“Do you suppose,’ the Walrus said,/That they could get it clear?’…

…I doubt it,’ said the Carpenter,/And shed a bitter tear.” From “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (1871) BY LEWIS CARROLL.

From The Sunday Times:

“Noël Coward had no love of cinema, but during the Second World War he was approached to write a propaganda film. Unversed in the business of film-making, he asked for someone to help. Thus David Lean, a film editor, got his break on In Which We Serve, in which Celia Johnson plays Coward’s wife.

The actress was invincibly middle-class, and very shy. Coward invited her for a screen test, and questioned her on The Walrus and the Carpenter. If seven maids with seven mops swept for half a year, did she suppose they could get it clear?

She doubted it, and shed a tear. He was impressed…”

From historyonfilm.com:

“David Lean (March 25, 1908-April 16, 1991) was an extremely successful editor until famous playwright Noel Coward offered him the position of co-director on Coward’s first film, In Which We Serve. After directing several of Coward’s plays, Lean branched out on his own, and films like Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and Brief Encounter made him one of Britain’s leading directors. However, he appeared to have reached his limits until he agreed to direct Bridge on the River Kwai for producer Sam Spiegel. It was an international hit, followed by Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, so Lean became synonymous with epic films.”

From Britannica.com:

“In Which We Serve, British war film, released in 1942, that marked the directorial debuts of Noël Coward and David Lean; Coward also produced, wrote, scored, and starred in the film.

“This is a story of a ship” begins the narration that opens this World War II film. The ship is a British destroyer, the HMS Torrin, which sinks during the Battle of Crete (1941). Forced to abandon ship, the sailors and officers cling to a life raft, whereupon the film proceeds in flashback. The history of the Torrin (such as its role during the Dunkirk evacuation) is told, as are the stories of the various men, including Captain Kinross (played by Coward), “Shorty” Blake (John Mills), and Chief Petty Officer Hardy (Bernard Miles). Cutting back to the film’s present, German planes periodically strafe the raft, killing more of the men and wounding others. Eventually 90 sailors are rescued and transported to safety in Egypt, whereupon Captain Kinross encourages the surviving sailors and the families of the dead (and by extension the Allied wartime audience) to find inspiration in the sacrifice of his valiant men and to persevere in the many battles to come. A patriotic epilogue then describes the many ships being built and launched to avenge the Torrin and other sunk vessels and to ensure victory for England and the Allies.

The film was widely popular with British audiences, who saw it as a reflection of their national fortitude. It was nominated for two Academy Awards (best picture and best original screenplay), and Coward received a special Oscar for his production achievement. Celia Johnson, who later starred in Coward’s classic Brief Encounter (1945)*, played Captain Kinross’s wife. In Which We Serve also marks the film debut of Richard Attenborough, who appeared in an uncredited role. A sanitized American version of the film, absent the script’s occasional “hell” and “damn,” was later released and shown frequently on television.”

*based on his 1936 one-act play “Still Life”.

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