Monday, January 01, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Since You Went Away (1944) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Producer David O. Selznick's classic WWII "homefront" film SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

Selznick also scripted SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, and I don't think it would be too much to say that this film ranks just after GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) and REBECCA (1940) as his greatest cinematic achievements. It's one of my favorite films of the '40s.

Although SINCE YOU WENT AWAY runs very long at 2 hours and 57 minutes, it's one of those rare films where the time doesn't matter; it feels like jumping into a good book filled with people you care about, and you leave them only reluctantly when the movie comes to an end.

As the movie begins it's January 1943 and Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) has just put her husband Tim on a train bound for army training. Anne must quickly face up to both loneliness and new financial realities -- she sells the family car, lets the longtime housekeeper Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel) go, and rents out a room to a crochety retired army colonel (Monty Woolley) who works on wartime business.

Over the course of the year we see Anne's oldest daughter Jane (Jennifer Jones) mature, graduating high school and becoming a nurse's aide. She gives up her crush on her father's best friend Tony (Joseph Cotten) and falls in love with the colonel's shy estranged grandson Bill (Robert Walker). Jones and Walker, who were married at the time, share some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking scenes of young love ever captured on film.

Youngest daughter Bridget, aka "Brig" (Shirley Temple) does her part for the war effort, and Tony (Joseph Cotten) stops in to cheer the family with his periodic visits. Fidelia misses the family so much she moves back in as a renter!

Despite bearing great worries, Anne keeps on going day by day, setting the example for her daughters. Meanwhile family members must repeatedly say farewell to those leaving for service, whether it's Tony, Bill, or a sailor (Guy Madison) Jane and Tony meet at a bowling alley.

The movie draws to a close in a memorable Christmastime sequence which makes it perfect seasonal viewing. It also makes me sob each and every time I see it, but the film totally earns the cathartic tears shed.

The leisurely storytelling mixes casual moments in family life with set pieces which are both visually and emotionally stunning. The black and white filming of a dance in a hangar and a farewell at a train station are justly famous, but the entire movie is beautiful. Did any other actress have eyes which shone quite like Jennifer Jones?

The cinematography was by Stanley Cortez and Lee Garmes; IMDb also lists George Barnes and Robert Bruce as uncredited contributors.

SINCE YOU WENT AWAY was directed by John Cromwell; IMDb indicates there was also uncredited work by Tay Garnett, Edward F. Cline and producer-writer David O. Selznick. Selznick's screenplay was based on Margaret Buell Wilder's adaptation of her own novel. (I have a used copy of the book in my own collection.)

The supporting cast includes Agnes Moorehead, Lionel Barrymore, Lloyd Corrigan, Craig Stevens, Albert Basserman, Grady Sutton, and George Chandler.

The movie was nominated for multiple Oscars including Best Picture, but music composer Max Steiner was the sole winner.

I reviewed a previous DVD release back in 2010. It's been too long for me to be able to compare print quality, but Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is quite beautiful. The Kino Blu-ray contains the Roadshow edition of the film, including an Overture and Intermission music. The disc also includes a gallery of five trailers for films starring Joseph Cotten or Jennifer Jones.

Highly recommended.

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


Blogger barrylane said...

One of the great films, all time, reflecting as it does the America I grew up from the point of view I wish we all still held. Although, that may be part of the fantasy. Mine and Mr. Selznick's. On initial screening, Claudette Colbert cemented her position as an actress who could do now wrong, but Robert Walker not so much. However, on subsequent runs, either I became more tolerant, or Mr. Walker improved. One of the great story telling tricks is to never show Tim Hilton, after all who other than, Clark Gable? could play this imaginary perfect man and compete with Joseph Cotten at his absolute best, so they hired Neil Hamilton, and then cut him out. Good thinking.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to have you weigh in and share you admiration of the movie. I agree, Tim is so perfect -- and so is Cotten -- it's better not to show Tim!

Walker has not been a particular favorite of mine but he seems just right to me in this. His scenes with Jones are so special. (Saddens the heart to know they were falling apart offscreen.)

Colbert...also perfect!

I really hope anyone who's not yet seen this film will check it out, it's tremendous storytelling.

Best wishes,

1:16 PM  

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