Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA, 1944. Selznick International Pictures. Screenplay by Marion Parsonnet, based on a radio play by Charles Martin. Cinematography by Tony Gaudio. Produced by Dore Schary. Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof. Production Design by Mark-Lee Kirk, Emile Kuri, Earl Wooden. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by William H. Ziegler.
Ginger Rogers boards a train to visit her aunt and uncle in their small California town and is seated opposite a shellshocked soldier (Joseph Cotten) returning from battle. He follows her off the train at her stop and ends up receiving an invite for dinner, she and her relatives (her uncle played by Tom Tully, her aunt by the wonderful Spring Byington) giving him, in his clearly agitated state, room to be himself. He doesn’t know that Rogers has her own worries, she is actually on furlough from prison in the middle of serving a sentence whose details we don’t learn about until late into this surprisingly dark wartime romance. The film’s aim is clearly not to boost morale two years into America’s participation overseas, between showing the damage done to healthy young men in battle and the vulnerabilities that the war has left women to deal with, the message seems to be a critical one, but director William Dieterle doesn’t apply any bitterness to his treatment of the story. Instead it’s a muted, affecting tale of two people finding each other at a moment of need, emphasizing the kindness that the characters treat each other with in trying to find a quiet corner of their crazy world. This isn’t Rogers’ most explosive performance but she handles the subtlety of the drama with her usual rock-solid confidence, showing off instincts that aren’t as obvious in her more famous comedic turns (or more famous melodramas like Kitty Foyle), while Shirley Temple provides the only spot of boisterous recklessness in this otherwise carefully measured story as Rogers’ teenage cousin.