23 December 2009 | bkoganbing
Class Carries Responsibility
Although the English born, Laurence Olivier, Richard Greene, or Robert Donat would have done the part of Clive Briggs great justice, there was nothing wrong with the performance Tyrone Power gave in This Above All. Power does not even attempt an English accent, yet his performance is every bit as good as Robert Taylor's in Waterloo Bridge.
Eric Knight's novel was a big seller and the film is a serious examination as to why this is the people's war. In a curious way Power's views which do undergo a radical transformation are a mirror image of what Marlon Brando said in The Young Lions about class distinctions.
And in the same year of This Above All, Teresa Wright in Mrs. Miniver upheld the tradition of the upper classes. One of my favorite scenes from that film is Wright telling Richard Ney about the things she's involved in to make her corner of the world better. Joan Fontaine feels the same way, before she meets the cynical Power she tells her family that she feels she has to get in and do her bit. She joins the Women's Auxiliary Army Force as an enlistee, not even an officer. She feels as did Wright that class also carries responsibility.
Power and Fontaine are a perfectly matched pair, she just coming off her Oscar and him at the height of his box office draw. Hollywood's English colony fills out the rest of the cast with the exception of Thomas Mitchell who is inevitably Irish.
This Above All won an Oscar for Best Art Direction and it was nominated in several other categories. The film holds up remarkably well because it is both patriotic, but a very atypical and cynical film for its time, not your normal flag-waver.