Since You Went Away (1944)

“You mustn’t fool yourself! That would be the worst thing of all. You’ve got to face it, as hard and cruel as it is.”

Synopsis:
A woman (Claudette Colbert) with two daughters (Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple) whose husband has enlisted in the war effort takes in a boarder (Monty Woolley) to help cover her expenses. When their family is visited by an old friend (Joseph Cotten) and their former maid (Hattie McDaniel) comes back to live with them, their house becomes even fuller — and when Woolley’s grandson (Robert Walker) shows up, new romantic developments arise.

Genres:

Review:
Producer David O. Selznick was hoping to continue the success of his studio’s previous two Oscar-winning films — Gone With the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940) — with this lengthy but intimate portrait of an American household surviving the absence of a beloved husband and father (never shown except in photos) during World War II. There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about the script, which perhaps was precisely the point: life goes on in mundane ways even in the midst of chaos and war. A strong theme throughout the film is the importance of devotion and sacrifice when faced with deprivation; Agnes Moorehead’s “villainous” turn as a snooty socialite who cares only about her own amusement strongly reinforces this message. It’s sad watching vulnerable (on-screen and in real life) Walker tentatively romancing Jones, knowing that their marriage was breaking up at the time of filming thanks to her affair with Selznick; so much for loyalty and honor.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine lead performances
  • Nice period detail

  • Stanley Cortez and Lee Garmes’ cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for its historical value.

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One Response to “Since You Went Away (1944)”

  1. A once-must – mainly for the successful assembly and ensemble effort of this cast: Colbert (in what seems one of her most natural performances – she comes off as particularly comfortable with the dialogue); Jones; Temple; Woolley (doing a riff on his ‘Man Who Came to Dinner’ role… with a difference); Cotten (who seems to be enjoying his role as a semi-Lothario); McDaniel (often hilarious and ‘threatening’ to run away with the film); Walker; Moorehead (unsympathetic and ultimately at her nastiest!)

    ~ as well, in smaller roles: Lionel Barrymore; Alla Nazimova; Guy Madison; Keenan Wynn.

    Though, here and there, the film almost slips into something gooey, it comes off as a rather sincere wartime effort. A number of scenes are especially potent and, overall, director John Cromwell does a fine job pulling it all together (although apparently he had uncredited ‘help’ from Tay Garnett, Edward F. Cline and – not surprisingly – Selznick).

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