colonel Forsythe" (C Aubrey Smith) & "Mr Hiram Porter Dunn" (Frank Morgan when they debated who was the better chess player, whether Joseph Henry Blackburne (from Manchester, England (b.10/12/1842) or Harry Nelson Pillsbury (from nr.Boston Mass. b.5/12/1872 (British day/month year order).It is unusual for a Hollywood film producer to take such an interest in the noble game indeed I cannot think of any other incident in contemporary popular films, so I was naturally intrigued by their argument.Pillsbury the American shot to fame by coming to Europe where no one in chess circles had heard of him and proceeded to win the great Hastings 1895 tournament with 16 1/2 points ahead of the then world champion Emmanuel Lasker who came 3rd scoring 15 1/2 points.Blackburne could only come a lowly 10th position scoring 10 1/2 points.When Frank Morgan as Hiram Porter Dunn insists "Pillsbury invented that move", I am assuming he is alluding to a variation as white of the Queens Gambit Declined where white initiates a stonewall attack by planting a knight on the e5 square, pawns on the c3/d4/e3/f4 & g4 squares, develops other pieces into a set "stonewall" pattern and then builds up a massive king side attack.Of course he was 30 years younger than Blackburne at the time while he only lived to 34 in 1906 while Blackburne died aged 82 in 1924.By the way in their individual game at Hastings these two combatants drew with each other.

I found the film too syrupy for my liking but being produced in 1944 film producers were briefed by governments to assist the war effort and promote accord between allied forces, especially with the Normandy landings in the offing.In "A Matter of Life & Death" (1946) Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger were under similar instructions to promote harmony between the allies.Let us not forget that the man voted in a recent TV poll "The Greatest ever Briton" - W. S. Churchill (born 1874) was the product of an American mother, born Jennie Jerome & a British father, Randolph Churchill.My understanding of the 1942 Dieppe raid was that it was an exclusively Canadian operation, almost a dress rehearsal for the real invasion two years later; so I felt it was a bit too "pat" to have three nationalities of soldiers together in a shell crater but I understand why this scene was written into the film script.
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A Cinderella tale intertwined with tragedy
calvinnme4 March 2017
White Cliffs of Dover was made to stoke the flames of patriotism. The film is largely Dunne as a 50 something WWII nurse awaiting a large number of casualties as she looks back on her life in England.

Her memories consist of the tale of a Yankee girl, Irene Dunne as Susan Dunn, who goes on a two week vacation to England with her father and on her last day there meets a member of the English gentry who is instantly smitten by her and talks her into staying and marrying him. At first Susan feels out of her element as Lady Ashwood, but she quickly finds her footing. She and her husband, Sir John Ashwood, don't even have time for a honeymoon as WWI starts and he is off to fight with his regiment. After three years he finally gets a few days leave, but it is long enough to conceive his son, John Ashwood Jr., or John Ashwood II as the British would say.

Irene Dunne always gave good subtle performances in parts that could have easily gotten ham-fisted, and this role is no exception. Frank Morgan as her Yankee dad is a revelation as he is for once not the befuddled comic relief but a spirited American father who wants his daughter home in America before her marriage, and safe from the Nazi bombs as the winds of a second war approach. C. Aubrey Smith lends terrific support as Colonel Walter Forsythe, considered a crackpot at the boarding house where he and the Dunns were staying during their trip, because he claims to have a standing invitation to the most exclusive ball in England, but seems to just be a common pensioner. Well it turns out he really can turn pumpkins into carriages after all. Roddy McDowell plays John Jr., and he is smitten by one of the daughters of the tenant farmers on the estate played by a twelve year old Elizabeth Taylor in only her third credited role. Their scenes together are just too cute.

As with most of the WWII films there are a few lines and a few scenes that get over the top just a bit. There are the American soldiers marching through the streets of London to rousing patriotic songs played by a military band as the film comes full circle. There are the two German preteens who are friends of John Jr. during the early 1930's who just happen to erupt into Nazi propaganda at the dinner table. I was surprised one of them didn't put a comb under his nose and start imitating the Bohemian corporal. And then there is grief that takes all of 15 seconds in spite of its cruel irony because you just HAVE to keep that stiff upper lip! But it's not overdone for a film that is over two hours long, and it does take that long to do the tale justice.
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"God will never forgive us if we break faith with our dead again"
richard-178720 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is, in most ways, a clichéd repeat of 1930s movies about the snobbish English aristocracy and the almost Stepin-Fetchit obsequiousness of the English peasantry. Think *Mrs. Miniver* from two years before, or *Rebecca* from four years before. Irene Dunne gives yet another wonderful, nuanced performance, and Alan Marshal, handsome but not a great actor, is dispensed with fairly early in the movie, so we can enjoy Gladys Cooper and the other character roles instead.

But then, at the end, we several times are told that "God will never forgive us if we break faith with our dead again," if we go to war yet again after World Wars I and II, with all their loss of life. It is a very strange note on which to end this movie, especially since, when it was released in June, 1944, we were just landing in Normandy and had no idea when World War II would end, and how.

This is, in short, about as close to an anti-war movie as the Office of War Information could have countenanced during the war.

As I said at the beginning, most of it is just Hollywood clichés about the English recycled. Nothing new.

But the end, far from uplifting, is particularly somber.

I recommend it for Dunne's fine performance, and for the hint at isolationism that the end seems to suggest.
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Superb and sentimental story of war taking the world's best young men
vincentlynch-moonoi1 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As I was watching this film -- a sentimental film produced DURING World War II -- I couldn't help but think how ironic it was that the sentimentality of the story would be virtually obsolete in American films just one year later, as World War II ended and America faced a new reality in the world.

