3 Classic Wartime Dramas - A Town Like Alice/This Happy Breed/Carve Her Name with Pride [DVD]
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A box set of classic dramas. 'A Town Like Alice' (1956) is BAFTA award-winning film based on Nevil Shute's best-selling novel. A group of British POW women are led through the Malayan jungle by the Japanese during World War 2. As a group they come to terms with the hardships they have to endure and are befriended by an Australian POW who dreams of returning to his home town, Alice Springs. Later made into a television mini-series. 'Carve Her Name with Pride' (1958) is a low-key treatment in semi-documentary style about the true story of Allied spy Violette Szabo (played by Virginia McKenna), who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. Betrayed, she was captured, tortured and eventually executed by firing squad in Ravensbruck, France. Whilst 'This Happy Breed' (1944) is an episodic tale of an average working class family in the interwar years. Narrated by Laurence Olivier and directed by David Lean, the story traces the melodrama caused by illicit affairs, family bereavement, the first ripples of women's liberation and political instability in the country during the General Strike. It highlights the fact that these internal wranglings are all happening in one house in an average street, and that each average house has its own dramatic stories to tell. Adapted from Noel Coward's stage play.
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But.. the story is inspiring and moving.
The bravery during WW2 is amazing to me, and I am personally very grateful for what extraordinary ordinary people did for our country.
I have great respect for my mother's generation.
Made in 1958 the costumes do look more 50s than 40s but that is a minor quibble. The spirit of the period is well drawn in the family scenes as well as the action ones. It would have been difficult in that time to show the full graphic horror of what Violette endures in France. The camera work is adept as building the suspense showing the approach of danger before veering away to allow sound and your imagination to fill in the blanks. The effects are convincingly portrayed by lead actress Virginia McKenna. The poignant ending had me welling up.
An excellent film portraying the real wartime experiences of a heroic woman.
Violette Szabo (saar-bow) was a British wartime agent who repeatedly volunteered to work undercover in France. Although certain details have been added or omitted to tell her story in 119 mins, it is pretty much a true story. The lead role is played by Virginia McKenna, then a young 27 year old who would go on to stardom in the wildlife classic 'Born Free'. Her crisp clipped British accent is at variance with the real half-french Szabo but this was the 1950's and how actors were then expected to sound. McKenna gives a great performance and received a Bafta award for her portrayal.
The film follows the agent's training and includes real characters from the Special Operations Executive. If this period interests you try 'Odette' and 'Now it can be told' which cover similar territory. The torment felt by Szabo in leaving her family and young daughter are well portrayed and is young Tania who gets the best moment in the final frames of the film. Audiences still fresh from the war were spared a graphic portrayal of Szabo's treatment in a concentration camp. For today's tastes the music is often sickly sweet and cloying at times.
So music aside this is an excellent film and tribute that avoids over-sentimentality or taking major liberties with the truth.
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