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In Which We Serve U rating

Noel Coward and David Lean direct this affecting drama of a Royal Navy crew recalling their lives in flashback, as their ship sinks.

War 1942 114 mins

Director: David Lean


There is a beauty in doing one's duty, and Noel Coward and David Lean's film radiates with it. Grit and steel are at its core and remain utterly moving where other elements of Coward's story may have dated. The writer-co-director gifts himself some florid speeches, but he can't eclipse a cast fully aware of what's at stake. Love dominates the men's memories, with Celia Johnson, Joyce Carey and Kay Walsh as the spouses who share the struggle and provide an uncomplicated romance that, for so many watching in 1942, must have helped muffle the pain.

The theme of selfless nobility carried behind the camera. Lean's contribution went unacknowledged in many reviews, leaving Coward to take the glory and a special Oscar for outstanding achievement. The pair would work together on three more features, including Brief Encounter. Richard Attenborough received no credit either, but his first film role - as the gutless stoker – is accomplished and memorable. Debutant John Mills shines, donating his one-year-old daughter Juliet to the cause as well, playing her on-screen father. The Americans had no issue with the theme of mass slaughter, but objected to the use of 'God', 'hell' and 'damn' in the script. Restoration supported by The David Lean Foundation.