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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Since You Went Away (1944)

It's 1943 on the American homefront as WWII wages in Europe and the Pacific. A wife and mother (Claudette Colbert) tries to keep up the morale and raise her two daughters (Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple) while her husband is away doing his wartime service. But the horrible reality of death and war can't help but intrude its way into their lives. One of the few WWII propaganda films to focus on the homefront rather than the battlefield, producer David O. Selznick (who also wrote the screenplay) takes what should have been a simple story and turns it into an epic. Pushing the three hour mark with Roadshow trimmings (Overture, Intermission and Entr'acte), Selznick's script often reeks of shameless sentiment. Notably Lionel Barrymore's Sunday sermon and Alla Nazimova's Statue Of Liberty speech. But there also moments of genuine poignancy, mostly in the scenes between Jennifer Jones and Robert Walker as a young soldier that are extremely touching. Particularly, their evening with a lonely sailor (Guy Madison) and the heartrending goodbye at the train station. Max Steiner won an Oscar for his score and it's pretty good except for his use of the sappy standard Together. The direction by John Cromwell is probably as good as anyone could do. The large cast includes Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley, Agnes Moorehead, Hattie McDaniel, Keenan Wynn, Craig Stevens, Albert Bassermann, Ruth Roman and Dorothy Dandridge.

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