Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
JFK once said that history isn't a guide to the present. Maybe not, but people from the past (who would have groaned if you told them they were living in an innocent time) CAN supply us with inspiration to live with the trials that were as hard for them to experience as our 21st century nightmares are for us. At 84, Vera Lynn is still very much with us, but the songs she sang are firmly rooted in World War II Britain. Lynn's voice expressed emotions of deep sorrow layered with the far more bearable tones of light heartedness and hope.
"We'll Meet Again," her greatest hit, was satirized in the final bitter moments of 1963's “Dr. Strangelove,” but it was also the centerpiece of a Columbia musical released in November 1942. In the film, Lynn plays Peggy Brown, a natural-born singer who wants to be a dancer. Peggy is a plain girl who dresses simply & is devoted to her family and friends. Her career as a radio singer is launched when she tries to help a composer friend and the producer will only take the song if he can employ the singer, too. The world is crashing down around Peggy and her friends, but she sticks close to the point of her life, to cheer up the people she loves and, through her work, to keep the idea of home vivid and clear to faraway listeners. She has a crush on Donald Gray as Bruce McIntosh, but he only has eyes for her best friend, Patricia Roc as Ruth. Through the most trying of circumstances, Peggy remains a good friend to both & discovers meaning in her second choice of career and in finding a safe country haven for a child terrorized by urban bombings.
Yes, the concerns of “We'll Meet Again” are specific to the early years of World War II, but its charm and gallantry resonate six decades after its release. The film shows why Vera Lynn was such a powerful symbol to British music fans and film buffs that her voice and presence are still magic today. Fine contributions to “We'll Meet Again” include the irreverent byplay of Frederick Leister and Betty Jardine as Peggy's producer and his indispensable secretary as well as a poignant performance by the great Irish character actor Brefni O'Rorke, playing a doctor who expresses the danger and sadness of war with a beautiful economy of words and gestures. There probably isn't a great demand for “We'll Meet Again” on video, but this low-key treasure, well worth a fresh look, IS out there for reappraisal.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 10/24/01
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