Jennifer Jones

The Outstanding Ensemble Cast of “Since You Went Away”

 

Since You Went Away Cast

There’s no way to talk about Since You Went Away without talking about how incredible the cast is as a whole. It’s one of those movies where virtually every actor who appears in it is extremely memorable. Lead roles, supporting roles, everybody makes an impact.

Since You Went Away Claudette Colbert

I’ve already talked a bit about how much I love Claudette Colbert’s performance in Since You Went Away, but her outstanding work doesn’t stop after the first scene. Claudette Colbert was initially hesitant to take the part of Anne Hilton because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be seen as old enough to be the mother of teenage daughters. But fortunately, a nice salary and the assurance that she would be boosting audience morale were enough to convince her to take the part. Anne may have been old enough to have teenage daughters, but it gave Claudette Colbert to prove just how much range she had. She handled everything from being warm and maternal to uncertain and afraid without missing a beat.

Jennifer Jones Robert Walker Since You Went AwayCasting actors who are married to each other to play a young couple in love hardly seems like a stretch. But if Jennifer Jones and Robert Walker’s relationship was ever like Jane and Bill’s relationship, those days were long behind them. By the time they made Since You Went Away together, Jones and Walker’s marriage was essentially over. They had separated in late 1943 and would be divorced a year after the movie was released. But their ability to put personal issues aside for the sake of the movie is extremely impressive and a testament to their talent. Their rapport is so strong and they made such a believable couple, I was very surprised to find out Jones and Walker were actually on the verge of divorce at the time.

Since You Went Away Shirley Temple

When she appeared in Since You Went Away, Shirley Temple, then 16 years old, hadn’t made a movie in two years. Although Shirley Temple is most widely celebrated for her work as a child actress, she proved to be more than just a cute kid in Since You Went Away. Temple gave Brig such a wonderful natural charm without being over-the-top precocious. All of the cast had great chemistry together, but I particularly love Shirley Temple’s scenes with Monty Woolley. The friendship between Brig and Col. Smollett never fails to warm my heart.

Since You Went Away Shirley Temple Monty Woolley

While Shirley Temple is associated with sweetness and light, Monty Woolley had the opposite screen image; best remembered for playing the acerbic Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner. Monty Woolley certainly had plenty of chances to do what he did best in Since You Went Away, but Col. Smollett is a character that let him show some softness as well. It’s a very well-rounded role that let him show how much talent he really did have.

Since You Went Away Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead plays Emily Hawkins, Anne’s snobbish friend, and boy does she ever excel at playing someone you love to hate. I tend to think of Emily as being like Sylvia Fowler: The War Years. Her haughty attitude, back-handed comments, and wardrobe would certainly make Sylvia Fowler proud. But while Sylvia Fowler is a total caricature, Emily Hawkins feels like someone you could actually meet, which makes the scene when she gets taken down a peg one of the best of the movie.

Since You Went Away Hattie McDaniel Joseph CottenJoseph Cotten was a perfect fit for the role of Tony, the handsome, charismatic friend of the Hilton family. It’s certainly not hard to see how someone like him would be so alluring to young ladies like Jane and Brig. I absolutely love his scenes with Claudette Colbert. Even though there is clearly an attraction and a little bit of history between Tony and Anne, Joesph Cotton never plays Tony as someone who is out to steal his friend’s wife. But there’s just enough of a spark to leave the audience wondering if they’re going to wind up together at the end of the movie.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Hattie McDaniel.  Simply put, Fidelia is a classic Hattie McDaniel role. She got to do everything that made her so likable.

“Since You Went Away” and the Importance of an Effective Opening Scene

One of the most important things a movie can have is a strong opening scene.  A good opening scene can tell the viewer a lot about characters or explain long backstories in a matter of minutes. Just think of the first scene from Gone With the Wind. In two minutes, we get a sense of what Scarlett was like before the war and find out she has romantic feelings for Ashley Wilkes. Opening scenes can also set the tone for the rest of the movie; The GraduateBonnie and Clyde, and Gold Diggers of 1933 are prime examples of that. But 1944’s Since You Went Away is a movie that uses its opening scene to its full potential. It does everything an effective opening scene should do.

Since You Went Away Opening Scene

Since You Went Away opens with a shot of the Hiltons’ home before progressing to a tighter shot of a window with a service flag displayed in it. Clearly, the family that lives here has a loved one serving in the military. From there, we look inside the Hilton home with the camera moving from an empty, well-worn chair with the family dog laying forlornly in front of it to a calendar, a telegram, and the box for a rush delivery of military raincoats.  The telegram, which orders Captain Timothy Hilton to report for duty on January 12th, is dated January 6th. This family’s world was turned completely upside down just a few days earlier.

