27 May 2013 | AlsExGal
somewhat prescient precode...
... and by prescient when it concerns the next war, really, the only thing they got close to right was the date. In 1933, when Hitler was still considered just a buffoonish little man, this film predicts 1940 as the date of the next world conflict. They were only off by one year, so really not bad on the timing predictions.
The film begins with a real precode moment - a young flyer (Robert Young as Geoffrey Aiken) and a nurse (Diana Wynyard as Laura) are in the process of dressing in a dimly lit room, obviously after a session of love making. They are in love, but Geoffrey dies after his very first mission, before they can marry. Laura is pregnant, a fact discerned by Edward Seward (Lewis Stone). Edward has been tenaciously pursuing Laura up to this point. He knows she loves someone else, but after Geoffrey's death proposes marriage again to avoid scandal for Laura and her child, and be there to take care of her. She agrees. Geoffrey's son is born, and WWI ends.
The film picks up again in 1940, with Edward now Secretary of State, and the Seward marriage may not be a passionate one, but it does seem to be at least tender and loving. Laura's son (Philips Holmes as Bob) has grown up into a handsome young man who has already started to make a name for himself in the field of chemistry. This is where the trouble begins, and where the film gets the next world conflict wrong.
The film paints the next conflict - that of 1940 - as one in which all the countries of Europe and part of Asia have united into one country, and one that starts just as WWI began - with an assassination. It's all about patriotic posturing and defending one's honor and not about American interests being encroached upon. Maybe the advice given by the pacifists in this film might have worked in WWI, in which decades and even centuries of pointless bickering erupted into one pointless conflict, but as we all know, just refusing to fight would not have worked against Hitler or Japan.
There are several interesting pieces of futuristic technology including a video phone used by Secretary of State Seward when talking to Laura's now grown son. Yet when war erupts it is the old-style WWI prop planes that are being flown.
I'd recommend this as an offbeat kind of film, well done and well acted. Also, it is probably one of Philips Holmes' best roles and rather eery when you realize he would die nine years later in a mid-air collision while serving during the actual WWII. I just think this film is more about how people looked back on how WWI might have been prevented versus being helpful on how to prevent WWII. But then we all have the gift of hindsight.