Thursday, May 31, 2018

Coming Home After WWII

A dear friend of mine (now deceased) was a big fan of Clark Gable, and I am sure she saw most of the movies he made — especially "Gone With the Wind," which was one of her favorite books as well. In fact, she spoke so highly of it that I purchased a paperback copy of the book when we were in high school. That book still has a spot on my bookshelf. I expect it to still be in my possession when I die.

I have no idea, though, whether my friend ever saw Mervyn LeRoy's "Homecoming," which premiered in May 1948.

If she didn't, she probably saw movies that were similar. There has never been a shortage of soap operaesque movies coming from Hollywood, and "Homecoming" really went the extra mile in that regard. Seldom did "Homecoming" fail to apply a cliché to its storyline.

The acting was good in spite of the material.

Gable played a surgeon returning to America from World War II. Ordinarily, he was a tough guy in his movies, but he was unusually sensitive in this one. Perhaps that was a result of Gable losing his own wife, Carole Lombard, in a plane crash six years earlier. Maybe that sensitized his performances in the years after Lombard's death, especially his performance in "Homecoming."

In "Homecoming," he played a surgeon who went to war not so much out of a sense of patriotism but a sense of duty. His real loyalty was to his wife (Anne Baxter) at home, but that loyalty was severely tested when he experienced a growing passion for his nurse (Lana Turner).

It was long rumored that Gable had been having an affair with Turner at the time of Lombard's death. I don't know if there was any truth to that rumor. I do know that, while Turner was regarded as a great beauty, she played a decidedly unglamorous role in "Homecoming."

Of course, that may just be my personal opinion in the context of the film. Turner was always beautiful, but she seemed ignorant of that fact in "Homecoming."

Turner's character was the tough one, the one who knew what was best for all concerned. Gable was obsessed with himself.

"Homecoming" was worth seeing because of Turner's performance. She didn't always play the tough one, but in this movie she did, and it benefited from that performance.