Breaking News Blogathon: Arise, My Love (Leisen, 1940)

indexFirstly, I want to thank all the bloggers who signed up  for our event. I was so happy to see so many responses to this topic, and I’m looking forward to reading all the contributions over this weekend.

Over the last few months, I’ve become pretty familiar with Ray Milland, and in turn Mitchell Leisen, who teamed up with Milland several times during their Paramount careers. I honestly didn’t give Leisen the thought and recognition he deserves, as I mostly knew him as the guy who directed scripts written by the likes of Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges, and who apparently made both of them peeved enough at one time or another that they started directing their own scripts. But as I’ve seen more of his films from that Paramount era, it’s obvious that even though the qualities I associate with those screenwriters shine through, there is Leisen’s own signature touch as well. He has a light and breezy control of his craft, neither frenetic like Sturges could be, and usually without the touch of cynicism that Wilder had. Perhaps Leisen is overlooked because he stays out of the way of his story and characters, and lets it unfold at its own pace.

Arise, My Love is one of those interventionist message films that came out before the US involvement in WWII. It opens at the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, where American ace flyer Tom Martin (Milland) finds himself facing the firing squad for fighting on the losing side. At the eleventh hour, Tom is pardoned by the governor as the result of the pleading of his wife. Tom is baffled as he is a bachelor, but he goes along with the plan. His “wife” turns out to be Associated News reporter Augusta “Gusto” Nash (Claudette Colbert), who has concocted this whole rescue as a way to get an exclusive story. Gusto has been plugging away as a domestic and women’s interest reporter, and longs for a position on the front lines as a foreign correspondent. She and Tom are barely able to flee by plane after their cover is blown, but they make it safely to Paris. arise-my-love-1940-01-g

Although Martin has fallen for Gusto almost from the beginning, she turns away his advances and dedicates herself solely to her work. The article of the rescue becomes a hit, and the two spend more time together as Gusto writes more on Tom’s background and adventures. In a lovely romantic scene, Tom tricks Gusto into going on a date with him, and she begins to give in a little to her feelings for him.

In the background, Hitler starts his invasion of Poland, and Gusto is offered a position in Berlin as a foreign correspondent. She tries to leave Tom quickly behind, but he follows her onto the same train, having just enlisted as a volunteer for the Polish air force. The two stop the train and steal away in the Forest of Compiègne, where they both decide to put aside their careers and return to America to marry. Tom secures two boat tickets on the S.S. Athenia, and on their voyage, the two say goodbye to their former selves and vow to start over. However, when the boat is attacked and sinks, Gusto finds herself reporting the breaking news back to her office, and Tom is back in the air flying rescue planes over the wreckage. They both realize that although a part of them yearns for a domestic life and each other, the call of duty is too strong. They part ways on the beaches of Ireland, uncertain of their future and their chances of meeting again.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 6.10.36 PMMonths later, Gusto finds herself back in the Forest of Compiègne to cover the signing of the peace treaty between Hitler and the French. Now a hardworking and star reporter, she’s covered all of the major events for the newspaper. Meanwhile Tom, who has been injured and scheduled to travel back to America to start service as a military flight instructor, tracks down Gusto’s location. He convinces her editor to give him press credentials so he can meet her at the treaty signing. The two reunite, and decide this time they will stay together, serving their country back at home.

I found this to be a fascinating film because of it’s historical placement. Both Tom and Gusto choose to forgo what they describe as a happy married life in America, which at that time was “safe,” and plunge headfirst into the war effort. For Gusto as a journalist, she feels compelled to get the word out about what exactly is happening in Europe, especially to those back home in America who didn’t yet have a clear picture of the threat that was looming on the horizon. Tom, after fighting in the Spanish Civil War, volunteers to fight for Poland. Even though his home country was not yet involved, he dives headfirst into fighting the enemy, risking not only his chance at love and happiness, but his life.

Claudette Colbert’s Gusto is foremost a “career woman.” We can see that she is attracted to Tom from the start, and yet it is her drive to become a top reporter that keeps her from becoming too close to him. While there are a few exchanges between Gusto and her editor, the film mostly focuses on her as a single journalist working hard to get the news out to the people back home. With her character on the front lines, it romances the idea of the foreign correspondent.

MillandAriseMyLoveWritten by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, the film never feels abruptly dark even though it is serious material. It balances that line between lighter romantic comedy and drama very well in that sense. There are also some double entendres that really made we wonder how they got past the censors. Milland and Colbert, who would make three films together (this being their second) have great chemistry. Both play characters that are very self-confident, and it’s fun to see that battle of wills go on throughout the film.

