I first saw this movie on the "late, late show" many years ago, remembering very little except that it was set in England between the World Wars and starred John Mills, but not remembering the title. Thanks to sites like [...], wikidpedia, and amazon.com I was able to find "So Well Remembered" which I was about 90% sure matched what I remembered. So I got the DVD and was happy to see that I had ordered the right movie.
The movie is slightly melodramatic (but not annoyingly so) telling the story of a reformer determined to improve conditions in his northern English town and his marriage to the daughter of the town pariah. Mills gives a fine performance in the lead role, but the acting is very good throughout. The emotional aspects are more hinted at than clearly detailed (English subtlety, perhaps). But the movie moves along well, despite a rather sharp jump, skipping the 1930s entirely. It begins and ends with the same scene, a rather puzzling scene the first time, but everything making sense the second.
The original novel's author, James Hilton, provides the narration--which is a very nice touch. All in all, the movie does a very good job of putting the viewer in that time and place, and is well worth viewing.
note: Being a Warner Archives movie, the DVD is very bare-bones, lacking any special features or even having individual scenes that can be jumped to (pressing fast forward simply moves the DVD along to the next 10 minute interval).
James Hilton (1900-54) had "gone Hollywood" as an A-list scriptwriter by the 1930s, and this UK-made 1947 RKO/Rank melodrama was the very last of his popular romantic novels adapted for film. Canadian-born expat Edward Dmytryk directed, and this film just precedes CROSSFIRE in his RKO credits, as it just follows GREAT EXPECTATIONS in Sir John Mills' filmography. Accordingly both director and star enjoy early career peaks here, working in Denham Studio interiors and Macclesfield (Cheshire) exteriors. The setting is a milling town, Browdley, in Hilton's native Lancashire, and Mills plays a mixture of James Hilton and James Stewart, crusading as faultlessly righteous editor and Lord Mayor against diphtheria and for interwar slum clearance. Dmytryk films the 60-minute 1919-20 prologue very darkly, crosscutting in cranes and pans between twilight exteriors and barely lighter Denham sets (this is neoGothic UK melodrama, not noir), and the film brightens (but also deepens) in the concluding 50 minutes set on V-E Day 1945. Mayor Mills, Trevor Howard and Martha Scott (in Greer Garson hairdos) distractedly celebrate bittersweet wartime victory with very mixed emotions and Hiltonesque wonderment over Greater Britain's postwar prospects. Scheming ex-wife Scott finally unmans Mills as "you mousy little mayor of Browdley," and our Sir John--a better man than she--understandably snaps, delivering some shockingly non-PC verbal and physical closure to her character at the film's climax.
Meanwhile new characters have been introduced, enlivening the melos mix, and there are fine performances by Patricia Roc and Richard Carlson as conflicted V-E newlyweds. Roc plays Nurse Julie, Trevor Howard's empathetic ward, and in the prologue Baby Julie is portrayed successively by Misses Hayley and then Juliet Mills, both child actresses already possessing recognizably stellar Mills Dynasty physiognomies. As a fanciful Hilton romance this film hasn't quite the cosmic sweep and bravado of the Colman-Hilton LOST HORIZON or RANDOM HARVEST. Dmytryk's film more closely resembles King Vidor's sole UK project, his humanistic 1938 A.J. Cronin adaptation THE CITADEL with Robert Donat, but SO WELL REMEMBERED smartly contains a concentrated narrative flow of Hilton popular-library quality, and Hilton himself narrates the film. (And as Hayley's film debut, for Boomers it's epochal cinema.)