For many years, it was almost impossible to see this "classic" from among the films produced in 1942, during some of England's darkest hours. According to most accounts, Noel Coward was determined to make his own contribution to the war effort. His objective was to improve morale by celebrating that which he believed the English people have traditionally cherished most: "king and country," family, teamwork, human dignity, and courage. He wrote the screenplay, composed the musical score, and starred in a film whose leading character, Captain Kinross (played by Coward), was inspired by Lord Louis Mountbatten. The film's structure was significantly influenced by Citizen Kane, a film which Coward greatly admired. What a cast! In addition to Coward, others include John Mills, Celia Johnson, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Miles, Michael Wilding, and James Donald. Although identified as co-director, Coward entrusted most of the work to David Lean with whom he had carefully studied Welles' film before going into production. Here's the basic situation: Captain Kinross and a few survivors cling to life in a dinghy after their destroyer, H.M.S. Torrin, has been sunk by Luftwaffe dive-bombers. As the shipmates bob in the water, they reminisce about loved ones at home with whom they shared so many happy moments. And then....
In addition to assembling an outstanding cast, Coward also enlisted the superb talents of Ronald Neame (cinematographer) and Thelma Myers (editor). Those who have at least some familiarity with Coward's talents as a writer and performer should not be surprised that In Which We Serve has such a well-written screenplay and is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. However, if they have not as yet seen this film, they may be surprised to learn that Coward displays none of the mannered sophistication which is so evident, for example, during his appearances on television, in other films, and in musical reviews on Broadway and (especially) in casinos at Las Vegas. Captain Kinross is the archetypical English naval officer, portrayed by Coward without glitz or glamor. His upper lip remains appropriately stiff until the final, unforgettable scene but there is no doubt whatsoever about his inherent decency. His love and respect for those under his command are obvious, as are theirs' for him. Recognizing the risk of misleading anyone who reads these brief remarks, I hasten to add that In Which We Serve also offers an abundance of riveting action as H.M.S. Torrin and her crew engage the enemy. To Coward, his cast, and his crew, well-done!"
True Story of the British Lord Louis Mountbatten
Thunderbolt | Brisbane Australia | 11/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In Which We Serve is a superb film, though some younger people might think it is a little dated, is was made in 1942.
The names were changed but the Captain of the destroyer 'Torrens' is really Lord Louis Mountbatten and his ship, the HMS Kelly, sunk off Crete near Greece during the invasion of the island by the Germans in 1941.
All the speeches and talks the Captain gives to the crew are word for word what Lord Louis said at the time.
It is as close to being the most factual film ever made.Its a film one can watch every so often and Noel's performance as Captain 'D' is very real and believable.
The spirit of WW2 Britain. If interested in getting a feel
"This film accomplishes what so many wartime films fail to---that is, return the viewer to the time period in question & hold one there. Too many films of the Second World War have the feel of modern times that just happen to be set in the past; and don't affect one viscerally to any significant extent. 1940s Britain, particularly when that island stood alone, is a hard mood to capture, but this film succeeds herein. Contrary to some other reviewers here, this film isn't propagandistic (in the manner that that term is usually viewed). It simply presents the gravity of the era (1939-1941) in which it was shot (1942) in almost real time; when Britain was hanging on precariously as the Royal Navy kept it afloat, so to speak. Showing bravery, British mettle, and presenting British resistance against Hitler's Nazism is patriotic sure, but not propagandistic as well. Sometimes issues are Black & White, contrary to those who desire to see shades of gray in everything as a matter of self-perceived personal intellectual superiority. To show Britain fighting valiantly is not akin to Goebbels championing German braveness. The night of long knives, the state-sanctioned racism, the holocaust, the brutality of the Germans in occupied lands do not have equivalents on the British side. Certainly not in relation to the Second War War. "In which we Serve" is simply a fine film which captures an era & for anyone who wants to understand that era (viscerally even) one would be well served by giving it some of your time. Cheers!"
Randy Keehn | Williston, ND United States | 02/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent movie that can't help but draw comparisons to the movie "Mrs. Miniver". They both came out in 1942 with an England at war and pretty much going it alone. They focus on the home front and show the quiet tenacity and sacrifice of the British citizen. There are patriotic speeches in both movies unabashedly designed to stir the emotions of the English (and, presumeably, American) public. Those speeches are fine with me because they are well done. I think this point is worthy of comment because the films probably lack some of their punch with generations who already know how all of this turned out. What is interesting and effective with "In Which We Serve" is how the film jumps around in time. Only the ending is seen in its' proper place. This enables us to witness how so many people are affected by the events that take place on the HMS Torrin.I rated this film a "4" instead of a "5" (4.5 wasn't an option) because, oddly enough, I thought the acting of Noel Coward was too stiff. He never limbered up in his role unlike the rest of the cast. This is a movie worth seeing regardless of time and place."
There a 3 films made in WW2 in England...
S. Hebbron | Leicester UK | 05/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...that you simply HAVE to see, "Mrs Miniver" being one, a little known film dealing with a fictitious German invasion to a sweet English Village, "Went the day well?" and this film. Why so? Because all 3 were made at the start of the war (early 40's) when England stood very much alone in the fight agaisnt Hitler and aggresive facism. Invasion fears were rife, the war effort looked hopeless at times as in Europe, Hitler opposing country after country fell to the German aggressors (not to mention the rampage going on in Africa at the hands of Rommel aided by the Italian forces under Mussolini's instruction). England's small island identity stood alone and under threat and was bombed, starved and demoralised into feeling invasion could happen any day. It was quite possibly the darkest of times in English History and these three films capture the flavour of that dispondancy but equally the might of the will to survive and protect, with realistic perfection. In which we serve does this more personally as we know it is based in truth and the characters become dear and well rounded quite quickly, inspiring us to care about these folk from many walks of British life. For a modern audience it may seem a little over stoic and sentimental at times but place the emotion in context of the year it was made (1942), and I guarantee you will view it an aching sense of fear and hope which was precisely Coward's plan. An absolute gem and a must see, I weep every time I watch it."