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I’m not sure whether this is a World War II movie with a romantic backdrop, or a romance with a World War II backdrop. Either way, it is thoroughly entertaining. William Holden is Joe ‘Pete’ Peterson, a Sergeant in the American Army, stationed in the Italian mountains. While on leave in Naples, he meets WAC Eleanor MacKay (Nancy Olson) and a romance develops. However, Joe still has obligations to the army, and it becomes doubtful whether he will return alive or not…

William Holden and Nancy Olson made four films together, including the brilliant Sunset Boulevard. They obviously had chemistry on-screen, and it comes into play here. Holden – an under-rated actor – is superb as Joe, combining bravery and heroics with vulnerability and hesitation, that makes for a fully rounded and believeable character. Holden was also one of the most beautiful actors around at the time that this was filmed (and before his looks were sadly ravaged by alcohol, although alcohol certainly never affected his talent for his craft). Nancy Olson also does a great job as Eleanor, somehow bringing both warmth and coolness to the role!

The romantic aspect – if slightly rushed (as often seems to be the case in films from this era) – is luscious and I did care for both characters. The war scenes are disturbing, as soldiers get picked off arbitrarily, and men see their friends dying all around them.

The blending of the two genres works well here. The film is very tender and sweet, with a perfect ending (which I won’t spoil). Definitely recommended – in fact, it has jumped straight into my top ten films of all time.

Year of release: 1951

Director: Michael Curtiz

Producer: Anthony Veiller

Writers: Orin Jannings, Richard Tregaskis

Main cast: William Holden, Nancy Olson

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