Since You Went Away Opening Scene

From the telegram, the camera continues moving around the room, revealing that Tim and Anne (played by Claudette Colbert) were married in 1925 and have two teenage daughters (played by Shirley Temple and Jennifer Jones.) Then we’re back to the window we started at, through which we see a car pull up and Anne walking to the door.

Since You Went Away Opening Scene

When Anne gets inside the house, she enters with the weight of the world on her shoulders. This is her home, but it’s different now. This is my favorite acting moment from Claudette Colbert; as she walks through the house, alone, trying to come to terms with her husband’s absence and grappling with uncertainty about whether or not she could face life without him.  Anne’s inner monologue tells us, “This is the moment I’ve dreaded: coming back to our home, alone.” There’s no over-the-top melodrama to be found here. Claudette Colbert impeccably conveys this feeling with her body language and a glint of a tear in her eye. The subtlety of her performance makes this scene so much more emotional than something more dramatic would have been.

Since You Went Away Opening Scene

Anne isn’t alone in the house for long, though.  Just as Anne is about to lose her composure, her daughters Jane and Brig come home and Anne finds her strength again. Jane and Brig are handling their father’s departure in different ways and there’s a lot of uncertainty in their lives right now, but one thing’s for sure — this is a family that will be drawing a lot of strength and support from each other in the near future.

Since You Went Away Opening Scene

Ruby Gentry (1952)

Ruby Gentry PosterIn the town of Braddock, North Carolina, social status is everything.  This is a harsh reality Ruby Corey (Jennifer Jones) knows all too well.  Ruby has long been in love with Boake Tackman (Charlton Heston), but since Boake comes from a prominent family and Ruby does not, it becomes difficult for them to have a relationship.  One night, Jim Gentry (Karl Malden) takes some of his wealthy and influential friends, including Boake, to a hunting party at a lodge run by Ruby’s family.  It’s the first time Ruby has seen Boake in a while, and she is determined to resume their relationship, much to the dismay of her religious brother Jewel.

Ruby is close to Jim Gentry and his invalid wife Letitia.  When she was in high school, Letitia had let Ruby live with her and Jim for a while and took Ruby under her wing, showing her how to live the life of an upper class lady.  The next day during the hunt, Ruby and Boake manage to sneak away together and Ruby gets mad at Boake for taking her for granted.  Meanwhile, Boake has been seeing Tracy McAuliffe, who is more on his social level, and becomes engaged to her.  Ruby is angry when she hears the news and tells him she has no interest in continuing to see him on the side.

Not long after hearing about Boake’s engagement, Letitia becomes ill and Ruby comes to tend to her while she is on her deathbed.  After Letitia passes away, Jim proposes to Ruby and they soon get married.  But even after marrying Jim, one of the wealthiest men in Braddock, many of the townspeople still look down upon her for being low class.  Things aren’t helped when Ruby and Boake dance together at the country club, driving Jim into a jealous rage and he gets into a fight with Boake.  Ruby swears it’s Jim she really loves and he believes her.  Their marriage wasn’t meant to last, though, and Jim is killed when he accidentally falls overboard while sailboating.

Ruby really does miss Jim, but the rest of town doesn’t believe it and accuses her of killing Jim for his money.  But she quickly realizes she now has the power to turn the tables on the whole town.  Since Jim had loaned money to so many people to start business, people who looked down on her for so long, she gets her revenge by demanding that money back, putting almost the whole town out of business.  Boake was among the many people who got money from Jim, but Ruby is willing to spare him if he starts seeing her again.  He refuses, so Ruby destroys the business he’s worked so hard to build.  Ruby and Boake meet again at a hunting party at her family’s hunting lodge.  During the hunt, Ruby and Boake begin to rekindle their relationship, but Boake is gunned down by Jewel, leaving Ruby to live as a total outcast in town.

Ruby Gentry is a super melodramatic camp-fest, but it’s a rather fun melodramatic camp-fest.  The plot is essentially that of a fast-moving soap opera and it isn’t particularly well written.  Ruby Gentry is narrated by a doctor we meet in the beginning of the movie, but it’s a pretty baffling narrator choice since the doctor is barely in the movie.  Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston chew the scenery like it’s a piece of prime rib.  But if you’re a Charlton Heston fan, Ruby Gentry is an interesting movie because it’s an early movie in his career and he doesn’t play the type of character he would go on to become associated with playing.  It certainly isn’t Jennifer Jones’ best performance, but I couldn’t help but have a little fun watching her in this.