Turner Classic Movies kicked off its celebration of Paul Henreid as Star of the Month with IN OUR TIME (1944), a well-acted and absorbing romance set against the backdrop of the Nazi invasion of Poland.
The film is initially quite reminiscent of REBECCA (1940), as quiet Jennifer (Ida Lupino), a young British secretary traveling as aide to a rather obnoxious older lady (Mary Boland), is romanced by a dashing gentleman. The gentleman in question is Count Stefan Orwid (Henreid), a member of the Polish nobility who defies family and tradition to marry Jenny despite her being a working girl whose father was a mere piano teacher.
When Stefan's intimidating uncle (Victor Francen), the family patriarch who controls the purse strings, threatens to withdraw financial support, Jenny decides marriage to Stefan wouldn't work and plans to back out of the engagement. However, the incident proves to be a clarifying experience for Stefan and he declares his independence, resolving, with Jenny's help, to modernize the family estate so it will become a self-supporting farm. All goes well until the Nazis invade Poland...
The film's weakest section is when the film moves from romance and married life to more directly face the war issues which have loomed as a background threat since the opening scenes. The sequences where Stefan leaves to defend Warsaw with his regiment and then directs a "scorched earth" strategy at his estate constitute a relatively short time towards the end of the film. I'm generally a fan of shorter, faster-paced films but in this case the 110 minutes didn't seem to be quite enough. This film might have been even better as a longer wartime epic along the lines of the American homefront saga SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944).
In addition to the wartime scenes, the family drama also appears to have been pared down. Nancy Coleman, playing the count's bitter sister Janina, seemed strangely underused; that impression was confirmed by scenes in the trailer, including Janina arguing with Jenny, which do not appear in the final film. One senses Janina had a story at one point but her role was edited down to be simply a disapproving background character. I checked the biographical chapter on Coleman in Daniel Bubbeo's excellent THE WOMEN OF WARNER BROS., but it did not shed any light on the subject.
The supporting cast includes Alla Nazimova as Stefan's mother and Russian actor and drama teacher Michael Chekhov (nephew of Anton) as Stefan's Uncle Leopold. Chekhov was later nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945).
IN OUR TIME was directed by Vincent Sherman, filmed in black and white by Carl Guthrie, and scored by Franz Waxman.
Extra extraordinaire Bess Flowers is listed by IMDb in not one but two scenes, at the train depot and the ballet, and I missed spotting her in both! I'll be watching for her next time.
This film did not have a VHS release and is not yet available on DVD. Perhaps this Warner Bros. film will be a future release from the Warner Archive.
IN OUR TIME will next be shown on TCM on August 4, 2013. It's definitely worth calendaring; even with its flaws I enjoyed it tremendously.