Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tonight's Movie: In the Meantime, Darling (1944)

IN THE MEANTIME, DARLING is the story of newlyweds Maggie and Danny (Jeanne Crain, Frank Latimore), who live in a hotel with other military families during World War II. The hotel is located in Victorville, California, near Danny's desert training camp.

Maggie is from a wealthy family -- her parents are played by Eugene Pallette and Mary Nash -- and she struggles to fit into her new environment, especially as some of the other army wives are initially hostile. Mary finds a supportive friend in another military wife, Shirley (Gale Robbins, in a lively performance), and learns to pitch in and make the most of every moment before her husband is shipped overseas.

I first saw this film on cable about 15 years ago. It's one of those movies which might not be a particularly good film, but it's fun to watch -- it has a deep cast of familiar faces and provides a snapshot of wartime life, victory gardens and all, which is quite interesting viewed from a vantage point of over six decades later.

This was one of Jeanne Crain's first films, released right after HOME IN INDIANA (1944). I'm a big Jeanne Crain fan -- I like her, and I like the kinds of movies she made -- and this little film, which runs a fast 72 minutes, is no exception. Crain was a natural, and the camera loved her. Maggie, nicknamed "Child Bride" by her husband, is a likeable character who means well; she makes mistakes out of immature ignorance or love, but she learns and grows from her experiences.

The movie has an interesting cast roster. Gale Robbins is very appealing as Crain's friend Shirley, and her role is just about as big as Crain's. Robbins has the opportunity to sing a pretty ballad at an army dance. Robbins later appeared in the Fred Astaire musicals THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY (1949), THREE LITTLE WORDS (1950), and THE BELLE OF NEW YORK (1952).

Frank Latimore, who plays Crain's new husband, later played wealthy Steve Harrington in the Fox musical THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (1946). The majority of his career was in foreign films, although he appeared in a few more English-language movies, including PATTON (1970).

Jane Randolph, who passed away earlier this year, is the widow who runs the hotel. Although her character at first appears to be cold and rude, we later learn her back story and she has some touching scenes with Crain.

Heather Angel, Cara Williams, and Elisabeth Risdon are among the other boarders at the Hotel Craig. The reliable Risdon, who had nearly 150 acting credits dating back to the silents, is fun to watch as a colonel's wife who isn't bothered in the least when Crain mistakes her for the hotel cook and wants to tip her for preparing an after-hours breakfast.

Actor-director Blake Edwards, who had a small role in a postwar film reviewed a couple weeks ago, TILL THE END OF TIME (1946), here plays Billy, a soldier who jitterbugs with Jeanne Crain. Glenn Langan, who was Crain's French teacher crush in MARGIE (1946), plays Lt. Larkin.

Clarence Muse, who makes a positive impression as Henry, the kindly hotel porter, had a 50-year career which concluded with THE BLACK STALLION in 1979. And Major Phillips is played by Reed Hadley, whose distinctive voice narrated BOOMERANG! (1947), HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948), and THE IRON CURTAIN (1948).

This must be one of the least likely titles in the career of director Otto Preminger; it was one of his first American films. Later the same year his great classic LAURA was released. Preminger directed Crain again in CENTENNIAL SUMMER (1946) and THE FAN (1949).

The movie was shot in black and white by Joe MacDonald, whose credits include the beautifully filmed Western YELLOW SKY (1948).

This movie has not had a DVD or video release, but it is shown from time to time on Fox Movie Channel.

This film would fit in nicely on a double bill with TENDER COMRADE (1943), another story of communal wartime living, or with THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), another film about newlyweds coping with marriage and separation as a result of WWII.

Jeanne Crain films reviewed here previously: HOME IN INDIANA (1944), STATE FAIR (1945), MARGIE (1946), APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948), YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME (1948), A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949), TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL (1951), I'LL GET BY (1951), DANGEROUS CROSSING (1953), VICKI (1953), THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956), and SKYJACKED (1972).

Favorite Crain films not yet reviewed here include LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945), CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950), PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951), and BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952). And I'm still looking for a copy of CENTENNIAL SUMMER (1946), which I've never seen!

2012 Update: IN THE MEANTIME, DARLING is now available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.


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