IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942) B/W 115m dirs: Noel Coward, David Lean
w/ Noel Coward, John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson, Kay Walsh, Joyce Carey, Michael Wilding, Penelope Dudley-Ward, Philip Friend, Derek Elphinstone, Richard Attenborough; uncredited: Leslie Howard (voice)
From Variety's contemporary review of the film: "No less than half a dozen credits for this film go to Noel Coward. And they're well earned. It is the story of a British destroyer, from its completion to its destruction at sea by the Germans. She is dive-bombed in the Battle of Crete, but the survivors carry on the fight. It is a grim tale sincerely picturized and splendidly acted throughout. Only one important factor calls for criticism. It is that all the details are too prolonged.
"The author-producer-scriptwriter-composer and co-director gives a fine performance as the captain of the vessel, but acting honors also go to the entire company.
"Stark realism is the keynote of the writing and depiction, with no glossing of the sacrifices constantly being made by the sailors. They are seen clinging to a rubber raft, with cut-ins of several of them thinking of their wives and families at home and then flashing back to them in the water. This effect is impressive --- to a degree."
From The Movie Guide: "Noel Coward performed with unexpected brilliance here as co-director, writer, musical composer, and star of this stirring WWII drama. Presented in a series of poignant and revealing vignettes, the film tells the story of the British destroyer Torrin and its crew, commanded by Capt. Kinross (Coward), a father figure for his stalwart men. Constructed like a documentary, IN WHICH WE SERVE is also narrated by Coward, who recounts the ship's heroic actions: hit by torpedoes, it survives and is towed back to England, later participating in the Dunkirk evacuation and in naval battles off Crete, where it is dive-bombed and sinks. Kinross and his crew cling to a raft for hours, and while waiting for rescue, remember their loved ones in a series of flashbacks.
"Regarded as noble and understated at the time, IN WHICH WE SERVE now comes across as patronizing and riven with class condescension. But to Coward's credit ..., he had the good sense to choose the most distinguished film editor in England at the time, David Lean, to assist with the production; and so impressive was Lean's work that, halfway through the picture, Coward handed him the directorial reins. Out of respect, Lean's next three productions --- THIS HAPPY BREED, BLITHE SPIRIT, and BRIEF ENCOUNTER --- were adaptations of Coward's writing. SERVE marked the film debuts of Johnson, [Daniel] Massey and baby [Juliet] Mills."
IN WHICH WE SERVE was awarded a Special Oscar for Outstanding Production Achievement by Noel Coward. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Original Screenplay (Coward).