In which we serve
(1942)

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WITH TWO CAUTIONS

Director:                      Noel Coward and David Lean
Writer:                         Noel Coward
Producer:                    Noel Coward
Asso
ciate Producer:  Anthony Havelock-Allan
Cinematography:       Ronald Neame
Editing:                        Thelma Connell
                                     David Lean

Original Music:            Noel Coward

 

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One of the classic British wartime docu-drama’s alongside ‘The Cruel Sea’ and also a key film which allowed the push towards making films of this kind. It plots the exploits of the crew and the ship HMS Torrin during some of the darkest days Britain had during the war. It was nominated for two American Academy Awards (screenplay and director) and in 1943 Coward won an Honourary Oscar for the film.

According to most accounts, Noel Coward was determined to make his own contribution to the war effort. His objective was to improve morale by celebrating that which he believed the British people have traditionally cherished most: king and country, family, teamwork, human dignity, and courage. The film actually makes me sad to see how far we have slipped from values that we at one time held so dear. I don’t want to seem clichéd but war clearly brought out the best in the British people and now, enjoying peace, we have a self serving, immoral, disrespectful and divided nation.

He wrote the screenplay, composed the musical score, and starred in a film whose leading character, Captain Kinross (played by Coward), was inspired by his friend Lord Louis Mountbatten. Debate rages as to the amount of input Lord Louis had as he was a serving flag officer in the Royal Navy at the time.

Captain Kinross is the archetypical English naval officer, portrayed by Coward without glitz or glamour. His upper lip remains appropriately stiff until the final, unforgettable scene but there no doubt whatsoever about his inherent decency. His love and respect for those under his command are obvious, as are theirs' for him. Recognizing the risk of misleading those who read these brief remarks, I hasten to add that ‘In Which We Serve’ also offers an abundance of riveting action as H.M.S. Torrin and her crew engage the enemy.

The story is told, partly using flash back, as the men wait for help after an enemy attack. Coward is simply superb – I would imagine he managed to get Lord Louis ‘down to a tea’ and his supporting cast – both in terms of technical assistance and acting ability allowed for a highly memorable film. For a modern audience it may seem a little over stoic and sentimental at times but place the emotion in context of the year it was made (1942), and I guarantee you will view it an aching sense of fear and hope which was precisely Coward's plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          

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In which we serve