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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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2020) with… I'll Be Seeing You (1944)

Now we’ve got something of a holiday classic, the 1944 movie I’ll Be Seeing You starring Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten and Shirley Temple.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Safari So Good (1947)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes)

While on safari, Popeye and Olive run into a Tarzan-like Bluto, who is instantly smitten with Olive. A number of gags involving Bluto and the various jungle animals on his side as he and Popeye are up to their usual hijinks. Some fun to be had here, even if a few gags do get to be a bit predictable (I still had a few good laughs with them, so there is that)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) has been in prison for three years, but for good behavior, she’s been given a ten day vacation, which she uses to visit her uncle Henry (Tom Tully) and aunt Sarah Marshall (Spring Byington) in Pinehill. On the train ride there, she meets soldier Zachary Morgan (Joseph Cotten), who has been released from the hospital in an attempt to allow him a chance to readjust after a war wound left him shell-shocked. When he finds out she is going to Pinehill, he decides to get off there as well. He stays at the local YMCA, and tries to see Mary later. He is invited to dinner with the Marshall family, who make him feel welcome. Mary and Zach start spending a lot of time together, as she slowly learns about his troubles. However, she keeps her past a secret, particularly on the advice of her aunt and uncle. On New Year’s Eve, Zach invites everyone to a big party at the YMCA, where he starts to show how much he has improved. However, Mary is worried that he plans to propose, and she tries to avoid the question. But how long can it last?

I’ll Be Seeing You was produced by David O. Selznick as one of his first projects with his then-new Vanguard Films production company. It ended up being one of the early movies trying to start dealing with whatever potential after-effects of WWII, with Joseph Cotten’s Zachary suffering from PTSD and trying to figure out how to fit in. Of course, it is exemplified by us hearing his inner monologue at some moments (particularly as he is the only character we can hear the inner thoughts of). Ginger’s Mary, on the other hand, struggles with her own problems, especially considering her imprisonment is one that would anger many today, in the light of the #me-too movement (I’d say how, but I really shouldn’t spoil too much about this movie). Still, she tries to be selfless, up to a point, as she tries to help Zach once she learns about his problems, even concealing her own from him.

Personally, I enjoy this movie as a fun holiday film. Since it is obviously set during the holidays, from right before Christmas to just after New Year’s, it works quite well for two holidays. It is comforting to watch how welcoming the Marshall family is to both Mary and Zach, as they make sure they have Christmas gifts for both of them (even though they know Mary will be going back to prison shortly). Plus, we get them all casually singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” together, giving it a real Christmas feeling. And then with New Year’s, from the party they go to as they prepare to celebrate the new year, we see how both of them, whose dreams had been shattered by the traumas they faced, now start to have a chance at reclaiming those dreams. A new year, indeed.

Overall, I just can’t begin to say how much I enjoy this movie. From the holiday spirit to the performances of both the leads, I can’t help but enjoy watching this movie every now and again. Sure, Shirley Temple, who plays Mary’s cousin Barbara struggles a little in her last scene, but it’s not bad enough to turn me off the movie. Overall, I would easily recommend this film, either for holiday viewing, or any time of the year!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Once Upon A Honeymoon (1942)Ginger RogersMagnificent Doll (1946)

Since You Went Away (1944) – Joseph Cotten – The Killer Is Loose (1956)

Since You Went Away (1944) – Shirley Temple

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Gaslight (1944)

Next up is the classic 1944 drama Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wotta Knight (1947)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto joust in a tournament to win the chance to awaken Sleeping Beauty (Olive) with a kiss. As usual, it’s Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive, with Bluto winning out enough before Popeye has to eat his spinach to win. Some good gags to be found here as they fight, although it’s another problematic short with blackface and a racist stereotype for the boy holding the bell signaling each round. Still, a few good laughs anyways!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Upon the death of opera singer Alice Alquist, her niece, Paula Alquist, was sent away to study music. Ten years later, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is in love with pianist Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), and so they get married. Gregory mentions to her how much he wishes he could live in a fashionable London square, and so Paula reluctantly says they can stay in her aunt’s old home, since she still owns the property. However, the place and her aunt’s stuff bring up traumatic memories, and Gregory decides to put everything in the attic and board it up. They hire Nancy (Angela Lansbury) and the half-deaf Elizabeth (Barbara Everest) as maids. Gregory and Paula mostly keep to themselves, and Paula slowly becomes forgetful, losing a brooch he gave her, along with hearing things at night. But is she really struggling, or is Gregory driving her insane?

Gaslight was based on a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, which has gone by the titles of Gas Light and Angel Street, depending on where it was produced. The play was turned into a British movie in 1940 starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard. At first, Columbia Pictures bought the film rights with hopes of making a film with Irene Dunne starring, but when that fell through, MGM bought the rights for their star Hedy Lamarr. When she turned it down, Ingrid Bergman campaigned hard for the role (at least, after director George Cukor convinced her to try), although she ran into trouble, since she was under contract to David O. Selznick. Charles Boyer insisted on being top-billed, while Selznick insisted on top billing for his star (although she didn’t care), so she had to beg him to let her have the role. Obviously, she got it, and it ended up winning her the Oscar for Best Actress, her first of three.

