Since You Went Away (Selznick-United Artists). The duck that hatched a swan was lucky compared to David Oliver Selznick. He hatched Gone With the Wind and has been trying to hatch another ever since. Last week he punctuated four pictureless years* with Since You Went Away, a marathon of home-front genre-filming. Sure enough, it was no Gone With the Wind. The Wind blew for four solid hours; Went goes on for ten minutes short of three. The Wind cost $4,000,000 to make; Went, a mere $2,400,000. The Wind was photographed in some of the most florid Technicolor ever seen; Went is in Quaker black & white and Hollywood's pearliest mezzotones. The Wind was perhaps the greatest entertainment natural in screen history; Went, though its appeal is likely to be broad, is essentially a "woman's picture." But it is obviously, in every foot, the work of one of Hollywood's smartest producers.
The Story. Since You Went Away is simply the story of a year (1943) and the things it does to the inmates of "that fortress, the American Home." If The Home is not an average U.S. reality, it is an average U.S. dream.
Head of this Home is Mr. Hilton who is a captain away at war. Only his photograph ever appears in the film. Mrs. Hilton the U.S. dream housewife, is Claudette Colbert, acting her age. She is graciously patronizing to tradesmen, affectionate toward her servant (Hattie McDaniel) patient even with her bitchy cocktail-acquaintance (Agnes Moorehead) and a good mother to her two daughters.
Daughter Jane (Jennifer Jones) is dewily luminous. Daughter Brig is Shirley Temple. Chief reason U.S. cinemaddicts have breathlessly awaited Since You Went Away was to see Miss Temple in her first grown-up part. She is charming.
When Mrs. Hilton, to make ends meet, takes in a roomer, he is Monty Woolley, a retired colonel almost as crustily beaverish as The Man Who Came to Dinner, but a lot nicer to have around. His G.I. grandson is Robert Walker, all feet, thumbs and fumbling charm. Miss Jones (in real life the former Mrs. Walker) falls in love with him and gives him self-confidence. Another visitor is the Hilton's dearest friend, Naval Lieutenant Joseph Gotten. Rejected by Miss Colbert, he has become a perennial bachelor.
Cinemaudacities. As the year 1943 unwinds, these characters change and grow as they seldom get time to do in films. Miss Colbert greys perceptibly and learns to be a welder. An immigrant welder (Alia Nazimova) tells her that she embodies her own dearest dreams of America, Startling cinemaudacity: months after her husband is reported missing, Welder Colbert toys with the idea of accepting Mr. Gotten at last. Earlier Gotten seriously considers trying to seduce her.
Miss Jones begins the film with a nubile crush on her gallant "Uncle" Gotten. Before it is over, she is a full-fledged nurse's aide, whom war has robbed of Fiance Walker. Miss Temple, too young for boys, misses her father intensely and has an innocent crush on Monty Woolley. Mr. Woolley becomes so thoroughly domesticated in the U.S. Home that he even calls a truce with Soda, a huge, wallowing, old, white bulldog who is perhaps the surest-fire character in this sure-fire picture.