Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Since You Went Away

My infatuation with vintage extends even to movies. "Since You Went Away" is a glamorized peek behind the scenes of what it was like in the 1940"s for the wives, children, parents, and other loved ones when their men went off to war.

This movie was shown at the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House where important films are restored and archived. This particular film was a silver nitrate film, which, I understand, is very volatile. This evening there were 3 special projectionists in the booth to protect this rare treasure.

I discovered that this particular film was the personal 16mm copy that belonged to David O. Selznick, donated to the museum by his son.

All of these juicy tidbits and many more were announced in the introduction given by "someone in the know". This is usually the case for these screenings at the Dryden Theater. They're usually historical and in need of some explanation of the time period, story line, actors, etc.

The person who did this intro was a woman whose name I didn't get but I noticed her as soon as I walked in. She was stunningly tall and completely dressed in 1940's fashion, down to the black seams in her stockings and little black velvet hat, veiled, tilted askew on her brow. Her suit was crimson, shoes and hat were black and..................chartreuse gloves ! (which she kept on all evening). I sneaked this picture of her because I was totally fascinated with her 1940's vibe and had no idea that she would play an important role in tonight's presentation.

I was sitting in the balcony and she, on the main floor. I thought she was dressed in this manner as an homage to the film. I was wrong: she was actually the mistress of ceremonies ! The theater looks strangely empty because I went an hour early because I wanted my special seat and didn't want to chance someone else taking it. First row balcony.

In the beginning, my main reason for wanting to see this film is: I am a Shirley Temple freak. Two events gave great support to this enthusiasm. One - the recent celebration of the 70 year anniversary of D Day (the end of the war) and Two - Shirley Temple's recent passing.

I thought I had seen all her films but I had never seen this one. It remains relatively obscure to contemporary audiences.

Other blather shared by 1940's lady: Shirley Temple was called out of retirement to play her role of the pre-teen, youngest daughter of the female lead (Claudette Colbert). Elder sister a senior in high school) was played by Jennifer Jones who just recently sued her DH for divorce because she was in love with David O. Selznick (the movie producer), who also was married but obsessed with JJ. JJ's ex, Robert Walker played her love interest in the movie (a young G.I.). This made for torturous love scenes. They had 2 children and DOS was also married to a daughter of Samuel Goldman. Two homes ruined.

Many leading actresses were offered the main female role but turned it down because playing someone's mother was perceived as a not so good career move.

Hattie McDaniels (just finished her role of Mammy in GWTW) played the now unemployed housekeeper (they couldn't afford her anymore because of the "off to the war" head of household's missing income). However, she moved back in with the family because without an income she couldn't afford her own living expenses. She now worked there for free plus room and board. Making the girls very happy, because, like with Scarlett in GWTW, she was their Mammy. Spoiled them, corrected them lovingly, made their meals, did their laundry, tucked them in at night, etc.

This movie was made in 1944 - exactly 70 years ago - the cultural, moral, patriotic, etc., changes in the tone of this country's attitudes, manners, standards............... = astronomical.

Things that were buried deep in my memory that the movie brought back: victory gardens, taking in a "roomer" to supplement income, women went to work at the jobs men vacated, innocence, longer childhoods, housekeepers..........................


  1. Sounds like a wonderful experience altogether. I love (and would like to watch again) the movie Shirley Temple played in--she wore a yellow ribbon. I watched it -checked out from the library-when I was little.

  2. I have not heard of this one, but I like watching B&W movies. We have the national film and sound archives here in Canberra, as well as the national library. I'll have to keep an eye out for a historical screening like this to attend.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful time. I will have to look for this one.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Looks like the perfect setting to experience this classic. I would love to see it!

  5. I wish we had a historical theater like that!

  6. So interesting! I love to hear all the back stories when seeing old movies, reading old books,etc. To me, that is the fun in all things vintage.