In Which We Serve (1942) - Rotten Tomatoes

In Which We Serve (1942)

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Few morale-boosting wartime films have retained their power and entertainment value as emphatically as Noël Coward's In Which We Serve. To witness Coward's sober, no-nonsense direction (in collaboration with his co-director/editor, David Lean) and to watch his straightforward portrayal of navy captain Kinross, one would never suspect that he'd built his theatrical reputation upon sophisticated drawing-room comedies and brittle, witty song lyrics. The real star of In Which We Serve is the British destroyer Torrin . Torpedoed in battle, the Torrin miraculously survives, and is brought back to English shores to be repaired. The paint is barely dry and the nuts and bolts barely in place before the Torrin is pressed into duty during the Dunkirk evacuation. The noble vessel is finally sunk after being dive-bombed in Crete, but many of the crew members survive. As they cling to the wreckage awaiting rescue, Coward and his men flash back to their homes and loved ones, and, in so doing, recall anew just why they're fighting and for whom they're fighting. Next to Coward, the single most important of the film's characters is Shorty Blake, played by John Mills. (Trivia note: Mills' infant daughter Juliet Mills appears as Shorty's baby.) Even so, the emphasis in the film is on teamwork; here as elsewhere, there can be no stars in wartime. For many years, the only prints available to television were from the bowdlerized American version, which crudely cut out all "hells" and "damns." Fortunately, this eviscerated American release has since been shelved in favor of the full, glorious 115-minute version.
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
MCA Universal Home Video

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Cast

Noel Coward
as Captain Kinross, Capt. Kinross
Bernard Miles
as Walter Hardy
John Mills
as Shorty Blake
Celia Johnson
as Mrs. Kinross
Kay Walsh
as Freda Lewis
Richard Attenborough
as Young Stoker
Penelope Dudley-Ward
as Maureen Fenwick
Joyce Carey
as Mrs.Hardy/Kath
Kathleen Harrison
as Mrs. Blake
Frederick Piper
as Edgecombe
Geoffrey Hibbert
as Joey Mackeridge
Kenneth Carton
as Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R.
George Carney
as Mr. Blake
Geraldo's Orchestra
as Themselves
Wally Patch
as Uncle Fred
Brefni O'Rourke
as Dr. Drake
James Donald
as Doctor
Walter Fitzgerald
as Col. Lumsden
Ann Stephens
as Lavinia Kinross
John Varley
as Secco
Daniel Massey
as Bobby Kinross
Ballard Berkeley
as Engineer Commander
Kenneth Carten
as Sub-lieutenant
Gerald Case
as Capt. Jasper Fry
Caven Watson
as Brodie
John Boxer
as Hollett
Leslie Dwyer
as Parkinson
Dora Gregory
as Mrs. Lemmon
Lionel Grose
as Reynolds
Norman Pierce
as Mr. Satterthwaite
Jill Stephens
as May Blake
Eileen Peel
as Mrs. Farrell
Barbara Waring
as Mrs. Macadoo
Kay Young
as Barmaid
Lesley Osmond
as Nell Fosdick
Juliet Mills
as Frieda's Baby
Roddy Hughes
as Photographer
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Critic Reviews for In Which We Serve

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (4)

No less than half a dozen credits for this film go to Noel Coward. And they're well earned.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

Staged with what passed at the time for honest understatement, it now looks impossibly patronising, the epitome of stiff upper lip.

June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the most eloquent motion pictures of these or any other times had its American premiére at the Capitol Theatre last night.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Perhaps the most honored propaganda film of World War II, in which the survivors of a torpedoed British battleship recall their reasons for fighting through individual flashbacks.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

... an accomplished, sincere, and moving piece of filmmaking that honors the characters and involves the audience.

Full Review… | May 4, 2012
Turner Classic Movies Online

Noel Coward, who also co-directed and wrote the script, brings weight and dignity to the role of Captain Kinross.

Full Review… | April 25, 2012
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for In Which We Serve

A lot of the film is standard wartime propaganda stuff, however Coward's screenplay still manages to find moments of serious humanity in the central characters.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

½

A call to arms for young men unsure about their participation in the war effort which borders on propaganda but it is nonetheless uplifting enough to rally the troops. An epic within an epic conflict.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

½

Fun fact: In Which we Serve used condoms as bullets. This war film directed by David Lean and partner Noel Coward had a lot of cool moments and ideas. If you watch this I'd recommend the Criterion edition as it holds some enlightening interviews. This isn't a great eerie war film and is a bit dated. This patriotic effort would probably be a joy for me if I was a Brit, but I don't have that kind of enthusiasm of British patriotism. This film uses the 40s cliche of flashbacks, but it makes the movie better than it'd would be. I'm didn't like Noel Coward as a ship captain as he didn't feel serious or strict enough. I suggest this if one is looking for a spirited war movie.

Daniel Dolgin
Daniel Dolgin

Super Reviewer

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