An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… Since You Went Away (1944)

Continuing on with another film for the holiday season, we’ve got the 1944 movie Since You Went Away, starring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Monty Woolley, Lionel Barrymore and Robert Walker!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Psychedelic Pink (1968)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

The Pink Panther walks by a psychedelic book store, and comes inside after being hypnotized by the door. A lot of weird stuff happens in this one (although that’s not too surprising, given the hypnotism). It leans a bit into the look and feel of the era, which dates this a little bit. Some of the gags with the books and letters are decent, but this is not one of the better Panther cartoons (even if the Little Man does sport a slightly different look than usual because of the facial hair).

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s January, 1943. Advertising executive Tim Hilton has just left to join the Army, leaving behind his wife Anne (Claudette Colbert) and their two daughters, Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Bridget “Brig” (Shirley Temple). Without his income, they find themselves letting their housekeeper Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel) go, and, at Brig’s suggestion, they decide to take in a boarder. Their ad is answered by Colonel William G. Smollett (Monty Woolley), who takes over Anne’s room. They find themselves even more crowded when Fidelia returns (taking her old room), and then an old friend of Tim and Anne’s, Lieutenant Tony Willett (Joseph Cotten) shows up and take a room as well (for a little while before he is shipped out). Jane has a bit of a crush on Tony, but she also soon meets the Colonel’s estranged grandson, Corporal William G. “Bill” Smollett II (Robert Walker), who falls for her. After graduating from high school, Jane wants to get a job at a hospital instead of going to college (which Anne refuses to consider at first). After the family tries (and fails) to meet up with Tim when he has a train stop close by, Anne relents and lets Jane get a job as a nurse’s aid for the summer. Not long after, Anne receives a telegram telling her that Tim is missing in action. When Bill is given his orders to leave, he and Jane get engaged, with plans to marry after the war. However, those plans are put on hold permanently when he is killed in action. Later on, Anne’s “friend” Emily Hawkins (Agnes Moorehead) chides Jane for her work at the hospital, resulting in Jane calling her out for her own selfishness. When Emily tries to rebuke Jane, Anne comes to Jane’s defense, realizing that she herself hasn’t been much better than the very selfish Emily, and so Anne gets a job as a welder in a shipyard to do her patriotic bit. Will the missing Tim be found, or will the family have to carry on without him?

After producing the back-to-back Best Picture Oscar winners Gone With The Wind and Rebecca, David O. Selznick had closed up his production company Selznick International Pictures, and took a few years off (mainly using the time to lease out his various stars to the bigger studios and some film projects). He had been looking for another project to do under his new production company (The Selznick Studio) when he came across the novel Since You Went Away: Letters to a Soldier from His Wife by Margaret Buell Wilder. His first thought was to bring the author in to write the screenplay, but he later changed his mind and decided to write it himself. While stage actress Katharine Cornell had desired the role of Anne, Selznick advised her against it, and instead cast Claudette Colbert in the role. He assembled a group of other big stars, including Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley, Shirley Temple (whom he had coaxed out of the retirement that she went into after her last film, Miss Annie Rooney, nearly two years earlier), and his new star (and future wife) Jennifer Jones (who was paired up with her current husband, Robert Walker). Selznick had hopes that the film would be another epic in the style of Gone With The Wind. While the film didn’t become the runaway success that Gone With The Wind had become, it still managed to be a decent hit with wartime audiences, and received a number of Oscar nominations (winning for the Best Score).

When I finished putting my schedule together for the year (with regard to my Stars Of The Month), I realized that I had at least one unreviewed holiday film for several of the stars, and made plans to review them this month for the holidays. Now, being that Claudette Colbert was one of my Stars, I opted to go with the film Since You Went Away (since I had already done Tomorrow Is Forever, and I don’t otherwise know of any other Christmas films that she had done). Now, I first saw Since You Went Away in early 2018, not long after it had been released on Blu-ray for the first time. I had no idea what to expect of it going in, but it turned out to be a movie that I enjoyed! For me, all the performances worked well. Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple all do well in showing us the struggles of a family in wartime, and help us care deeply for their characters. Arguably, Monty Woolley steals the show with a character who starts out quite similar to his Sheridan Whiteside from The Man Who Came To Dinner, but the family is able to help soften him up by the end of the film into a much more lovable guy. And Agnes Moorehead is, well, Agnes Moorehead (not a bad thing here!) as Anne’s selfish friend, who eventually gets her (well-deserved) comeuppance. The whole movie is good, with its moments of fun (like at the dance, which includes the familiar-to-me tune “The Emperor Waltz”, since I’ve seen the movie The Emperor Waltz enough times that I recognize the tune) and tragedy. Even though the film’s Christmas scenes are for the last fifteen minutes (of a nearly three hour movie), it’s enough for me to consider this a Christmas film. After all the tragedy and heartbreak we see the characters go through over the year’s time, it’s nice to see them have a good time and have hope of a brighter future. Plain and simple, this is a wonderful movie, and it’s one I have no hesitation in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

Film Length: 2 hours, 57 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Palm Beach Story (1942)Claudette ColbertTomorrow Is Forever (1946)

Gaslight (1944) – Joseph Cotten – I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)

Miss Annie Rooney (1942) – Shirley Temple – I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) – Monty Woolley – Kismet (1955)

You Can’t Take It With You (1938) – Lionel Barrymore

Agnes Mooreheard – Dark Passage (1947)

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