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  Forever and a Day This Ole House
Year: 1943
Director: René Clair, Robert Stevenson, Herbert Wilcox, etc
Stars: Kent Smith, Ruth Warwick, Herbert Marshall, C. Aubrey Smith, Edmund Gwenn, Anna Neagle, Claude Rains, Jessie Matthews, Charles Laughton, Anna Lee, Buster Keaton, Ida Lupino, Merle Oberon, Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester, Roland Young, Robert Cummings
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gates Trimble Pomfret (Kent Smith) is an American in London, sent there by his wealthy father to sort out some business deals as the Second World War rages. The family own a house there which has been in their possession since it was built in 1804, but somewhere along the line a relative upped sticks and moved to the States, and through convoluted reasons it is the branch across the Atlantic who own the building, and now intend to sell it. As night falls, Gates leaves his hotel room and ventures out to it, but there's a full moon out tonight – a bomber's moon, which means the Blitz continues this evening so it is just as well that the Trimble place has seen its basement converted into a bomb shelter for the locals. He settles in for the night, and gets to talking to a distant cousin (Ruth Warwick)...

World War II propaganda movies have a certain interest all their own, though often they were not manufactured to be artistically satisfying, they were created to drum up support for the troops and increase or at least sustain the morale. Of course, the Germans and Japanese as well as the Allies created these efforts, and are correctly regarded as inferior to their rivals' efforts since their ideology, as promoted there, was so morally repugnant, but in the drive to bash the enemy the likes of Hollywood could set about national character assassinations in ways that are difficult to take on board now these countries are peace-loving and friendly. For every Casablanca, there were plenty of B-movies where series characters encountered slumming actors portraying spies to be gotten the better of, and these are mostly of academic value these days.

But Forever and a Day was something a little different, a star-studded war effort that boasted a familiar face (for 1943) in nearly every role, the brainchild of Sir Cedric Hardwicke to have himself and his fellow expatriate Brits, along with sympathetic Americans and Canadian celebrities, feel like they were contributing something rather than sunning themselves in Los Angeles far from the terrible combat. Bringing some of the British cinema's movers and shakers, they assembled a portmanteau script which still holds the record for the most writers on a single film, and made sure it set out what made the United Kingdom great, only not hitting the audience over the head with message making, they were more subtle than that, slipping in the themes of supporting the nation under the guise of entertainment, be that comedic or dramatic. The results were well received by audiences who were sympathetic to the film’s aims.

Naturally, this made Forever and a Day, with its huge cast often showing up for a single scene in some cases, more akin to other propaganda works like Hollywood Canteen or Thank Your Lucky Stars, other films that are less well thought of with the passing of time and more curios than anything cinematically impressive. Yet with everyone working for free and all profits going to charity, they were keen to present the production with professionalism, so it was nicely photographed, the actors were willing to step up to the mark, and it succeeded on its own terms. Therefore it may sound ungrateful to point out, as some killjoys did, that maybe it was not quite as accomplished as the good intentions would have indicated or preferred, with comedy that wasn't particularly funny, and drama that was obvious to say the least, though even then it managed to remind you what we were here for, as in the late on piece when a couple have to come to terms with the news their son has died in the First World War. As a slice of history, then, no matter that it was seen through the prism of fiction, this had value.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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René Clair  (1898 - 1981)

Imaginative French writer and director, a former actor, whose whimsy could be tempered with sharp wit. He gained attention in the 1920s with the classic science fiction short Paris Qui Dort, but come the sound era his musicals Le Million and A Nous La Liberté won him more and more fans. He moved to Britain for comic fantasy The Ghost Goes West, and to Hollywood for I Married A Witch, It Happened Tomorrow and classic Agatha Christie adaptation And Then There Were None. When the Second World War ended, he returned to France to make films including Les Belles de Nuit.

 
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