Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The British cranes are flying

One of tonight's TCM offerings is In Which We Serve, at 9:45 PM ET.

Written and directed by Noël Coward, In Which We Serve is a British war-time movie that looks at the crew of a Royal Navy destroyer that's been bombed by the Nazis and, in a series of flashbacks, looks at how the various men serving on the ship got there. The movie looks not only at the various naval engagements the ship had, but at the times they had shore leave and the effects of the crew's absence on the relatives back on the home front. As a result, it has a lot of resonance with a movie like the Soviet The Cranes Are Flying, which also combines the frontline war experience with the suffering felt by the people back in the homeland. However, while The Cranes Are Flying was made a dozen years after the end of the war, and thus could have a plot that included the Allied victory, In Which We Serve was released in 1942, when the war was still going on, with no end in sight. As such, it's much more raw and personal than most of the movies that came after the war.

It's also more personal than anything that Hollywood could come up with. Hollywood studios made some movies like Mrs. Miniver and Since You Went Away, dealing with the war's effect on the British and American homefronts respectively, but the US never had anything happen to them like the Blitz, or the Battle of Britain, and the destruction those wrought on the people at home. Since You Went Away, despite being an excellent movie, is just too happy, even though it has death visited upon it. In Which We Serve is also helped enormously by a cast of underrated British actors who showed up in a lot of the great post-war British movies: Michael Wilding, John Mills, and the like, headed by Coward himself.

This movie has been released to DVD as well.

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