Brutally misconceived wartime drama from Warners, continuing their tour of Nazi occupied territories, moving from the lighthearted tone of DESPERATE JOURNEY/’42 early in the war when things looked their worst, toward more somber fare like EDGE OF DARKNESS/’43 once news from overseas began to improve.* By ‘44, the invasion of Poland five years back must have come up in rotation, but what an ill-suited story was concocted for it. It opens as Ida Lupino, assistant & lady’s companion to Mary Boland’s rich, eccentric antique dealer, is swept off her feet after meeting-cute with rich, handsome, older Paul Henreid. Off they go as man & wife to his fabulous estate where Lupino finds she’s instantly in over her head. REBECCA/’40, anyone? This opening turns out to be something of a dodge, since the real drama involves getting new husband Paul Henreid to stand up against his class-stodgy family and work with his plucky bride to make a go of his moribund estate. All told, it's a surprisingly unflattering portrait of Henreid with his growing backbone ultimately tested not by old family traditions (formidable though Nazimova’s mother, Nancy Coleman’s sister and the superstitious peasants are), but by blitzkrieging Nazis. A record farm crop, a beloved estate, all forfeit to the war. It’s really quite an odd film; intriguingly unconvincing.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Probably the best films in this Warners cycle of contemporary WWII films with a European angle are EDGE OF DARKNESS and WATCH ON THE RHINE/‘43. RHINE, barely adapted from Lillian Hellman’s play, is an awfully stiff piece of filmmaking, but it certainly captures the moment, with superb perfs from Paul Lukas & a touchingly subdued Bette Davis. (What a shame they didn’t go with Mary Boland instead of that old fraud Lucile Watson as Bette’s mother.) OR: See Lupino and this film's director Vincent Sherman triumph in the tough-as-nails sisterly sacrifice of THE HARD WAY/’43.