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In MGM's 1942 wartime drama Journey for Margaret Robert Young plays John Davis, an American war correspondent living in London covering the Blitz. After his wife Nora (Laraine Day) suffers a miscarriage, John finds himself drawn to two young war orphans he meets while on assignment, Peter (William Severn) and Margaret (Margaret O'Brien). After forging a relationship with the haunted young children who have been deeply affected by the horrors of war, John decides to take Peter and Margaret home to America where he and his wife plan to adopt them.
Journey for Margaret was based on a true story, told in the 1941 book of the same name by American journalist William L. White. Called "one of the most moving books to come out of the war" by Life Magazine, Journey for Margaret was White's own very personal story of war and family.
Journey for Margaret was the first major film role for 5-year-old actress Margaret O'Brien. MGM executives had noticed Margaret (who was still going by her real name Maxine at the time) in a bit part in the 1941 Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland vehicle Babes on Broadway. Impressed with her brief but memorable performance, MGM decided to star O'Brien in Journey for Margaret, changing her first name in the process to that of the title character.
O'Brien's heartbreaking performance helped make Journey for Margaret a hit at the box office, and the pint-sized actress became an instant star. An extraordinarily gifted actress, O'Brien stood out among other child stars. There was no sugary cuteness to her performances. She had a dramatic range well beyond her years and was capable of handling serious complex roles in which she could hold her own against some of Hollywood's biggest movie stars. The New York Times called Journey for Margaret "one of the year's rare and shining achievements from Hollywood...a picture of tortured childhood that will not soon be forgotten by anyone who has ever loved a child...Of little Margaret O'Brien...one can hardly say that she gives a performance - it is too taut and true for that." Time Magazine said, "An unpretentious tale of the quiet side of war, the picture is remarkable for its understanding of children and its exquisite performances...best of all is five-year-old [Margaret] O'Brien...she seems already to have learned as much about life as the real Margaret must have learned."
Following her success in Journey for Margaret, Margaret O'Brien was quickly signed to a long-term contract with MGM where she became one of the most popular stars of the 1940s. Journey for Margaret helped establish her as one of the most remarkable child actresses of all time with a truly moving performance that gives a unique child's perspective on the horrors of war.
Producers: B.P. Fineman, Dore Schary
Director: Maj. W.S. Van Dyke II
Screenplay: David Hertz, William Ludwig; William L. White (book)
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Wade B. Rubottom
Music: Franz Waxman; Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Sol Kaplan, Eric Zeisl (all three uncredited)
Film Editing: George White
Cast: Robert Young (John Davis), Laraine Day (Nora Davis), Fay Bainter (Trudy Strauss), Nigel Bruce (Herbert V. Allison), Margaret O'Brien (Margaret White), William Severn (Peter Humphreys), Elisabeth Risdon (Mrs. Bailey), Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Barrie), Halliwell Hobbes (Mr. Barrie), Heather Thatcher (Mrs. Harris), Jill Esmond (Susan Fleming), G.P. Huntley (Rugged), Lisa Golm (Frau Weber).
BW-81m. Closed Captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume