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In 1950, life as usual in a middle-American town. Cold War paranoia is beginning; the young men's biggest concern is the draft board and deferments from the peacetime army. Then the Korean War begins, and the Greer family starts to worry: kid brother Jack, courting the lovely daughter of the draft board chairman, is next on the list. A character study examining American attitudes of that era. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Slice of American life at the start of the Korean war
"I Want You" is a 1951 film starring Dana Andrews, Dorothy McGuire, Farley Granger, Peggy Dow, Mildred Dunnock, and Martin Milner. The character that Dana Andrews plays, Martin Greer, is perhaps an extension of his character in "The Best Years of Our Lives" four years later. It's post-World War II, the men have returned, purchased homes, started families, and built businesses. Then troops begin to be sent to Korea and the draft letters start coming. The movie deals with the effect on a small-town family and the emotional exhaustion and recent memories of World War II. How difficult it must have been to go to war again, yet many did.
Martin refuses to write a letter asking that one of his employees, whose father also works for him, be exempt due to being necessary to his business; he begins an exemption letter for his brother at his mother's request, but he can't do it. In love with the daughter of a member of the draft board, Martin's brother Jack (Granger) believes that he is being drafted to put a distance between himself and his girlfriend (Dow). "We both know the reason why my knee was exempt three months ago and isn't now," he says to her father (Ray Collins). When he suggests at dinner that rather than have people go into battle, the Army should just drop bombs, his sister-in-law (McGuire) throws him out of the house, causing bad blood between her and her in-laws. And it begins a domino effect: Jack and Martin's mother (Dunnock) goes home and trashes her living room, filled with war memorabilia supposedly brought back from battle by her husband (Robert Keith) but in truth purchased in pawn shops; he spent the war as a general's orderly in a Paris hotel.
What is fascinating is that some of the conversation sounds either like what one heard during the Vietnam days or hears today - one push of a button and we'll all be blown to bits and the desperation to get a deferment. Other parts are strictly Dark Ages: Jack's upper class girlfriend Carrie doesn't want to get married until she's 25. She wants to travel, learn Japanese, and "maybe even get a job," all of these things apparently not doable once she's married, the ultimate career goal.
Most of the performances are excellent. McGuire gives a striking performance as a woman who lived as an army wife, and for whom the thought of her husband perhaps being asked to serve again brings up a lot of anger. "We've lived in this house two years," she says. "Two years. Is that all the happiness people are allowed today?...I don't want to be left alone anymore." Dunnock's character is more restrained by equally effective in her disappointment in having to constantly say goodbye to her sons as they go to war. Matinée idol Granger, at the time under contract to the producer of the film, Sam Goldwyn, always had a youthful and likable screen personality, though he was never much of an actor. Dow is fairly one-note as his girlfriend; she doesn't bring enough warmth to the role.
Dana Andrews brings heart to the part of Martin, a man who tries to live by his own conscience and with honesty. He's really the anchor of the film. Though Andrews had a limited range, what he could do was always very good and with a solid presence. The end of the film is extremely touching, in large part due to him.
I was not bored by this movie. I found it very interesting. We've changed in this country and yet we have some of the same concerns. A good deal of the rhetoric sounded quite familiar. Recommended.
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