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Film / Since You Went Away

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Since You Went Away is a 1944 drama film directed by John Cromwell, starring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, and Shirley Temple.

The Hiltons are a well-to-do American family living somewhere in Flyover Country. Patriarch Tim Hilton has just left for Army service in World War II when the movie begins, leaving his wife Anne (Colbert) and their teenaged daughters Jane (Jones) and Brig (Temple) to cope with life on the home front while he's away.

Forced to save money after losing Tim's civilian salary, the Hiltons take in a boarder, Col. Smollett (Monty Woolley), whose grandson Bill (Robert Walker) soon falls for Jane. Anne, left adrift by her husband's absence, dedicates herself to the war effort. Also in the picture is Navy lieutenant Tony Willett (Cotten), an old family friend who obviously carries a torch for Anne.


Produced for United Artists by David O. Selznick (who also wrote the screenplay), the film was nominated for a large passel of Academy Awards, and won some of the minor ones.


  • Altar the Speed: Lampshaded and then averted. Jane and Bill discuss getting married right away just before the Train-Station Goodbye, but decide against it.
  • Anyone Can Die: Well, not anybody, but anybody who's left for the war.
  • The Cameo: Lionel Barrymore has one short scene as a clergyman.
  • Coming of Age Story: One of the main plot elements is Jane growing from immature teenage girl to a grown woman.
  • Dances and Balls: The town puts on a dance for the soldiers at the local Army base, complete with girls brought in to dance with the soldiers.
  • Death by Childbirth: The fate of Bill's mother, as he explains to Jane.
  • Death Notification: Sort of. Anne receives the standard telegram, but it says that Tim is missing in action. The later telegram informing the family that Bill was killed in Italy arrives offscreen, with Anne telling Jane after Jane comes home.
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  • Description Cut: Within the same sequence. Tony takes Anne to what he hopes will be a steak dinner, only to be told the restaurant has no steaks, because "There's a war on, you know." Grumpily, Tony tells the waiter to bring him anything "as long as it isn't hash." Sure enough, at the end of the scene, the waiter brings the "specialty of the house" - hash.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Mr. Mahoney the grocer shows Anne a picture of his son, who's in the army. Not long after, his son is killed in a training accident.
  • The Film of the Book: Adapted from the 1943 novel Since You Went Away: Letters to a Soldier from His Wife by Margaret Buell Wilder.
  • The Ghost: Tim never appears onscreen but his presence looms throughout the movie, via many references to him as well as several pictures of him in the Hilton residence.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Col. Smollett is cranky and cantankerous, complaining about his eggs and the dog and the peculiarities of the Hilton household.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: However, he eventually does warm up to the Hilton household, especially towards Jane when Bill dies.
  • Have a Gay Old Time;
    • "Do you know of any place here in this gay metropolis where I can conquer my two passions at the same time?"
    • "This powderbox is not too gay."
  • Hypocritical Humor: "This whole moral breakdown is caused by drinking and nothing else. They sure serve rotten Scotch at this bar."
  • Intermission: The "Entr'acte" comes slightly more than halfway through this three-hour film, after the Hiltons receive the MIA telegram.
  • Just Friends: Anne and Tim, though how much Tim sees Anne as a "friend" is up for debate.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Brig is looking at a map, with Col. Smollett, to try and find a town her father told her about in one of his letters - "Wetookit". Brig eventually figures it out ("We came, we saw, we took it!"), at which point the colonel rolls his eyes and says, "Very funny!".
  • Mammy: Hattie McDaniel plays—wait for it—a sassy black maid.
  • Melodrama: Much tragedy, heightened emotions, and crying to be had.
  • Parlor Games: The Hiltons play Charades from time to time. The super-dignified Col. Smollett has to act out "bottoms up".
  • Precocious Crush: Jane has one of these on Tony early on, though she eventually outgrows it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Both Jane and Anne deliver one of these to Emily Hawkins after the latter chastises Jane for nursing wounded soldiers at a hospital.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Danny Williams, one of the soldiers Jane takes care of at the hospital, is implied to be one of these.
  • Sleeping Single: Amusingly still done in a movie where one half of the married couple is absent. In one scene Anne jumps from her bed into Tim's and breaks down weeping.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: In an ironic twist, they are played by an actor/actress couple in the middle of a divorce, because the actress is having an affair with the screenwriter/producer.
  • Thunder = Downpour: Jane and Bill are having an ideal afternoon on a farm when the sound of thunder comes out of nowhere. Boom, before they can even make it to the barn, it's pouring rain.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: The Trope Maker, as Jane sees Bill off when he's going away to war. There are declarations of love, there's Jane running after the moving train, there's Bill handing her a keepsake (his watch) from the moving window.
  • The Voiceless: Brig's very shy friend Gladys, who pops up from time to time to signal Brig with a "Pssst!" but never talks. Fiinally at the end she manages to gasp out a "Merry Christmas."
  • Wrench Wench: Anne eventually goes to work as a welder.