War Against Mrs. Hadley The (1942)

War Against Mrs. Hadley The (1942)

Harold Bucquet directed this wartime drama which won a Best Writing Original Screenplay Academy Award for George Oppenheimer on his only Oscar nomination. Fay Bainter stars as the wealthy title character the widow Stella Hadley whose annual birthday celebration in her expansive Washington D.C. home on December 7 1941 is interrupted with news of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. But Mrs. Hadley is too selfish to be bothered with World War II she proceeds to take the event as a personal affront and subsequently refuses to participate or even acknowledge its existence until she’s finally forced to face the reality of it. Ms. Bainter does a terrific job (as always) in the unsympathetic role and her supporting cast is exemplary as well.

Edward Arnold plays Elliott Fulton an old family friend whom she’d dated before marrying Mr. Hadley; he’d run the Washington Chronicle newspaper before selling it to Mr. Winters a Democrat before his death. Now Mrs. Hadley won’t have that newspaper in her home nor will she associate with Mrs. Winters (who’s played by Isobel Elsom). Elliott is a top official with the war department who’d been participating in peace talks with the Japanese just prior to the bombing. Hadley’s son Theodore (Richard Ney who also appeared as the son of Mrs. Miniver (1942) Greer Garson’s starkly contrasting title role) works there too though her attractive daughter Patricia (Jean Rogers) and surrogate father figure Elliott have been covering for Ted because he’s an irresponsible drinker. Pat does her part for the war effort volunteering at the local canteen a place where soldiers can get food and drink while on leave or before shipping out. There she meets Michael Fitzpatrick (a young Van Johnson in only his third credited role) a Corporal who’s soon to be a Sergeant. Working class Mike is instantly attracted to Pat who assures him their background differences shouldn’t matter; later they become engaged despite Mrs. Hadley’s disapproval. When Mike learns he’s to be transferred to Phoenix Pat proposes to him and he accepts. Sara Allgood plays Michael’s loving Irish mother who has these words of wisdom for Mrs. Hadley when she refuses to attend the wedding – “Pride is not very good company when you’re lonely”. Spring Byington plays Mrs. Hadley’s best friend Cecilia Talbot; she too is shunned when Stella catches her learning first aid training with Mrs. Winters and others.

The conflict between would-be suitor Elliot and Stella stems from his wartime duties: his role in having Ted drafted for his own good and for refusing to intervene. Naturally being drafted is the best thing to happen to Ted who grows up and is proud to serve; he even earns the distinguished service cross (DSC) for his efforts in knocking out a machine gun nest. News of this arrives at the same time that a telegram from Phoenix announcing her daughter’s pregnancy does. Mrs. Fitzpatrick who’d come after receiving her telegram is able to help to prevent what would have been an unfortunate incident when reporters (Frank Ferguson and Harry Hayden uncredited) and Mrs. Hadley misunderstand each other. Learning that Mrs. Winters’s son had been killed in the same effort as her son effectively “wakes up” Mrs. Hadley who experiences a transformation. She then uses her wealth and home to influence positively affect and contribute to the home-front war effort alongside Mrs. Winters. The film ends with Mrs. Hadley now married to Elliot and known as Mrs. Fulton and Mrs. Fitzgerald on their way West to see their first grandchild.

Dorothy Morris playing a somewhat clumsy servant whose brother managed to survive Pearl Harbor Halliwell Hobbes playing a butler that moonlights as an air raid warden and Connie Gilchrist as a cook play Mrs. Hadley’s domestic staff. Miles Mander plays her longtime doctor Rags Ragland plays a soldier in Fitzpatrick’s unit and Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer plays a singing telegram messenger boy.

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