Of course, with last week's mad rehearsal schedule, the Matt vs. the Academy project took a bit of a back seat, so along with my stage debut, the project's 100th day and 50th post have also come and gone. A small and arbitrary feat. But even though my initial deadline for this project is becoming more and more elusive - a matter that I will address at a later date - I am still as excited as ever about this nonsensical enterprise.
Today, I continued with the 1944 Best Picture shortlist by watching...
Since You Went Away
David O. Selznick
(based on the novel by Margaret Buell Wilder)
Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Monty Woolley, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniel, Agnes Moorehead
If you're looking for melodrama, Since You Went Away should be right up your alley. Tim Hilton is doing his patriotic duty in the armed services during World War II. But this film is not about Tim. In fact, we never even see him. Instead, the focus is on his wife, Anne, and their two daughters, Jane and Bridget. At first, the family struggles to make ends meet, so they take on a curmudgeonly old retired Colonel as a lodger. The Hilton sisters, unlike their modern namesakes, are the picture of innocence. But things become complicated when elder sister Jane begins a romance with the Colonel's grandson.
This one is definitely melodrama, folks. Despite being a film about war, there are no fighting scenes. It all takes place in and around the home of a family coping with the absence of their husband and father. The somewhat episodic nature of the storyline tends to make the film seem a bit like a soap opera. Add to that a dose of patriotism and religion and you've got yourself a heavy-handed message film. In fact, sometimes - not often, but occasionally - it even borders on propaganda.
Scattered throughout the melodramatic dialogue are several accounts of artificial sobbing by all three of the main actresses. A little disappointing considering two of them, namely Colbert and Jones, had already won Oscars by this point. The third, a teenage Shirley Temple, was probably the least convincing weeper, but hey, she's Shirley Temple.
Despite the fake tears, Colbert's performance is still pleasant, and the rest of the cast manage to overcome the sappy lines they are forced to utter. Always an enjoyable actor to watch, Joseph Cotten is particularly charming here. And Monty Woolley as the retired Colonel is amusing, especially when he puts a left glove on his right hand, something that obviously went unnoticed by the rest of the film crew. Playing yet another maid, like she did in Selznick's Gone With the Wind, Hattie McDaniel is delightful as Fidelia. Also impressive is a pre-Bewitched Agnes Moorehead as a gossipy bitch.
And why is it that, in old movies, a married couple is never depicted as owning a double bed? Was there anyone who actually thought they didn't have sex? I mean, they had two children, for crying out loud.