It's doubtful if this propaganda short has seen the light of day since it's initial release but it was both interesting and informative to catch up with it as part of a mini-season of Jessie Matthews at the NFT. It's very much in the area of the Crown Film Unit, The Turners Of Prospect Road etc and seen today it tips its glove from Frame #1 but it's also undeniable that its heart was in the right place and Matthews reveals a deft hand behind the camera. John Mills put in service time on film in all three branches of the Armed Forces and here he's seen in khaki as the soldier home for a brief leave in which he marries his sweetheart, Dulcie Gray and returns to duty. Matthews covers a lot of territory in two reels from the opening library shots of troopships arriving in port, reunions across the spectrum of class, rank, then in to Mills, telephoning his mum then walking down his bomb-damaged street, enjoying his first home-cooked meal as mother, Beatrice Varley supplies an economic back story of sweetheart Dulcie Gray, to whom he has stopped writing, believing erroneously that she had found another man. This sets up the reunion outside the factory where Gray is working, a resumption of the courtship culminating in the wedding with the anti climax of Mills returning to duty. Of course Mills and Gray are symbols and of course the whole thing is a metaphor and of course Noel Coward could do it better and did at least twice (In Which We Serve and This Happy Breed, both of which featured Mills) but there's a lovely wistful charm about the piece and a glimpse of what made England so great and a place where English people would want to live as well as a terrible reminder of how much Tony Blair has destroyed.
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