Nevertheless, this is a charming story, albeit a somewhat melancholy one. It is usually labeled as a home front war movie (covering both World Wars), but the war really doesn't come into the picture except at the beginning and almost halfway through the film. And it ends well before the end of the picture. Then the story is of how the living go on with life. So, I would prefer to see it as a romance taking place in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and the war is part of the story...the sad part. I'm not sure why, but in some ways it reminds me of "Mrs. Miniver", although it is a very different film.

An American newspaper publisher -- the always delightful Frank Morgan -- and his daughter -- the also always delightful Irene Dunne -- vacation in England where Dunne's character is swept off her feet by upper class army officer, Sir John Ashwood -- Alan Marshall (who is excellent). The honeymoon begins just as World War I breaks out. Sir John is killed in action near the end of the war, but not before siring a son, who in turn goes off to World War II, while his mother is a nurse. And what will his fate be? The supporting actors in this film are superb -- Gladys Cooper, Dame May Witty, Elizabeth Taylor (so young here she is almost unrecognizable), among others. Perhaps the goofiest part was played by Van Johnson; was it bad acting or supposed to be that way?

There's a great scene between Frank Morgan and C. Aubrey Smith early on in the film...over a chess set. Another exceptional scene is where Dunne points out the insensitivity of her British hosts.

This is a very "handsome" production. If there is a problem with the film -- at least for Americans -- the pace is a bit slow. Although it feels like a British film, it is actually and American MGM production. I'm not quite sure I agree with the film's ending. Too much sacrifice for one woman.

Excellent. Well worth an "8", a rating I rarely give.
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Heavy Handed Message Mars Sentimental Family Saga
dglink25 August 2012
"The White Cliffs of Dover," even the title reeks of warmth, home, longing. A book-ended story of an American woman reflecting on her life in England; rich velvety cinematography of lush comfortable interiors; friendly familiar faces from countless films viewed over a lifetime; a sentimental tale of love, duty, and loss. Clarence Brown's 1944 dramatization of Alice Duer Miller's poem has the makings of an unforgettable classic for rainy afternoons, cuddled under a blanket on the sofa, and much of the film fulfills that cherished goal.

Unfortunately, some dated clutter spoils the show. A voice-over narration reads passages from the poem and quickly wears thin. The stereotypes that contrast brash, over-confident Americans with duty-bound, class-conscious English are tiresome and should be relegated to the dustbin. The overt World War II propaganda is strident, although by fade out, viewers may be ready to rush out and buy war bonds. If Brown could have produced a director's cut that eliminated the now-dated messages and focused on the compelling family saga, an engrossing movie would have emerged. Such annoying episodes as the unexplained visit of two young Hitler Youth, the bizarre assumption that French villagers know the English lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, and the myth that only American marching bands were sent overseas should have been relegated to the cutting room floor when the war ended. "Important Message" is written in capital letters throughout, and the message obscures a warm decent story.

The ever-dependable Irene Dunne is the young American woman who arrives in England for an intended two-week stay and remains for a lifetime. As in fairy tales, Dunne meets and marries a handsome wealthy aristocrat and expects to live happily ever after, but two world wars intervene. MGM brought out the studio's finest supporting players to populate the cast: C. Aubrey Smith, Dame May Witty, Frank Morgan, Gladys Cooper. The film's glittering assemblage also included some of MGM's brightest young contract players: Van Johnson, Peter Lawford, Tom Drake, June Lockhart, Roddy McDowall, and the already enchanting Elizabeth Taylor. In short, "The White Cliffs of Dover" had everything, except a sense of subtlety in its wartime propaganda. Despite the lapse, the movie remains worthwhile and generally entertaining, although repeat viewings could be tough going.
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Among the finest propaganda films I've ever seen.
starmediaca28 December 2007
Made in 1944, this film was obviously designed to remind the millions of American and British service people that, despite their differences, they were all related, and worth dying for!

One of the many things that stands out for me in this film is the prominent role that women's points-of-view plays. It's hard to imagine this film being made five years earlier or later. But by '44, women's sacrifices - of both themselves and their sons and husbands - were so real, and so emotionally charged, that the nobility of such sacrifice could be writ large on the silver screen.

The fact that they use Dieppe as a poignant symbol was surely intended to prepare audiences for the NEXT landings in Europe, which were already being planned. I wonder if there really ever were Americans ashore in the Dieppe raid? I doubt it. But the symbolism of a yank, a brit, and a canuck dying in the same shell-hole was obviously too good to pass up.

The cast is exceptional, with bit parts by the very young Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Lorrie standing out.
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It turns out that BOTH World Wars One and Two may have been caused . . .
Hot 888 Mama7 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
. . . by "Bad Karma" stemming from a cursed chess set, MGM movie studio tells theater goers during THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER, released while the final outcome of WWII was still in doubt. Much of this story revolves around U.S. First Lady Dolly Madison's board game, looted from our White House before British arsonists torch the place during their invasion of the USA in the 1800s. (Now, with the notorious British "Brexit" vote producing a record 1200-point drop of the New York Stock Exchange Feb. 5, 2018, it's clear that the wall from Key West to the tip of Maine on America's East Coast MUST be at least twice as high as that wall to the south!) Though Col. Forsythe goes through the motions of repatriating Dolly's Game of Kings toward the end of this flick, Wikipedia reports that it was sent back with missing rooks. Tensions between the USA and England are higher now than they have been since Dolly was baking her Lady Fingers in the White House ovens, which is the main reason that the hands of the "Doomsday Clock" were recently moved forward to 11:59 PM (Greenwich Standard Time). The big takeway from THW WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER is for America to keep her eagle eye upon this so-called "United Kingdom" in order to insure that we never get rooked again!
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