The Very Thought of You
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Movies about wartime romances that lead to quickie marriages were a common theme of World War II. What makes The Very Thought of You (1944) unusual was the realistic depiction of life during war, with infidelities and dysfunctional families.
Eleanor Parker plays the "good" girl, Janet Wheeler, who works in a munitions factory to help support the war effort and her disagreeable family, played by Henry Travers and Beulah Bondi, John Alvin, Andrea King and Georgia Lee Settle. On her way home from work in Pasadena, California, Parker and her friend, played by Faye Emerson, meet two GIs on leave from their post on the Aleutians, played by Warner's musical star Dennis Morgan and up-and-coming actor Dane Clark. Romance blossoms quickly over Thanksgiving and Morgan and Parker decide to get married immediately.
Instead of being surrounded by support, Parker's family (with the exception of Travers and Settle) are violently opposed to both Morgan and the marriage. Screenwriter Alvah Bessie and director Delmer Daves' adaptation of Lionel Wiggam's original story portrays the Wheeler family so harshly that the critics made note in their reviews, with one calling them a "selfish, bitter, evil-minded lot." Just as jarring was the expressed hope by a civilian that the war would last longer because of the resulting economic prosperity after so many years of struggling through the Depression, seeming not to care that their new-found prosperity came with the cost of human lives.
Eleanor Parker, who had just appeared with John Garfield and Paul Henreid in Between Two Worlds (1944), was given her first leading role for Warner Bros. by default, when the intended leading lady, Ida Lupino, had to bow out because of illness. For Parker, the role of a young war bride must have hit home, as she had also made a wartime marriage after a short romance. That marriage broke up after only a year, and the couple would divorce two months after The Very Thought of You was released in October 1944.
Andrea King signed a seven year contract with Warner Bros. in late January, 1944, just a few weeks before The Very Thought of You went into production on March 6th. With her new contract came a new name, as Jack Warner thought King's real name, Georgette McKee, sounded like a stripper. The Very Thought of You was a happy experience for King because she became good friends with Eleanor Parker. King's husband was off to war, and she had just purchased a home an hour and a half away from Warner Bros. Because of gas rationing and the long distance King would have to drive each day to and from the studio, Parker, who lived five minutes from Warner Bros., invited King to stay with her during the five weeks of filming. King later said, "Eleanor Parker was a dear to work with [...] She was just wonderful."
Playing King and Parker's brother was John Alvin, who remembered enjoying shooting the film because "I got to have a lot of corny but funny lines, and the director Delmer Daves allowed us to interject lines on our own. It was kind of fun because we could ad lib if we wanted to and it fit his idea."
The Very Thought of You was premiered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Dennis Morgan's home state) on Halloween, 1944. The critics were mixed, but Parker, King and Clark were singled out as having given excellent performances. Seventy years later, The Very Thought of You, like The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) gives modern audiences a glimpse into life during World War II that still resonates.
By Lorraine LoBianco
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