IN WHICH WE SERVE
Two Cities Films, 1942. Directed by
Noel Coward, David Lean. Camera: Ronald Neame. With Noel
Coward, John Mills, Michael Wilding, Philip Friend, Richard Attenborough,
Derek Elphinstone, Robert Sansom, Chimo Branson, Ballard Berkeley, Hubert
Gregg, James Donald, Michael Whittaker, Kenneth Carten, John Varley, Bernard
Miles, Caven Watson, Geoffrey Hibbert, Frederick Piper.
Few morale-boosting wartime films have
retained their power and entertainment value as emphatically as NoŽl
Coward's In Which We Serve. To witness Coward's sober,
no-nonsense direction (in collaboration with his co-director/editor,
David Lean) and to watch his straightforward portrayal of navy captain
Kinross, one would never suspect that he'd built his theatrical
reputation upon sophisticated drawing-room comedies and brittle, witty
The real star of In Which We Serve is
the British destroyer Torrin. Torpedoed in battle, the Torrin
miraculously survives, and is brought back to English shores to be
repaired. The paint is barely dry and the nuts and bolts barely in place
before the Torrin is pressed into duty during the Dunkirk evacuation.
The noble vessel is finally sunk after being dive-bombed in Crete, but
many of the crew members survive. As they cling to the wreckage
awaiting rescue, Coward and his men flash back to their homes and loved
ones and, in so doing, recall anew just why they're fighting and for
whom they're fighting.
Next to Coward, the single most important of
the film's characters is Shorty Blake, played by John Mills.
(Trivia note: Mills' infant daughter Juliet Mills appears as Shorty's
baby.) Even so, the emphasis in the film is on teamwork; here as
elsewhere, there can be no stars in wartime. For many years, the
only prints available to television were from the bowdlerized American
version, which crudely cut out all "hells" and "damns."
Fortunately, this eviscerated American release has since been shelved in
favor of the full, glorious 115-minute version.
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