21 January 2004 | JamesHitchcock
Agreeable watching for a wet Sunday
The decade which gave us the First World War seems an unlikely subject for nostalgia. On Moonlight Bay, however, is a film which approaches the 1910s in a sentimental, nostalgic way, trying to persuade us that, whatever was happening on the battlefields of Europe, it was a time of a kinder, gentler America. The film centres upon the Winfield family, prosperous citizens of an unnamed mid-western town, and especially on the romance between their daughter Marjorie and her boyfriend William Sherman.
William is something of a radical, with advanced views about politics and the institution of marriage, but as he is the sort of well-scrubbed middle-class radical who always wears an impeccably-tied bow-tie and calls his girlfriend's father `sir', we know that in the end he will turn out to be a thoroughly respectable young man, eager to do the right thing by Marjorie and his patriotic duty to his country. (The fact that he has the same name as a famous general is perhaps a giveaway). The film deals with America's involvement in World War One in the traditional flagwaving manner; it was made at a time when the Cold War had recently become a hot war in Korea, so there is an obvious political subtext.
Set against this romance is a series of sub-plots involving Marjorie's mischievous younger brother Wesley, a sort of American Just William. Wesley is very well played by a young actor named Billy Gray, and his antics provide the film with its most amusing moments.
The film is a musical, and the songs are pleasant enough, although the tunes are not particularly memorable and the lyrics are clichéd in the best `Moon-in-June' style. The film as a whole, although it has nothing of any depth to say and even the political themes are dealt with rather superficially, makes agreeable entertainment, especially on a wet Sunday afternoon (which is when I saw it on TV). 6/10.