Unfortunately the movie is not available on home video, and it really is a shame. With all the talent behind and in front of the camera and also as a sort of “historical document” film for the time, I hope it one day is made available for wider viewership.

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18 Responses to Breaking News Blogathon: Arise, My Love (Leisen, 1940)

  1. Laura says:

    I really enjoyed your post and am so glad you got to catch up with this one!

    I remember reading that Leisen would put in some things that were so far over the top it would distract the censors and he’d take those things out, but the things he really wanted to slip past then stayed in!

    Like you I have really come to appreciate Leisen on his own terms. I was glad to be able to see some of the films in last year’s Leisen festival at UCLA, though not as many as I would have liked!

    You and Jessica had a great idea for a blogathon! I’m enjoying the various posts — just read Jacqueline’s on -30- at Another Old Movie Blog — a fun movie.

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks for the kind words Laura! I honestly didn’t catch the dialogue that closely the first time I saw that scene where Gusto first meets Tom after their escape and she wants to pose him for the photographs. I totally did a “wait, what was that?!?” Good sneaky tactics by Leisen 🙂

      I now regret not catching anything at the Leisen festival last year, although I think I’ve been able to watch a lot of the films they screened. But obviously it’s so much more fun on the big screen.

      Glad you’re enjoying everyone’s posts. I’m looking forward to getting to read everything more in-depth in the next few days.


  2. Pingback: Breaking News: Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon Round-Up~ Day 1 | Lindsay's Movie Musings

  3. Marsha says:

    This sounds so interesting! Somehow the thought of Ray Milland and Claudette Colbert has me a little excited…..

  4. I’ve never even heard of this one! Sounds fascinating, especially because of the time frame in which it’s set, as you pointed out.

    I love Claudette Colbert in just about anything and, like Marsha said, she would make a great pair with Ray Milland.

  5. Judy says:

    I love this film – the blend of screwball and drama works amazingly well, and it is interesting to see a film of this type where it is war which pulls the couple apart rather than comic misunderstandings. Colbert and Milland make a fantastic combination, and I must agree with you that Leisen deserves more recognition.. ‘Arise, My Love’ has had a DVD release in Spain, but could definitely do with being released in the US and the UK too!

    • Isn’t it lovely? I think it’s super romantic too, with a lot of the credit going to Milland and Colbert. We classic film fans need to start demanding DVD releases I guess 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  6. Lindsay, I’ve heard of ARISE, MY LOVE, and I like both Ray Milland and Claudette Colbert, so your superb review has me interested in hunting it down. I’m amazed that it’s not available on TCM, or from the Warner Archives! Here’s hoping it’ll become available soon! BRAVA on your teriffic Blogathon!

    • Thanks for your comment Dorian! It looks like Loving the Classics has it. I haven’t ordered from them yet, but at least it’s an option. TCM has shown it before, but I think it’s tricky being a Paramount release…I’ve got my fingers crossed too that we’ll get some nice, proper releases of some of this stuff too, especially since I’m Ray Milland obsessed 🙂

  7. The title doesn’t really give an idea about the story involved and I really appreciate your review, and the opportunity to add another “new” movie to my must-see list.

    • You’re right, it really doesn’t, although it does play into the film in a detail that I didn’t go into 🙂 I hope you get to see it soon, it’s one of my new favorites. Thanks for your comment!

  8. girlsdofilm says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen this – thank you for posting! Claudette is a personal fave so fingers crossed I can find this somewhere in the UK.
    Thank you for organising such a fun blogathon, I’ve really enjoyed reading all the entries

    • Thanks for your comment! I hope you can find it over there as well, definitely worth a watch. I honestly wasn’t a huge Claudette fan to begin with, but she’s grown to become one of my favorites over the years.

  9. ClassicBecky says:

    I’ve been enjoying this blogathon immensely, and your choice interests me greatly. I’ve never seen this one, or even heard of it, which surprises me. I love Ray Milland and Claudette Colbert, the story sounds fascinating — I wonder why it is so little known? At least to me, and I know as much as the next classic movie nut. I’d love to see it. Well, maybe someday …..

    • Thanks for the kind words! It’s really almost frustrating that so many of the early Paramount stuff is not on home video…this is really a solid film and it deserves to be out there. I had never heard of it either until I got obsessed with Ray Milland.

  10. Le says:

    What an interesting film! The story and the historical events are worth noticing, and your review made me want to watch it soon! I haven’t paid attention to Leisen either, but I’ll do in the future.
    Thanks for hosting this amazing blogathon!

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