Now, I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie, and my main thought afterwards was “Wow! That was a rough movie to watch!” Now, don’t misinterpret my comments. I’m not trashing this movie, I am very much praising it! The performances here are, in my opinion, great, as they help really sell the story! This is my first Charles Boyer film, so I have nothing else to compare it to, but he does great in his villainous role. From the moment his character starts in tearing down Paula, all I can feel for his character is an intense dislike bordering on hatred, seeing what he does to Paula. And I really feel for Ingrid Bergman’s Paula, watching her go from being sane and altogether to falling apart mentally with all of Gregory’s psychological abuse. I certainly agree that she EARNED her Oscar win for this movie! Watching both Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman’s performances alone makes this movie extremely tough to watch! I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to continuing on if only to see Gregory get his comeuppance at the end! I’m certainly rooting for Joseph Cotten as the police detective Brian Cameron to seek out what’s happening after he mistakenly takes Paula to be her late aunt, in the hopes of rescuing Paula from madness before it’s too late! And it feels so weird at this point to go back and see Angela Lansbury in her film debut, but she is fantastic here, too, and also makes seeing the movie well worth it! I’ve heard good things about the earlier British film, too, but after watching the 1944 film, there’s no way I want to go through this story again anytime soon! This film was worth it for its stars, and is the version I recommend seeing at present (since, as I said, I haven’t seen the earlier version)!

This movie was recently made available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection after previously being available on DVD. Now this is one of their transfers I have to take issue with (be careful of assuming what I mean with that). Why do I take issue with it? Simple! The movie looks fantastic, and, as rough as this movie is to watch, I wish it would have looked terrible so that I would have had an excuse to stop watching it partway through! Seriously, though, like I said, it looks great, and is certainly the best way to view this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ingrid Bergman – The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1944) (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (update)

Joseph Cotten – Since You Went Away (1944)

Angela Lansbury – The Harvey Girls (1946)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Killer Is Loose (1956)

Continuing on with the month of “Noir-vember,” we move on to the 1956 movie The Killer Is Loose, starring Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey.

During a bank robbery, bank teller Leon Poole (Wendell Corey) tries (and fails) to stop the robbers. The policemen on the case, led by detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten), soon deduce that it was an inside job, and learn from a wiretap that it was Leon Poole’s idea. Catching up to Leon Poole at his apartment, where he starts shooting at the police, they go in with guns blazing. However, Sam accidentally shoots Leon’s wife (who they had been told wasn’t there), and Leon is caught without any further fight. As he blames Sam for his wife’s death (even though Sam was cleared), he threatens to get even with him. After being a well-behaved prisoner for a few years, Leon is sent to a state honor farm. When one of the guards requires his help with a load of produce, he takes advantage and kills the guard, making his escape. Sam is brought in, as he is assumed to be Leon’s target. However, as Leon gets by the roadblocks and into the city, they learn from his former cellmate that his target is not Sam, but his wife, Lila (Rhonda Fleming)! So Sam tries his best to keep that fact from Lila, since she knows about Leon’s escape and believes Sam to be the target. Poole manages to keep ahead of the police and slowly racks up a body count, forcing Sam to offer himself as a target while trying to get Lila away.

In some respects, this movie still has a particular relevance due to its message on bullying. When we first meet Leon Poole, he ends up talking to his sergeant, Otto Flanders (as played by John Larch), who had humiliated him in the army by giving him the nickname “Foggy” since he couldn’t really see very well without his glasses. As Leon would later admit, everybody laughed at him. Everybody, that is, except his wife. Losing her was enough to send him over the edge. Wendell Corey does a great job with the character, on the one hand giving us a character who doesn’t seem like he should be a threat, but at the same time showing that even a mild-mannered bumbler can be a threat when pushed too far, and everybody around him suffers for it.

Of course, the rest of the cast is no slouch, either! Joseph Cotton does great as Sam Wagner, who does the job because it’s what he wants to do, but tries to accommodate his wife (even taking a desk job, as a compromise). Alan Hale Jr. gets to be involved a little as Sgt. “Denny” Denning. But Rhonda Fleming gives a great performance as Lila. On the one hand, it’s easy to sympathize with her, as she wants her husband to be safe, but on the other hand, we can see her getting on everybody’s nerves as she doesn’t like her life being changed, and she has a hard time understanding what her husband is going through, as she can only think of herself. It’s only when her friend tells her off that everything sinks in, and even then she still has to get herself into trouble. While I have seen better noirs, I still would recommend this one, as I do enjoy watching it every now and then!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix. What more can I say? Their restoration of this movie looks fantastic! I tried this movie mostly because of what I had seen before from them, and it was well worth it! So I would indeed recommend their release of this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) – Rhonda Fleming – Alias Jesse James (1959)

Holiday Affair (1949) – Wendell Corey – Alias Jesse James (1959)