4 April 2005 | Poseidon-3
A terrific cast helps this weepie come to life.
Rather unsung, but worthwhile, this tear-jerking wartime drama will entrance some viewers while unintentionally amusing others. Colbert plays a young newlywed whose husband (Welles) goes off to fight in WWI. He is severely injured, refuses to come home to her (or even give his name to authorities) and is presumed dead. Pregnant and alone, she relies on her employer (Brent) and his aunt (Watson) and before long agrees to wed Brent, who is very much in love with her. Flash-forward twenty years and Colbert and Brent have two sons, the first one actually Welles', though this is kept secret. Welles, crippled, aged, bearded, wearing thick glasses and sporting an even thicker accent comes to town to work for Brent, never dreaming that his former wife is now Brent's spouse. Just as Colbert has finally found a degree of happiness and has nearly forgotten Welles, whom she loved deeply, WWII threatens to break out and her eldest son (Long) is eager to go and fight! The film details the questions, mysteries and miseries of Welles and Colbert as they encounter each other again after two decades. Unabashedly sentimental and heart-tugging, it is likely to please fans of tear-jerkers while causing the eyes of pragmatists to roll feverishly. Colbert is lovely and exceedingly good in her role. It's always distracting, in hindsight, to view Colbert's films and observe the way she refuses to allow herself to be shot from her right side, but she's not as bad about that here as in some other films. Welles is mercilessly hammy and is buried under some truly horrendous age makeup. He goes way overboard in virtually every area, yet somehow it works to the film's benefit! Brent, already one of the most wooden of actors, is made even more so by the presence of Welles, but it's a nice contrast. Long has a particularly good early role (even if he hadn't quite grown into his nose at this point!) He is given a strong, sizable role for an actor his age. The always-reliable and entertaining Watson gives solid support. One of the greatest things about the film, however, is the utterly adorable and memorably adept presence of Wood as Welles' adopted daughter. Impossibly articulate, inhumanly precious and achingly touching in her role as a war orphan, she is a thorough delight. It was her first major role and she handles it with surprising poise and assurance. Her older sister instructed her on how to cry during the film, suggesting that she recall a ghastly accident she had witnessed involving her dog being hit by a car. It's very poignant to see her dainty little fingers helping Welles unbutton his vest, knowing that her life would later end so tragically. Working alongside Welles no doubt helped prep her for her famed role opposite Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle of 34th Street" one year later.