As I watched this recently on Turner Movie Classics, a number of trivial points ran through my mind. David O. Selznick certainly had a knack for making clear statements and making sure that everything in his productions (at least up to this time) was easily understood by viewers of all levels.
As his cinematographer, Lee Garmes, was noted for his tendency toward dark images, I was constantly aware of the many shadows in his shots. For his actors to move from one position to another they walk through at least one area of total darkness. There are many shadows on their faces, many profiles, and sharp light and dark contrasts in the background. While Selznick reportedly didn't appreciate Garmes' signature style for GWTW, David certainly tolerated it here, and this dark ambiance gave "Since You Went Away" a quality of depth and substance it might not otherwise have had.
David's effort to get the "perfect" cast paid off. With Colbert anchoring the enactment with a great performance, the film was also blessed with excellent work from Cotten, Jones, Temple, Wooley, McDaniel, Moorhead, et al.
It looks like Colbert's preference for being photographed from the left side is valid. On my system, motion can be stopped and slowly forwarded, observing her from the right side when she turns. In real time one only glimpses; in slow motion one can see her point.
Max Steiner's themes are quite haunting (one of his main ones reveals generic influences of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde--another the basis for a later Christmas song) and his careful underscoring of every action works well here. TMC Channel's inclusion of the complete Overture and Entr'acte enhances the presentation's effectiveness. It's a joy to see material once cut from so many "classics" now sensitively restored.
Knowing what the Walkers were going through in real life (marital separation) during this filming does indeed make me further appreciate the fine quality of their work. Though Jennifer reportedly often left the set in tears, not a hint of that shows. That indeed is strong acting.
The volume of sad and tragic events depicted in this film now seems, by the end, a wee bit much. Still, this "tear jerker supreme" continues to be enjoyed by many viewers, and "Since You Went Away," remains a nostalgic enactment of an emotional period in American history.
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