|Run Time: 86 min. | b/w
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Stars: Anne Baxter, Charles Winninger, John Hodiak, Anne Revere
Genres: Drama | War
A winning film about a family who invite a soldier to dinner and are repaid for their kindness. A bit of a patriotic heart-tugger, perhaps, but the wholesome plot elements remain effective.
Toronto Film Society is back in the theatre! However, we’re still pleased to continue to bring you films straight to your home! Beginning Season 73 until now we have...
Sunday Dinner for a Soldier is a class act. From first scene to last it will tug on your heartstrings and make you long for a time in America when people took pride in their country, in their families, in being responsible, without always thinking of themselves first. It was a time when home was where the heart was, since so many young men were in Europe or Asia fighting to liberate the world from fascism.
The story is about a poor family living in a ram-shackled houseboat, who have to scrounge for a living, but who have big hearts. They want to share their gifts of love, friendship and food with a US soldier, whom they have been told will be delivered to their house on a Sunday by an aid society. There is a mix up and it looks like he won't show up when all of a sudden God – it had to be God! – brings one to their home by chance. It turns out he is a man from a broken family (John Hodiak) and he quickly warms to the old grandpa of the house, the little children, and the eldest daughter (Anne Baxter, who never looked lovelier than in this film). They quickly become his surrogate family.
Exceptional performances by everyone, particularly Anne and John, who fell in love while making this picture and got married and had a child together. You can sense there was a real attraction there, it wasn't just acting. I loved the scene where they danced together in the unfinished dance hall by the sea. Oh my gosh, how romantic! Of the children it's Connie Marshall whom you'll remember the most. What a delightful child actress she was; she doesn't deserve to be forgotten. I actually sought this film out just to see another film she was in, after seeing her give another luminous performance in Sentimental Journey, with Maureen O'Hara. She didn't disappoint! This film needs to be seen by more people. How can they continue to ignore gems like Sunday Dinner for a Soldier and put out total junk on DVD every day? It's beyond me. Here's hoping some saner heads will prevail and we'll one day see an official release of this unforgettable film.
A poor family living on a houseboat plans a very special Sunday DINNER FOR A SOLDIER.
Here is an excellent example of the type of movie Hollywood produced during World War Two as morale boosting entertainment. It depicts the decency of the folks on the Home Front that the guys in the military were fighting to preserve and protect. Today, its unabashed nostalgia & romanticism greatly add to its appeal.
Anne Baxter stars as the determined young woman who must hold her family together during difficult times; the prospects of an affluent, but loveless, marriage only add to her strain. Appearing late in the film is John Hodiak as the gentle sergeant who comes wandering along Baxter’s beach at exactly the right time. Together they epitomize the wistful longing which is forever associated with the warrior leaving for battle and the loved one left behind. Appropriately, Baxter & Hodiak were later to marry in real life. (Tragically, John Hodiak would die of a heart attack in 1955 at the age of only 41.)
Old Charles Winninger steals most of his scenes as Baxter’s delightfully incorrigible ‘Grandfeathers.’ Her younger siblings are very well played by Billy Cummings, Connie Marshall, with her beloved pet hen, and little Bobby Driscoll, standing on his head, in one of his earliest film roles.
Two Oscar winning actresses enliven their smaller roles: Anne Revere as an outspoken chicken farmer who enjoys a playful feud with Winninger; and Jane Darwell as the community’s liaison with the local air base. Gravel-voiced Chill Wills plays a friendly bus driver.
Near the end of the film movie mavens will recognize silent screen comic Chester Conklin as a photographer and Rory Calhoun as the sergeant who grabs Hodiak’s strawberry cake, both uncredited.
‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ is the lovely old tune which ties together the romantic elements throughout the film.
This should be out on Criterion DVD, and sadly, it has never even been released on ANY format. Unless you are lucky enough to catch it on AMC, you won’t see it. Which is sad. The only thing I can add to what has already been said here in other comments and in the summary is that it is easily one of the 100 best movies of all time, and a MUST if you are a fan of this era!!!!!!
I feel I have to take issue with the previous comments from a reader who says they cannot understand why previous readers gave it ten stars. This is the reason I am giving it ten stars as my favourite picture that I first saw in the early 50s. The comments made about John Hodiak not appearing until the end of the picture are wrong. When Hodiak does appear he works solid through to the end of the picture. The comments made about this not being a great film as it was shot on the back lot of Fox are rubbish. I have a lot of the backlot stills that were never seen by the public but were kept by the child star Connie Marshall. A lot of work was put into this picture.Sure it was shot on the back lot of Fox. So was "Casablanca" shot on the back lot of WB and the airport scene at the end shot at Van Nuys airport. That was a great film wasn it? This was child star Connie Marshall's first picture and she was not on the credits as "Introducing" but among the lead cast. As somebody who has been in the film industry and a film buff all his life I appreciate cinema more that anybody. If you are going to vote on a film learn the history about it and not that it was cheaply made. There was a war on at the time this was made and it was made as fantasy to please the picturegoing public. Looking at the votes given on this site it appears to have just done that.The cinema was there for all of us to escape the outside world and live in a fantasy world for a few hours, this picture gave us just that.Top stars, great story, great music and make believe. A pure gem. I hope I have explained now why I personally gave this a top rating and why it will always be my favourite picture.