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Since You Went Away

Since You Went Away(1944)

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Before the onscreen production credits appear, the title Since You Went Away, followed by the word "overture" is flashed onscreen while orchestral music plays under the title. Following the overture, the screen then goes black, after which the Selznick logo is projected. The logo is followed by the legend "David O. Selznick presents his production of Since You Went Away". The onscreen writing credits: "based on the adaptation of her book by Margaret Buell Wilder," with "screenplay by the producer," although Selznick's name is not listed onscreen as the writer. The film opens with the following written prologue: "This is a story of the Unconquerable Fortress: the American Home..." An intermission divides the picture just after "Anne" is notified that her husband is missing in action. According to a modern source, Selznick began his search for a home-front drama in June 1942. Production materials on the film contained in the AMPAS Library reveal that Selznick settled on Wilder's book, which was largely a reprint of a column that she wrote for the Dayton Journal Herald. The column was written in story form as a series of letters from the writer to her husband. Portions of Wilder's book were also published in the June 1943 Ladies Home Journal. A modern source adds that after buying the story rights for $30,000, Selznick brought Wilder in to write the adaptation. After Wilder finished her adaptation, Selznick, thinking that the characters were too sketchy, took the basic structure and wrote the screenplay himself, focusing on the three principal characters of the Hilton family to create a "panorama of the home front." Selznick had originally planned to credit the screenplay to Jeffrey Daniel, a nom de plume, but later changed his mind, according to a 1944 Los Angeles Times news item. According to an August 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, Selznick initially planned to direct the production. To lend an air of authenticity to his drama, Selznick used five different units to film background shots of hospitalized soldiers, laborers at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, CA, and Red Cross workers, according to a New York Herald Tribune news item. A January 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that Selznick hired twenty female steelburners and nine tons of welding tools from the Wilmington Shipyard in order to lend verisimilitude to the shipyard scene. In the film's printed program, Selznick acknowledged the "technical assistance rendered by Dr. Walter L. Treadway, Medical Director of U. S. Public Health Service; Mr. Ulrie Bell and Mr. William S. Cunningham of the OWI; Commander Alfred J. Bolton U. S. Navy; Mr. Allyn Butterfield of the War Dept.; Mr. Jack Beaman, liaison officer for the American Red Cross and May E. Romm, M. D. News items in Hollywood Reporter yield the following information about the production: Although George Barnes is credited with photography in the September 1943 production charts, he is not credited onscreen. According to modern sources, Selznick fired Barnes after two weeks of work because he was dissatisfied with the way Claudette Colbert was being photographed. In late November 1943, Tay Garnett was borrowed from M-G-M to direct Robert Walker's scenes, and Lee Garmes was hired to photograph them. Director Andre De Toth worked on special montage scenes between 8 December-December 22, 1943. When director John Cromwell fell ill, Selznick took over the directorial reigns from 23-26 December 1943. The sequence at the railroad depot was filmed at the Path lot on a site that once served as the rolling lawn of Tara in Gone With the Wind. The hangar dance was shot in a reproduction of an Army aviation hangar that encompassed two sound stages, over 20,000 square feet of floor space and utilized 100 electricians. The church scene was filmed at the Church of the Angels in Pasadena, CA. After its initial editing in February 1944, the film ran four and a half hours long. By early March 1944, Selznick had trimmed the picture to three hours twenty-eight minutes. According to a March 21, 1944 news item, by late March Selznick had cut the film to three hours, ten minutes. After its intitial engagement, Selznick trimmed the film by another twenty-five minutes, according to a modern source. By the time the 127-day shoot was completed, the film had amassed a budget of nearly $3,000,000, according to a July 1944 news item. A Variety 1949 news item adds that when the film was re-released by Eagle Lion in 1949, it was cut another thirty-seven minutes. According to a memo from Selznick reprinted in a modern source, stage actress Katharine Cornell wanted to play the role of "Anne," but Selznick desired a bigger star. In addition to Cornell, Ann Harding, Irene Dunne, Helen Hayes and Rosalind Russell were also considered for the role, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. An October 1944 Los Angeles Times news item adds that Colbert, when approached about playing the part of "Anne," was at first reluctant because she didn't want to play the mother of two adolescent daughters. Shirley Temple returned to the screen after a two-year absence to play the role of "Brig". Although a September 17, 1943 production chart places Vicci Style in the cast, Styles' appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a modern source, Selznick offered Ruth Gordon the role of "Emily," but she turned it down. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: George Beban, Jr.; Rudolph Friml, Jr.; Michael Owen; Phyllis Adair; Clyde Fillmore; Charles Halton; Sam McDaniel; Virginia Wicks; Charles King, Jr.; William Bronson; Wing Foo; Minta Durfee Arbuckle; Eva Novak; Matt Moore; Jill Browning; Buddy Yarus; Harlan Briggs; Carlyle Blackwell, Jr. and Grady Thomas. None of these actors could be identified in the viewed print and their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. This picture marked the screen debut of John Derek, Guy Madison and Wilfred Jillson and the last film appearance of Nazimova. Although actor Neil Hamilton was not in the film, he was featured as "Tim" in several still photographs that were displayed throughout the picture. Robert Walker, who was borrowed from M-G-M to appear in this film, had recently separated from his wife Jennifer Jones, who played his sweetheart in the film. Jones and Selznick were later married. Since You Went Away was named as the fourth most popular of the year by the National Board of Review. Post-release Hollywood Reporter news items note that the lines at the film's New York opening were so long that the police ordered that the theater must open an hour-and-a-half before show time to prevent traffic jams. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Claudette Colbert was nominated for Best Actress, Monty Woolley was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Jennifer Jones was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The picture was also nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration. Max Steiner won an Academy Award for his scoring of the film.