I have just finished reading 'Come in Spinner', a giant of a novel written in 1951 about the experiences of a group of Australian women on the homefront during WWII. I haven't been able to get a copy of the mini-series (it was a huge book), so instead I have been watching a few 'homefront' movies. The first one was the classic and well known 'Mrs Minniver' (1942), and then the less known 'Since You Went Away'(1944), which stars one of my favourite actresses, Claudette Colbert. A brief look at that one today.
Claudette Colbert as Mrs. Anne Hilton
Jennifer Jones as Jane Deborah Hilton
Joseph Cotten as Lieutenant Commander Tony Willett
Shirley Temple as Bridget 'Brig' Hilton
Monty Woolley as Colonel William G. Smollett
Hattie McDaniel as Fidelia (the maid)
Lionel Barrymore as Clergyman
Robert Walker as Corporal William G. 'Bill' Smollett II
Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Emily Hawkins
Alla Nazimova as Zofia Koslowska
Albert Bassermann as Dr. Sigmund Gottlieb Golden
|The cast of the movie|
|Missing you already|
|Smollet and Brig hit it off|
|Jane, Bill and Tony|
|The baby hasn't met his father yet|
|Jane in the rehabilitation room at the hospital|
Unfortunately Bill doesn't return home, and Ann has to break it to Jane - her own husband is already missing in action. She also has to tell his grandfather, the colonel, who feels guilty as he pressured Bill into being a soldier. "My grandson had to die for me to be proud of him."
Jane continues her work at the hospital, and assists psychiatrist Dr. Golden, who explains - "there's a whole wide broken world to mend". His is only a small role, but it shows that soldier
s psychiatric wounds were beginning to be taken seriously. Golden tells her to do her best to help the men rebuild their confidence in them selves.
'Agnes Moorhead plays Ann's friend Emily, who is slightly self-absorbed and pretentious, and shows us the evil and unpatriotic things that everyday people may be guilty of. When Emily tells Jane that she shouldn't be touching common young men at the hospital, Jane sets her straight, and Ann then feels so guilty for helping more with the war effort that she gets a job as a welder in a ship yard. "If Claudette Colbert can do it, you can too" seems to be the message.
Ann meets refugee Zofia at the shipyard, and they become friends. Zofia recants the inscription on the Statue of Liberty - "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" - and tell's Ann that she is what she thought America would be. Ann is floored by the compliment.
It's Christmas time, and after a cheerful game of charades, Fidelia puts presents, those she has been safe keeping for Mr Hilton, under the tree. Ann opens hers and bursts into tears.
But then, with perfect timing, the phone rings, and the message comes that Ann's husband is alive and coming home. She rushes upstairs to tell her daughters the good news, and the movie ends a happy note - one to give hope to wives and mothers everywhere. It is indeed a tear jerker!
Like Mrs Minniver, this movie was great propaganda for the war effort. Soon after some of the stars helped to promote war bonds as well.
|16-year-old Temple in 1944 in Ottawa|
at a ceremony to raise money for Canadian Victory bonds
|Max Stiener, right, with his award|
If you have time, you can watch the entire movie here.