In the midst of World War II, the renowned playwright Noël Coward engaged a young film editor named David Lean to help him realize his vision for an action drama about a group of Royal Navy sailors (roles that would be filled by Coward himself, Bernard Miles, and John Mills, among others) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean ended up codirecting the large-scale project—an impressive undertaking, especially considering that neither of them had directed for the big screen before (this would be Coward’s only such credit). Cutting between a major naval battle and flashbacks to the men’s lives before they left home, In Which We Serve (an Oscar nominee for best picture) was a major breakthrough for both filmmakers and a sensitive and stirring piece of propaganda. –The Criterion Collection
Director, writer, and producer David Lean, grew up in a strict religious background in which movies were forbidden, to become one of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers. Beginning as a tea boy in the mid-‘20s, he was lucky enough to move into editing just as sound films were coming on the scene. By the mid-’30s, he was regarded as one of the top in his field. Lean turned down several chances to make low-budget films, and got his first directing opportunity (unofficially) on Major Barbara (1941), one of the most celebrated movies of the early ‘40s. Noel Coward hired Lean as his directorial collaborator on his war classic In Which We Serve (1943), and, after that, Lean’s career was made. For the next 15 years, he became known throughout the world for his close, intimate, serious film dramas. Some (This Happy Breed 1944, Blithe Spirit 1945, and Brief Encounter 1945) were based upon Coward’s… read more
Noël Coward was among the most innovative and influential figures to emerge from the theatrical world during the 20th century. A playwright, director, and actor as well as a songwriter, filmmaker, and novelist, his witty, urbane stage productions forever altered the perceptions long inherent in theater dialogue by shifting away from declamatory tones to a more natural, conversational approach, making them ideal for later film adaptations. Born December 16, 1899, in Middlesex, England, Coward was the product of a musical family; his grandfather was the organist at the Crystal Palace, while his father was a piano tuner. He began his professional career as a child actor, and in 1913, while traveling with a production of Hannele, he met a girl named Gertrude Lawrence who would continue to exert a profound influence over his life and career, becoming both the inspiration behind and the star of many of his greatest works. After appearing in 1918 in the D.W. Griffith film Hearts of the World… read more
I wish black this black and white this white could be achieved naturally as it was when this was filmed. One of the better propaganda pics. "Here we go." Iconic photography and near-perfect editing. ¡Cross-fades! Overall, thought the characters were a bit too reserved and proper (perhaps too "british") for their circumstances. Wow, what a great first picture... Splendid movie. "A happy and efficient ship."
David Lean's directorial debut was a powerful and moving piece of wartime propaganda made in collaboration with playwright Noël Coward, who envisioned a film honoring sailors of the Royal Navy. Made in the heat of WWII, the film cuts back and forth between the action on the ship (and its subsequent demise), and the home life of the sailors, setting a war film template for years to come. Great use of light and shadow.
The drama maybe at sea, but the certainties of the British class system certainly aren't with this deft balance of drawing room niceties time-dissolving back and forth into suspenseful sea drama. As ever with Coward the mix of Surrey-on-a-stick contrasted with cor' blimey Cockneyness is negated with the general decency of the effort. Johnson captures the tea-time spirit with aplomb.Lips were never so politely stiff.
I had read about this film for years, and the commentary on Criterion's "Brief Encounter" kept referring to it. I got a rather scratched up version from Netflix and was amazingly surprised at how good it was, how suspenseful, well-acted and crafted. One has to use their imagination for a bit to drop Noel Coward into the Lord Mountbatten role of boat captain, but he fares very well. Worth the view.