Movie Mirrors Index

The White Cliffs of Dover

(1944 b 126')

En: 7 Ed: 7

An American woman marries an English aristocrat, who is killed in the Great War, and their son fights in the World War II.

Susan Ashwood (Irene Dunne) is a nurse worried about her son, and she is told to prepare 300 extra beds. Susan remembers arriving in England. Sam (Van Johnson) likes her and wants to write to her. Susan and her father Hiram Dunn (Frank Morgan) go through customs. He complains about English rain and cold. The Colonel (C. Aubrey Smith) invites Susan to a ball but then plays chess with Hiram. The two old men argue about chess and a board that was taken from the White House in the War of 1812. Contrary to others' expectations, the Colonel takes Susan to the ball, and he sends John Ashwood (Alan Marshal) to meet her. They like each other and talk all night. John calls on Hiram and invites them to the country. Hiram is leaving, but Susan goes with John to his mother's house. John tells Susan about his ancestors and wants her to be his wife. She reacts to his condescending relatives and says she is proud to be an American. They apologize, but Susan takes a train to the boat. John is there and says he is taking her back.

They have a lavish wedding, and Hiram makes a speech. John and Susan learn that England is at war. Sam runs into Susan as he is leaving for the US. John is in the army. Susan and his mother Jean Ashwood (Gladys Cooper) have not received a letter for five weeks. Nanny (May Whitty) says that wives can go to France and hopes for a child. Lady Jean gets a telegram that her son Reggie was killed. Susan meets John, and they stay in a hotel with a view. John says the oldest is always named Percy, but she wants the name John. He leaves a note saying to call him John. Susan is glad that the United States declared war. She shows the baby to the Colonel as they see the Americans marching. After the armistice the Colonel calls Nanny and learns that John was killed. Jean tries to console grieving Susan. Nanny brings in the baby, and Susan is afraid he will go into the army. Jean speaks of John's sacrifice.

John Ashwood II (Roddy McDowall) rides a horse to see his tenants and their daughter Betsy (Elizabeth Taylor). John and Hiram play tricks on each other. Young German guests say they were not defeated and are apparently preparing for war. Hiram asks Susan to come home with him because another war is coming. Jean dies, and Hiram leaves. John says goodbye to Betsy and her parents. He helps Nanny pack, and she cries. On the train John tells Susan he wants to take care of his manor and fight for England; so she changes her mind, and they stay. Years later John (Peter Lawford) joins his father's regiment and says goodbye to Betsy (June Lockhart).

Susan sees John on a stretcher and is with him as he is dying. John says that a dying American said he would fight for a peace that would stick. Susan sees the Americans marching, and John dies.

This sentimental and tragic drama reflects the importance of the Anglo-American alliance despite their differences. The conclusion laments that God will never forgive us if we break faith with our dead again, thus hoping for a lasting peace.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

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