“Boy, they’re hungry for soldiers in there — red, raving hungry!”
The lives of a small-town American family are disrupted when the son (Farley Granger) of a businessman (Robert Keith) is drafted into the Korean war, and his brother (Dana Andrews) refuses to write a letter labeling him “indispensable”.
Made to capitalize on the success of Samuel Goldwyn’s Oscar-winning The Best Years of Their Lives (1946), this sincere tale of life on the American homefront during wartime rings true in many ways, despite its failure to reach the emotional heights of its acclaimed predecessor. Dana Andrews returns in a starring role as a small town father, son, and brother who is proud of his status as a WWII veteran, and happy to finally be able to enjoy life with his wife (Dorothy McGuire) and two children. When the Cold War heats up in Korea, however, and the draft board comes knocking harder than ever, he’s faced with some tough decisions: will he write a letter of “indispensability” for the father of a fresh-faced 19-year-old employee at his factory? Will he write the same letter for his own brother? Will he volunteer his own services once again? These challenging themes are handled respectfully and powerfully; it’s especially refreshing to see Granger standing up to the draft board, voicing his skepticism of America’s involvement with another country’s civil war (though naturally, all attitudes turn patriotic by the end of the movie).
In addition, there are several quietly powerful scenes involving the wives of Andrews and his WWI veteran father (Robert Keith); it’s nice to see Mildred Dunnock (playing Keith’s loyal wife) given another meaty supporting role after her Oscar-winning turn the same year in Death of a Salesman (1951). Unfortunately, however, the primary subplot — involving Granger’s romance with a “college girl” (Peggy Dow) whose parents consider her too good for him — is both dated and cliched, and takes up far too much screen time. (With that said, fans of Dow’s performance as loopy, love-struck Nurse Kelly in Harvey (1950) will surely enjoy seeing her in an even more substantial supporting role — especially considering that she gave up Hollywood permanently to become a housewife and mother shortly after this film was released). While it hasn’t endured as a must-see classic, there’s enough affecting material in I Want You to make it worth a look at least once, and fans of The Best Years… will surely want to check it out.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An affecting look at homefront sentiments during a draft
- Harry Stradling’s cinematography
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.