Monday, November 14, 2011

Little Boy and Girl Lost, Circa 1942

The war has just started in America at the end of 1942's Journey for Margaret, but has been a factor in the lives of two small children for three years.  We meet war correspondent John Davis (Robert Young) and his wife Nora (Laraine Day) as the reach England, having just gotten out of France ahead of the Nazis.  They find a nation ravaged by nightime blitzes.  As John wanders the land, in search of stories for his column, he witnesses the bombing of a house, and helps to rescue a small boy, Peter (William Severn) whose mother has died.  Some time later, his wife gone back to America in despair (during a raid, she lost her unborn child, and the ability to have another), John meets Peter and another child, Margaret (Margaret O'Brien) in the orphanage of Trudy Strauss (Fay Bainter), a European refugee who has devoted her life to helping the orphans of her new country.

This is a truly touching movie that pulls no punches.  Witness the first time we meet Margaret - she is being returned to the orphanage by her adoptive "mother", a woman too busy with her social life to pay attention to this needy child, and who punishes her for crying.  Young Peter is unable to talk; the return of a stuffed lamb that John had inadvertently placed in his pocket turns out to be the key to his return to normalcy.  Another child screams any time she sees a man - it was a man who pulled her from the horror of her bombed home.  The film not only gives us a look at the war's effect on the children, but on adults as well. Our hearts ached for the older couple who long to adopt a child, but cannot seem to make emotional contact with either Peter or Margaret (we all hoped that another child would be offered to this loving people).

Robert Young is just wonderful here, as is Laraine Day (who leaves the action midway through the film). And Fay Bainter is just lovely as a woman who refuses to surrender on any of her young charges.  Finally, there are the children.  It goes without saying that Margaret O'Brien can break your heart (watch her breakdown when Trudi gives her "permission" to cry), but equally good is William Severn as Peter.  A young man with a very short film career, Severn is just splendid as the anchor of the film.

This is a jewel of a picture.  Give it a try.  In the interim, take a look at the trailer: