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Tender Comrade Reviews

This archetypical WW II film features Rogers in a straight dramatic role as a woman left on the home front when her husband (Ryan) is killed in battle. After giving birth to a son, Rogers realizes she needs to be around others in order to get through her ordeal both financially and emotionally. She moves into a house with some fellow workers at a defense plant, including Hussey, Collinge, Hunter, and Christians. Each has a similar story of the war's effect on her life. Hussey worries about her Navy husband and stories she has heard about the affairs military men carry on overseas. Collinge suffers as both her husband and son are off doing their part, while Hunter waits for her new husband to return on a furlough so they can consummate the marriage. Mixed into this soap opera are messages that touch on just about every issue that faced the average American of the day, including the importance of obeying ration laws, the price of freedom, and plenty of old-fashioned, flag-waving patriotism. The story is told episodically and doesn't miss a trick in attempting to wring tears from the audience. The musical score goes heavy on the string section, milking as much sentiment from a scene as is humanly possible. Each actress gives her all, which only adds to the overemotionalized atmosphere. Rogers in particular overacts, spouting lines which are comical in retrospect. Audiences of the day were hungry for material like this and the film was a box-office success, making a large profit (for the day) of some $843,000. Dmytryk's direction is overdone, to say the least, emphasizing the gung-ho spirit of Trumbo's script to the point of being ridiculous. At the time these two filmmakers thought they were doing their part for the war effort, little realizing that TENDER COMRADE would later haunt them in ways they never could have imagined. When the two were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as members of the "Hollywood Ten" this film was used against them in the government's case for their Communist leanings. This well-meaning portrait of women working together in a collective and sharing things equally was interpreted by some Communist witch hunters as out-and-out propaganda cleverly disguised as a woman's drama. Rogers, whom Dymtryk had looked forward to working with, also turned against the two, claiming that what she had perceived to be anti-American sentiments had popped up in her dialog. The experience left Dmytryk a little bitter about the nature of the American way. In his autobiography It's A Hell of a Life But Not a Bad Living he wrote: "Their motto [in TENDER COMRADE] is `share and share alike,' which sounded quite innocently democratic when we made the film, but which turned up to haunt me a few years later when I was instructed that the real motto of a democracy is `Get what you can while you can and the devil take the hindmost."'