Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Since You Went Away, 1944

This perfect wartime drama was never on my radar or never showed up on television in the decades I have been watching, so seeing it or the first time is rather good now. Another perfect 1940s Hollywood Dream Factory creation, by producer David Selznick and directed by John Cromwell, shot by Lee Garmes and music score by Max Steiner; it really showcases Jennifer Jones (soon to be Mrs Selznick) after her success in THE SONG OF BERNADETTE in 1943. 
Like MRS MINIVER in '42 about those plucky Brits, this one focuses on the American home front and those women left at home (it starts with a closeup of those home fires burning) while their menfolk are overseas, some will not return ....

Plucky wife Claudette Colbert tries to hold it all together for her daughters Jennifer and teenage Shirley Temple (rather endearing here). 
Of course she has the requisite large comfy home (as in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES) and the married folk have single beds, and a devoted black maid/housekeeper/cook - yes, its Hattie McDaniel. Theres Agnes Moorehead as a bitchy neighbour - a stretch for Agnes - and the great silent star Nazimova too. The grumpy paying guest is none other than Monty Woolley (THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER) and sterling Joseph Cotton is the family friend and ex-beau of Claudette's Anne. No extra-marital shenanigans here! 

Two young guys stand out: Robert Walker plays Monty's nephew who is shipped overseas and has a lot of screen time with Jennifer (they were married then..., their son Robert Walker Jr became an actor too, popular for a while in the 1960s)  and just for a minute or two, Guy Madison - a real marine - as a marine here who certainly makes an impression, it launched his career after the war. (See my main post on him, below, or at label). 
Walker went on to that other perfect '40s  wartime romance, Minnelli's THE CLOCK with Judy, in 1945; his other standout role being Bruno in Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in 1951 (the year he died aged 32, one of Hollywood's sadder stories,).      .
Its emotional and compelling and overlong, and you may require a hanky to wipe away a tear or two - there may be rather too many lush close-ups of Jennifer (one of the few stars who did not appeal to me). Its a great Hollywood creation from that Golden Age, up there with MRS MINIVER and MEET ME IN ST LOUIS.  I liked the cutaway shots of the two cats watching the humans too. 
What is fascinating now is how these wartime dream factory creations create such a cosy glow at a terrible time where dreadful things were happening in Europe with the concentration camps in full swing .....


  1. Its pretty well documented that losing wife Jennifer Jones to mega-producer Selznick party caused Walker's downward spiral into alcohol and prescription drugs. As you say, another Hollywood tragedy of a talent gone too soon. Perhaps he was the forerunner of actors like Garfield and Clift.

  2. Actually Michael, I saw this on television when I was still something of a nipper and fell in love with it instantly, (I've always been a sucker for weepies and Claudette). Like you, I was never a fan of Jennifer Jones and was so pleased she fell out of that elevator in THE TOWERING INFERNO. I always remember Walker in this (and in THE CLOCK) and felt he might have had a great career had he not died so young.

  3. Hi Mike. It's Madeleine from IMDb. I saw this for the first time recently. I loved Cotton's character and how he was with the mother and two daughter. Loved the mumps scene, between him and Jennifer Jones. I enjoyed the focus being on the family. There are many films about soldiers, but very few about their families and their life at home while their loved one is away. Robert Walker is a favourite of mine, a natural who died way before his time. If you haven't already, check him out in Under The Clock(with Judy Garland)and One Touch of Venus(with Ava Gardner), he was great in dramatic and comic roles. Really enjoying reading your blog, keep up the great work!

    1. Madeline? Maddy - is that you? Good to see you on here too. Yes, since I retired 5 years ago it keeps me busy doing posts on here about things and people that interest me. Best regards. M.

    2. Hi Mike. Yep, it's me. I can see you've put so much effort into this blog. Looking forward to reading my way through more of your posts.

      I forgot to mention my extreme dislike of Agnes Moorehead's character. What an interfering woman she was! Agnes really made me hate that character, great performance as usual.

      Take care. Maddy

  4. That scene where Walker and Jennifer encounter Guy Madison feels alternately sweetly quaint or super-cruisy!

    1. Doesn't it though. Guy only has about 2 minutes but its certainly an eye-catching debut, which he parlayed into a reasonable career, after the war. He was of course ideal for westerns and the like.