1940. For the better part of the war thus far, New York news correspondent John Davis and his wife Nora Davis have been in the hot spots of western Europe, including Rotterdam and much of Fr... Read all1940. For the better part of the war thus far, New York news correspondent John Davis and his wife Nora Davis have been in the hot spots of western Europe, including Rotterdam and much of France, which has just fallen to the Nazis. The war has taken a toll on John professionally,... Read all1940. For the better part of the war thus far, New York news correspondent John Davis and his wife Nora Davis have been in the hot spots of western Europe, including Rotterdam and much of France, which has just fallen to the Nazis. The war has taken a toll on John professionally, as he has closed himself off emotionally in his writing solely to be able to cope. They h... Read all
Robert Young was a great every man. You could just slip him into any non villainous role and he would be at least serviceable. And being serviceable works to his advantage here since his character, foreign correspondent John Davis, is meant to be a sympathetic place holder so as not to detract from the real attraction - the children at Trudy Strauss' home for war orphans. The back story is that John is looking for stories and helping out during raids in 1940 London when his pregnant wife (Larraine Day) is injured in one of them and as a result can no longer have children.
John and his wife, after the tragedy, become the eat, drink, and be merry type with an extra helping of drink, refusing to acknowledge their loss. Day's character decides to go back to the US, and afterwards, that is when John finds the orphanage. But these are no ordinary orphans. This is where things become weird for the modern viewer. Because it is obvious that what this film really needs is a touch of the sci-fi - for a therapist from after 1990 to come to 1940 London and treat all of these people for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which they all have and which won't be recognized as a mental disorder for another 50 years.
The children will just scream out for seemingly no reason, O'Brien's character just wants to cry hysterically at times and be held. Other times, all is normal. It is insinuated that she has been beaten and returned by several foster families because she does this. So after a time, John becomes fond of both Margaret and Peter, a little boy he rescued earlier in a raid and who was orphaned by it. The children crave the stability they lost and John comes to represent that stability. So how can John adopt these kids and get his wife to snap out of her denial? And how exactly DO you safely transport two kids across the ocean in the middle of a war?
There are some odd and interesting things going on here. This Japanese diplomat keeps appearing and saying he must get to Washington by December (1941?). It seems to be played as a joke. Did wartime audiences find this funny after Pearl Harbor? Then there is the way that the orphanage decides between two children when only one can be adopted - an intelligence test? I never could figure if this was a law or just a bad idea.
Margaret O'Brien is very convincing for a five year old actress. She's not just a cute little waif, she genuinely projects the range of emotions required of her performance. Fay Bainter seems to excel at playing women who run orphanages. And Laraine Day as an American during the London blitz... Was I the only person who expected her husband to find a bunch of stolen jewels in the rubble? Well THAT is another movie entirely.
- Aug 17, 2021