Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tonight's Movie: I'll Be Seeing You (1944) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten star in I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944), recently released by Kino Lorber on Blu-ray and DVD.

For those who don't know this film, it might be the best Christmas film you've never seen. I only discovered it myself a dozen years or so ago, then first reviewed it here in 2009. It's one of those movies which only gets better with repeat viewings, a very special film which was overlooked in the annals of great Christmas movies for far too long. I'm delighted it will receive additional exposure thanks to Kino Lorber.

The story concerns Mary Marshall (Rogers) who meets soldier Zachary Morgan (Cotten) on a train a few days before Christmas. They're instantly attracted to one another, to the point that Zach, who has nowhere special to go for the holiday, gets off at Mary's stop.

Unknown to each other, both Mary and Zach are troubled souls harboring secrets: Mary is on an eight-day "good behavior" furlough from prison, where she's serving a six-year term for manslaughter, and Zach is fighting shell shock.

During the holidays Zach becomes a regular guest at the home of Mary's aunt (Spring Byington) and uncle (Tom Tully), and he gradually opens up to Mary about his psychological issues stemming from his battle experiences. Mary, meanwhile, can't decide whether to tell Zach the truth about her situation; she loves him but is afraid of rejection, as well as that the news that she's soon headed back to prison could impede his recovery.

The unusual plot may sound a bit farfetched, but it's beautifully scripted and performed. (The screenplay was by Marion Parsonnet, based on a play by Charles Martin.) Rogers and Cotten are each excellent -- and did Rogers ever look lovelier than in this film? -- but for me the actors who really shine are Byington and Tully (who habitually says everything is "Fine! Fine!"). They give exquisite performances as Mary's aunt and uncle and seem very "real" as they sing a carol with their plum pudding and joke about getting tipsy on a glass of sherry. There's also a lovely sequence where Tully says grace, the kind of thing you just don't tend to see in movies anymore.

Shirley Temple also does excellent work as Mary's teenage cousin Barbara, who struggles with her feelings about Mary having been in prison. Along the way Barbara learns some important lessons and perhaps will do some maturing thanks to her relationship with Mary.

Though set in WWII, the story seems more timely than ever, addressing issues such as sexual assault by an employer -- it really seems Mary should have gotten off with self-defense -- and what we now term post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Add to all of the above the very special title song by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, and it's quite a beautiful 85 minutes. Incidentally, listen for Louanne Hogan singing the title song at the New Year's Eve party. Hogan dubbed Jeanne Crain in multiple films including STATE FAIR (1945).

The film is for the most part a five-person character study, but there are small roles played by John Derek (billed as Dare Harris), Chill Wills, and Kenny Bowers.

I'LL BE SEEING YOU was directed by William Dieterle and, according to IMDb, an uncredited George Cukor. It was filmed in black and white by Tony Gaudio.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is lovely, with excellent sound. Extras include an audio commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, who did a fine job on Kino Lorber's release of LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963), and a five-film Joseph Cotten trailer gallery, including the trailer for this film.

The film and Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release are both very highly recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

A really delightful Christmas movie. Should be better-known.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Definitely! I'm so glad to know you've seen and enjoyed it, Jerry!

Best wishes,

11:35 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

Thanks for clueing me into this one, Laura. This Christmas I’m looking forward to seeing some lesser known titles, most of which I’ve learned from you.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's great to hear, Seth!

If time permits I'm going to adapt a ClassicFlix column I wrote on lesser-known Christmas movies and post it here.

Best wishes,

4:46 PM  

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