Film of the Month

The Years Between (1946)

With her MP husband declared dead in the war, a woman rebuilds her life - even taking his seat in the House of Commons. Then he returns. 

Daphne du Maurier's play was a big hit in 1944, anticipating as it did the advent of peace and the difficulties that would arise with the return of soldiers to civilian life. The film was produced post-war so was able to more accurately depict the events around VE.

The Years Between is very much of the stiff-upper-lip school of drama. Although the issue of post-war adjustment would strike a chord with many a cinemagoer, the family depicted here are hardly typical. They have an estate, several servants, Flora Robson as a nanny, and are well-connected in politics. When thoughts turn to what Valerie Hobson is going to do now that she no longer has a husband to tend to, there's no thought given to putting her into a munitions factory or serving snook in a communal British Restaurant. She may be surprised by the suggestion she stands for her husband's old seat but, let's face it, she was never going to do much else.

Hobson dominates the film though, because she's unable to portray a slightly-downtrodden housewife at the start, her transformation into a political activist is unconvincing. Most of the heavy lifting here is done by the costume designer Dorothy Sinclair subtly sharpening up Hobson's image as her career progresses. Indeed Hobson's vast array of clothes was probably one of the chief pleasures for the film's target audience.

Michael Redgrave as the husband turns up properly around half way through the film. To be honest, he doesn't make much of an impact. He seems baffled and rather depressed, and is unable to express the coldness of his pre-war character. Clive Brook played the part on stage and he could do cold and distant standing on his head. Redgrave however has an innate gentleness that makes it difficult to believe he could be so thoughtless.

In the translation of the piece from stage to screen there was clearly a decision made to have a happy ending to reinforce the country's return to the status quo. So Hobson's stand-in love interest is played by James McKechnie who was clearly not going to be participating in the fade-out clinch with her. The other change is the larger emphasis on political movement. This partly aligns with the Box's political leanings and also with the audience's shift towards Labour's view on reconstruction.

Script adapt.: Muriel Box, Sydney Box. (o.a. Daphne du Maurier)

Director: Compton Bennett

Players: Valerie Hobson, Michael Redgrave, Flora Robson, Felix Aylmer, Dulcie Gray, Edward Rigby, James McKechnie, John Gilpin, Yvonne Owen, Wylie Watson, Esma Cannon, Muriel George, Ernest Butcher, Lyn Evans, Joss Ambler, Katie Johnson, Maxwell Reed, Michael Horden, Gwen Clark  

The Years Between at Amazon UK 

The Years Between at Amazon US