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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

THIS ABOVE ALL (1942)

Eric Knight’s ‘daring’ British-based WWII novel must have been tamed considerably for this plush, moody romancer between upper-crust beauty Joan Fontaine & chip-on-his-socialist-shoulder soldier boy Tyrone Power. The story has Joan ditching her stuffy family to join the WAAFs as a Private while Ty, who’s fending off an incipient nervous breakdown after heroic service in France, goes AWOL. In their only pic together, Power & Fontaine make quite the handsome couple (she’s just spectacularly lovely), but helmer Anatole Litvak isn’t able to help much on her crucial uplift speeches; too busy fighting a losing battle against the airless soundstage exteriors that undercut her hearth & homeland theme. Maybe that’s why the film is at its best during the blackout scenes where master lenser Arthur Miller, fresh off of John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY/’41, gets to shoot darker than ever. The following year, Knight’s LASSIE COME HOME became a sensation, but the author died in a fighter plane which makes this one even more of a missed opportunity.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For that ‘sceptered isle’ patriotic glow, grab Laurence Olivier’s classic HENRY V/’45. That’s the message Fontaine is trying to get across here even though the film’s title is from HAMLET.

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