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December 24, 2007

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll Be Seeing You poster.jpg

William Dieterle - 1944
MGM Region 1 DVD

Unlike too many films that take place during the holiday season, I'll Be Seeing You may be a bit more emotionally honest in depicting the most melancholy time of the year. It is for that reason that in spite of taking place during Christmas and New Year's that this film has never been dusted off as a holiday perennial. What gives I'll Be Seeing You a degree of contemporary resonance is how disconnected many of the characters are from each other.

The story is contrived, with shell shocked Joseph Cotton meeting furloughed prisoner Ginger Rogers on a train. Cotton follows Rogers to the small town of Pine Hill, where the weather is cool but snow is absent. Rogers is staying with Aunt Spring Byington, Uncle Tom Tully and voluptuous niece Shirley Temple. While Cotton gradually reveals his vulnerability, Rogers does her best to hide her criminal status due to accidental manslaughter.

I'll be seeing you 1.jpg

The film is worth seeing for one scene that encapsulates the difference between being in war and how it is presented. Cotton and Rogers go to the movies where a war film is playing. Cotton is shown being uncomfortable watching the film, reminded as he is of his current traumas. We only see the poster of the film which suggests that it was of the kind made to encourage enlistment. Outside the theater, a couple of young boys are playing "war" with toy guns, pretending to die on the sidewalk. Cotton is reticent about discussing his war experience, and what little is revealed is of war experienced on a tiny, personal scale rather as part of a grand canvas. As such, Joseph Cotton's role anticipates the slew of post-World War II films about veterans who experienced emotional or physical problems.

While George Cukor began the film, and was fired again by producer David Selznick, I'll Be Seeing You has more in common with Dieterle's other films, especially in some of the darker moments. One of the visual high points is during the New Year's celebration with Rogers and Cotton virtually entwined in confetti. The scene provides a literal visual metaphor for two lost souls who are bound together.

Another view of I'll Be Seeing You is offered at Beyond the Valley of the Cinephiles.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 24, 2007 01:29 AM