London based American nurse, Susan, Lady Ashwood, is at a hospital awaiting the imminent arrival of wounded soldiers. She is hoping that her enlisted son, Sir John Ashwood, who resembles ...
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Gregory La Cava
Pennsylvania, 1859. Railroad tycoon Brennan (Alan Hale) is muscling in on oil-drilling farmers, led by Peter Cortland (Randolph Scott). Cortland must try to save their oil business, while also saving his marriage to Sally (Irene Dunne).
London based American nurse, Susan, Lady Ashwood, is at a hospital awaiting the imminent arrival of wounded soldiers. She is hoping that her enlisted son, Sir John Ashwood, who resembles his father both in appearance and temperament, is not among those wounded. As she waits, she remembers back to WWI when her husband, the former Sir John Ashwood, was enlisted, and the waiting she endured on any news from and about him while he was away in battle. From a humble background, Sue almost didn't meet Sir John, let alone marry him, as she and her father, Hiram Dunn, the publisher of a small daily newspaper, were only in London in April 1914 on a two week vacation - her first ever trip - that was not going very well when by happenstance she got invited on her last day in London to the king's ball, where Sir John was awaiting the arrival of another young woman with whom he was supposed to keep company for the evening. Despite being mutually attracted to each other, the patriotic Sue didn't ...Written by
White Cliffs of Dover was made to stoke the flames of patriotism. The film is largely Dunne as a 50 something WWII nurse awaiting a large number of casualties as she looks back on her life in England.
Her memories consist of the tale of a Yankee girl, Irene Dunne as Susan Dunn, who goes on a two week vacation to England with her father and on her last day there meets a member of the English gentry who is instantly smitten by her and talks her into staying and marrying him. At first Susan feels out of her element as Lady Ashwood, but she quickly finds her footing. She and her husband, Sir John Ashwood, don't even have time for a honeymoon as WWI starts and he is off to fight with his regiment. After three years he finally gets a few days leave, but it is long enough to conceive his son, John Ashwood Jr., or John Ashwood II as the British would say.
Irene Dunne always gave good subtle performances in parts that could have easily gotten ham-fisted, and this role is no exception. Frank Morgan as her Yankee dad is a revelation as he is for once not the befuddled comic relief but a spirited American father who wants his daughter home in America before her marriage, and safe from the Nazi bombs as the winds of a second war approach. C. Aubrey Smith lends terrific support as Colonel Walter Forsythe, considered a crackpot at the boarding house where he and the Dunns were staying during their trip, because he claims to have a standing invitation to the most exclusive ball in England, but seems to just be a common pensioner. Well it turns out he really can turn pumpkins into carriages after all. Roddy McDowell plays John Jr., and he is smitten by one of the daughters of the tenant farmers on the estate played by a twelve year old Elizabeth Taylor in only her third credited role. Their scenes together are just too cute.
As with most of the WWII films there are a few lines and a few scenes that get over the top just a bit. There are the American soldiers marching through the streets of London to rousing patriotic songs played by a military band as the film comes full circle. There are the two German preteens who are friends of John Jr. during the early 1930's who just happen to erupt into Nazi propaganda at the dinner table. I was surprised one of them didn't put a comb under his nose and start imitating the Bohemian corporal. And then there is grief that takes all of 15 seconds in spite of its cruel irony because you just HAVE to keep that stiff upper lip! But it's not overdone for a film that is over two hours long, and it does take that long to do the tale justice.
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