In Which We Serve

1942, Movie, NR, 115 mins

Review

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Noel Coward performed with unexpected brilliance here as co-director, writer, musical composer, and star of this stirring WWII drama. Presented in a series of poignant and revealing vignettes, the film tells the story of the British destroyer Torrin and its crew, commanded by Capt. Kinross (Coward), a father figure for his stalwart men. Constructed like a documentary, IN WHICH WE SERVE is also narrated by Coward, who recounts the ship's heroic actions: hit by torpedoes, it survives and is towed back to England, later participating in the Dunkirk evacuation and in naval battles off Crete, where it is dive-bombed and sinks. Kinross and his crew cling to a raft for hours, and while waiting for rescue, remember their loved ones in a series of flashbacks.

Regarded as noble and understated at the time, IN WHICH WE SERVE now comes across as patronizing and riven with class condescension. But to Coward's credit (he recieved a special Oscar "for his outstanding production achievement"), he had the good sense to choose the most distinguished film editor in England at the time, David Lean, to assist with the production; and so impressive was Lean's work that, halfway through the picture, Coward handed him the directorial reins. Out of respect, Lean's next three productions--THIS HAPPY BREED; BLITHE SPIRIT; and BRIEF ENCOUNTER--were adaptations of Coward's writing. SERVE marked the film debuts of Johnson, Massey and baby Mills. leave a comment

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