Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Homecoming (1948) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

HOMECOMING (1948) is a sensitive drama about wartime relationships starring Clark Gable, Lana Turner, and Anne Baxter. It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Gable plays Dr. Lee Johnson, a successful surgeon who is wrapped up solely in his career and his loving wife Penny (Baxter). He's happy in the confines of his small, comfortable world, not interested in investing his time in parenthood or in joining his friend Dr. Bob Sunday (John Hodiak) in serving the poor.

When the U.S. enters World War II, Lee joins the military because it seems like the right thing to do, but he's in for a tough awakening as he's exposed to the rigors of frontline surgery. He's prodded out of his somewhat selfish and self-satisfied shell by Nurse Jane "Snapshot" McCall (Turner), who never hesitates to speak her mind when she disagrees with his opinions.

As years pass and they share exhausting and terrifying experiences, Lee and Snapshot develop a deep attraction and attachment, but both are always aware that Penny waits faithfully for him at home. Penny realizes from Lee's letters that the war is gradually changing him and is frightened by what the long separation and Lee's difficult experiences will do to their relationship.

Lee finally returns home after three years, physically and emotionally wounded, and he and Penny must build their relationship anew.

I found HOMECOMING a thoughtful and moving drama about good people who bond with one another -- more than they should -- when faced with the worst war has to throw at them. Lee still loves Penny, but Penny's not there being shelled with him.

A wiser man would have better protected the marriage he treasured by drawing stricter relationship boundaries in his new, challenging environment, but part of the point is that Lee isn't a perfect person. He's someone who has some growing to do, and as somewhat of a loner he finds it difficult not having someone to confide in other than his letters to Penny. Lee is even lonelier when his only close friend in the unit, Lt. Col. Silver (Ray Collins), is killed under fire, and Lee's attachment to Snapshot intensifies.

A deglamorized Turner, her hair often tucked under a cap or helmet, is quite good as the sassy widowed nurse who wants to help make the world safe for the little boy she's left at home with her parents.

Gable is quite affecting, particularly in the opening and closing scenes when he returns, and one has to wonder if his performance drew on his wartime experiences, as well as the loss of his wife in 1942. He doesn't get enough credit for being a really fine actor who never puts a foot wrong.

Baxter was excellent in a rather difficult role, breathing life into Penny so she's not simply a pallid, pretty woman waiting at home by the fire. She's touching and intelligent as she grasps that the man who will be coming home is not the same man who left. Gable and Baxter's reunion scenes are beautifully played, happy to see one another yet also awkward and uncertain, meeting almost as strangers after three years.

Baxter's real-life husband, John Hodiak, doesn't have a very meaty role but serves to prod Lee's conscience and reassure Penny. The supporting cast also includes Cameron Mitchell, Marshall Thompson, and Gladys Cooper.

HOMECOMING was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and shot in black and white by Harold Rosson. It was based on a story by playwright Sidney Kingsley. The film runs 113 minutes.

HOMECOMING is a fine film which is recommended. It's one of four films which costarred Gable and Turner; the other three films are also available from the Warner Archive.

The Warner Archive DVD of HOMECOMING is a nice-looking print. The trailer is included.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura

It's been quite a few years since I saw this film but my abiding memories of it are that it was a film for "grown-ups" (unlike much of what Hollywood seems to put out now). The 3 leads were excellent and Gable in particular, for me, really captured the emotional feel required. Performances of light-and-shade.
Thanks for reminding me of this movie. I would like to see it again now.

Best wishes,

3:54 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Very true, Jerry. This was a thoughtful and moving film. Hope you can rewatch it soon.

Best wishes,

8:09 AM  

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