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In Which We Serve (1942)

Not Rated | | Drama, War | 23 December 1942 (USA)
This "story of a ship", the British destroyer H.M.S. Torrin, is told in flashbacks by survivors as they cling to a life raft.

Directors:

Noël Coward (as Noel Coward), David Lean

Writer:

Noël Coward (by) (as Noel Coward)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Noël Coward ... Capt. E.V. Kinross R.N. - Captain 'D' (as Noel Coward)
John Mills ... Ordinary Seaman Shorty Blake
Bernard Miles ... Chief Petty Officer Walter Hardy
Celia Johnson ... Mrs. Alix Kinross
Kay Walsh ... Freda Lewis
Joyce Carey ... Mrs. Kath Hardy
Derek Elphinstone Derek Elphinstone ... No. 1
Michael Wilding ... Flags
Robert Sansom Robert Sansom ... Guns
Philip Friend ... Torps
Chimmo Branson Chimmo Branson ... Midshipman
Ballard Berkeley ... Engineer Commander
Hubert Gregg ... Pilot
James Donald ... Doc
Michael Whittaker Michael Whittaker ... Sub
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Storyline

This is the story of a British Naval ship, H.M.S. Torrin, from its construction to its sinking in the Mediterranean during action in World War II. The ship's first and only commanding officer is the experienced Captain E.V. Kinross, who trains his men not only to be loyal to him, but to the country, and most importantly, to themselves. They face challenges at sea, and also at home. They lose some of their shipmates in action, and some of their loved ones in the devastation that is the blitz. Throughout it all, the men of the Torrin serve valiantly and heroically. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The greatest human drama of war filmed! The greatest picture you've ever seen! [UK Theatrical] See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 December 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hidalgos de los mares See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£240,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$450,000, 3 February 1943
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Sound System)

Color:

Black and White (archive footage)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was shown to all new Royal Navy recruits after it was released to give them an idea and an impression of what life in the Navy was like. See more »

Goofs

When soldiers, evacuated from Dunkirk, are disembarking, they are shown carrying Lee Enfield No.4 rifles. This model of Lee Enfield was not issued to troops until later in the war. They should have been shown with the earlier model Short Magazine Lee Enfield. In most (all?) other scenes, the correct model for the period is shown. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: [voiceover] This is the story of a ship...
[long sequence of ship-building and launch]
See more »

Crazy Credits

This film is dedicated to the Royal Navy "whereon under the good providence of God, the wealth, safety and strength of the kingdom chiefly depend". See more »


Soundtracks

Good King Wenceslas
(uncredited)
Lyrics by John M. Neale
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User Reviews

Portrait of wartime society
29 November 1999 | by 101774.2246See all my reviews

"In Which We Serve" is more than a story told for propaganda effect about naval heroism and based on Mountbatten's wartime experiences. As the English film critic Barry Norman has put it: "Aboard Coward's fictional HMS Torrin there existed forties British society in microcosm. Here everybody knew his place... The one thing they all had in common was the knowledge that each of them, high or low, was expected to show unswerving loyalty and devotion to duty". The relationships between the men on HMS Torrin and the lives they lead at sea and at home (told through flashbacks) portray a wartime society ordered by class and intentionally defined by the traditional British virtues of duty and sacrifice. It is a society in which understatement and the stiff upper lip reign supreme. Emotions go largely unspoken. They simmer under the surface of the screen in the silences and in the flickering effort of concealment on the faces of the major characters. Personal suffering is borne with quiet forbearance, in the knowledge that it is borne in the service of a higher cause and that to bear it stoically is to set the right example to others. When the ship's chief petty officer is told of the death of his wife and mother in law in the blitz he first congratulates the sailor who brings him the news for becoming a father before going up on deck to bear his grief alone. The clipped style of speech of Captain Kinross played by Coward himself and the slightly shrill upper class accent of his wife played by Celia Johnson heighten the sense of feelings being stripped away from the words. Their conversation is a caricature of communication - the protagonists performing their dialogue in a choreographed ritual. Real communication is only hinted at - the underlying pain understood but never expressed. In "In Which We Serve" the captain and his wife are the models to which other men and women must aspire - in monologues they define the notions of duty and sacrifice to which each sex is bound. Both put duty before the pursuit of personal happiness (a theme David Lean and Coward return to in Brief Encounter). When the Captain talks of the need for a happy ship he is not referring to the right of individuals expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Here happiness is a collective duty in the interests of efficiency.

For the men and women in Coward's vision HMS Torrin is much more than a ship - it is personified as the object of their devotion and jealousy. Above all it is a powerful symbol of the qualities and traditions that unite and must protect their vulnerable island at war. Outdated though this vision may be - part of a world left far behind through post-war socio-economic development and emancipation - it is nevertheless a compelling and entirely consistent vision which ensures the film retains a certain appeal to audiences even today and is a major reason why it can still be so highly rated as a piece of British cinema history.


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