One of the
classic British wartime docu-drama’s alongside ‘The Cruel
Sea’ and also a key film which allowed the push towards making
films of this kind. It plots the exploits of the crew and the ship HMS
Torrin during some of the darkest days Britain had during the war. It
was nominated for two American Academy Awards (screenplay and director)
and in 1943 Coward won an Honourary Oscar for the film.
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 British people have traditionally cherished
most: king and country, family, teamwork, human dignity, and courage.
The film actually makes me sad to see how far we have slipped from values
that we at one time held so dear. I don’t want to seem clichéd
but war clearly brought out the best in the British people and now,
enjoying peace, we have a self serving, immoral, disrespectful and divided
the screenplay, composed the musical score, and starred in a film whose
leading character, Captain Kinross (played by Coward), was inspired
by his friend Lord Louis Mountbatten. Debate rages as to the amount
of input Lord Louis had as he was a serving flag officer in the Royal
Navy at the time.
Kinross is the archetypical English naval officer, portrayed by Coward
without glitz or glamour. His upper lip remains appropriately stiff
until the final, unforgettable scene but there 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
those who read 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.
is told, partly using flash back, as the men wait for help after an
enemy attack. Coward is simply superb – I would imagine he managed
to get Lord Louis ‘down to a tea’ and his supporting cast
– both in terms of technical assistance and acting ability allowed
for a highly memorable film. 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.