Saturday, July 11, 2015

In Love and War

FXM Retro ran the retro-World War II drama In Love and War this morning. They're going to be airing it again tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM so you've got one more chance at least to catch it.

The movie starts off with three men in uniform at the rail of a US Navy ship looking out at San Francisco as the ship comes into port. Over all of this is a graphic: "1944". So we know right away that these men, who are in fact not in the Navy but the Marines, have been at war. They've got a day or two of shore leave, and they all plan to use it to the fullest. Nico Kantaylis (Jeffrey Hunter) is of Greek descent, and his family runs a fishing business in San Francisco. He sees them briefly, but has to go off to Monterey to see his girlfriend Andrea (Hope Lange). She's got bad news for him: she's pregnant. Apparently they had sex once and only once, and in the great tradition of Production Code-era premarital sex, that one misdeed must leave the woman knocked up. So Nico says he knows a judge who can perform a marriage ceremony for them, and takes her off to San Francisco to do that and have a brief honeymoon.

Frank O'Neill (Robert Wagner) stops off at Moran's bar before going home to see his family. This shouldn't be a surprise, since he's shown in the opening holding a beer bottle and drinking from it. It's clear he's a drunk. It also soon becomes clear that he's drinking in part to deal with the stress of going home. Oh, he likes his mothers and his young siblings. But Dad died and Mom remarried, and the stepfather doesn't like Frank. Indeed, he thinks Frank is just as much a drunk as Dad was, and that Frank is a coward to boot. No wonder Frank doesn't want to go home. Of course, there's a lot of truth to all of that....

The third Marine is college man Alan Newcombe (Bradford Dillman). He goes off to see his on again, off again girlfriend Sue Trumbull (Dana Wynter). She's taken to drink to, largely because she has mother issues. Her parents were extremely wealthy and she's inherited a good deal of that wealth, which she uses to try to push out of her mind the fact that there's a war on. Alan has finally had it with her partying, so he leaves her to go off with Frank who is planning a big blowout for their final night in Frisco. Frank has his girlfriend Lorraine (Sheree North), now a WAVE, who brings along her nurse friend Kalai (France Nuyen), a Hawaiian-French nurse whose parents were killed at Pearl Harbor. Lorraine has finally had it with Frank's drinking, while Kalai finds herself falling in love with Alan. Alan, however, is clearly the wrong social class for Kalai, at least as the movie morals of the day would have you think, because of that college education and because his father is fairly well-to-do himself.

So the movie spends the first half looking at all these loves and engaging in expository information, before we finally get to the war part. The Marines ship out to the Pacific theatre, which means island hopping as they take one island after another from the Japanese. However, that also means some fairly fierce fighting, as the Japanese weren't about to give up any of those islands without fighting to the last man. All three of the men learn something about themselves....

I don't spend that much time on the "war" part of In Love and War because the movie seems almost to include it as an afterthought. Although there are quite a few war scenes in the last half, they're also interspersed with the women back home. Kalai has a meeting with Sue, although not the one you'd expect; Andrea is shown with her baby; and Lorraine is written out of the movie, with the resolution of her story being mentioned in one blink-and-you'll-miss-it aside. Frank's home life does get one more scene, though.

Ultimately, In Love and War is a by-the-numbers production that probably doesn't deserve as much criticism as I found myself giving it while I was watching. It's not that the movie is bad, it's just that we've seen all of this done before, and done much better. It doesn't help that FXM is running a print that's panned and scanned -- even in the opening credits. So it really only starts obert Wagne, not Robert Wagner. The end screen, however, has been given the Cinemascope diet, squished into a 4:3 box and making Hope Lange look incredibly thin. I don't think In Love and War has received a DVD release, though, so you're going to have to see it chopped up like this.

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