Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This Above All (1942)


“What’s the use in fighting for the past when we’re fighting for our future?”

            Today is Joan Fontaine’s 96th birthday. This classy lady is one of very few actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood who is still alive. Fontaine was one of the very first classic actresses I became a fan of. The first film I saw her in was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. At the time I was working at Best Buy where my job was stocking the CDs, DVDs, video games, and MP3s. Hitchcock’s Notorious, Spellbound, and Rebecca had been released in a special edition DVD. I bought Notorious and Spellbound for Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman for myself and also around Christmas time for my great-grandma (who happens to be a few months older than Fontaine and is also still alive). My great-grandma asked me if I had ever seen Rebecca and I told her I had not and she told me I should see it. The next day when I went back to work I bought the movie. I liked Fontaine right away. I liked her acting and wanted to find more of her films to watch. Since Rebecca I have seen Joan Fontaine is over ten films and there are still many more I still need to see. Each of her films have been a pleasure to watch because of her acting.
            In honor of Joan Fontaine’s birthday I have watched her 1942 film This Above All she made with Tyrone Power.
            Prudence Cathaway (Fontaine) is a young British woman of the privileged class. She   makes a call to her house to say she will be late for dinner. When Prudence arrives home she reveals she went into town to join the WAAFs. Her aunt and uncle are not happy about Prudence joining a group with women of the lower class. Prudence yells at her aunt and uncle and their friends for being so behind the times.
            At camp Prudence meets Violet. Violet pairs Prudence up with a friend of her boyfriend’s named Clive Briggs (Power). While out walking at night Prudence and Clive see the Germans bombing a town by the Thames Estuary. Clive notices she is part of the British aristocracy from her accent. He tells her he does not care for the aristocracy. They agree to meet the following day in the afternoon in the light where they can see each other better. They spend entire day together. While waiting for a bus they have a drink and kiss.
            Prudence is given three weeks leave. She was supposed to go home instead she goes away with Clive for six days. At a seaside hotel she sees her aunt walking down the stairs but neither woman says a thing to the other. In the middle of the night Prudence, in another room, hears Clive calling out in his sleep. The next day Prudence decides to leave saying it is unromantic now that someone knows where they are. Soon enough though, Prudence changes her mind after going to a small inn with Clive that he used to go to. Once again Prudence hears Clive call out in the middle of the night. She goes to him. He tells her it is nothing she can leave and go back to bed. She asks is he was in the army. He was but he was ill after he fought at Dunkirk.
            Clive’s friend Monty comes by the inn. At a bar Prudence asks Monty about Clive. Monty tells her Clive is a hero he is receiving a medal. When Prudence is dancing with another soldier Monty tells Clive he is there to get him to come back. Clive had a month’s leave in July and it is now September. He refuses to go back. If he does not go back he will be posted as a deserter. Prudence finds out what is going on and she gives him a speech about fighting for England and for their future. The next morning Prudence wakes up to find a letter from Clive. He is now a fugitive on the run.
            Clive comes to a church and speaks to the parish priest. The priest reaches Clive who is tired of running. After this Clive decides to give himself up. He manages to call Prudence and asks her to marry him. He gets caught in the store he is making the call from by two MPs. He asks the head of the MPs to let him have two hours leave. He is granted the leave because of his war record. As Clive leaves the MP’s building London is being bombed. He helps to save a little boy from a burning building. The building collapses on Clive.
            Prudence waited for Clive all night. She goes to her father at his doctor’s office in the city she wants his help to find Clive. They find out he has been wounded on his head and needs surgery. The day of his surgery Clive and Prudence are married.
            Joan Fontaine and Tyrone Power were interesting together. Power is not the typical overpowering actor Fontaine usually acted with. Power’s acting, to me, was very sensitive and emotional compared to other actors. I am not sure if it was the characters or if it was truly their acting but Fontaine seemed to be the stronger of the two. I liked both of their characters very much. The character of Prudence was very much a morale booster and poster child for women during World War II. She was brave and courageous and the kind of woman that if she had been allowed to would most likely have fought right next to the men on the battlefield. I liked how Prudence did not push Clive to return nor did she hate him for deserting. She just gave him one of the best speeches in a war film about fighting for the future of the country and the people of the world. Joan Fontaine looked beautiful in every scene even in her uniform. This one of my favorite films I have seen her in.

            This Above All is a very good film I wish my synopsis of it could do it more justice. Never once was I bored with the plot or the characters. This is a film I wish could be shown more often because it is patriotic without all of the fuss thrown in your face. It might even make you believe that America was once worth fighting for. If you are a fan of Joan Fontaine’s or Tyrone Power’s This Above All is a film of theirs’ not to be missed.