"I love you as if I'd always known you. I'll be back as if I'd never left you." -- Van Johnson
Jane Wyman is wonderful as a lonely woman brought to life by the unexpected attention of soldier Van Johnson in this tender soaper. Though it doesn't have quite the charm of "The Clock" with Garland and Walker, there is something very real and ultimately moving about this bittersweet story of falliing in love during wartime.
Ruthie (Wyman) lives in New York where she takes care of her heartbroken mother, still shell-shocked years after Ruthie's father called one night to say he was leaving. It has not allowed the sweet Ruthie much of a life outside her job and mother. When she meets a soldier in an elevator named Art (Van Johnson), his warm and friendly manner is just the right medicine for Ruthie, who's never really been noticed.
Johnson really shines in a role tailor-made for his boyish charm. He is lonely too, and masks his need with constant chatter so that Ruthie can't tell him to go away. Art sort of invites himself to dinner and over the next two days they paint a picture of love's transforming magic, which does not always take huge amounts of time. It is a picture painted on a canvas of fresh grass in Central Park, boat races, and a city made for falling in love.
When Art's 153rd is slated to pull out, however, their happiness is interrupted. It is the small touches, such as Ruthie's pride in a story Art gets publised in the paper, and a truck full of soldiers yelling goodbye to Ruthie when Art leaves that make this film rise above its soap opera origins. Ben Hecht's script, based on his own story, doesn't hurt either. A lovely and subtle score by Franz Waxman adds just the right mood to this special film.
Writing Art every day until he can write her back, a letter finally arrives for a lonely Ruthie, waiting for the voice and words which will make her heart live again. To reveal more would be unforgivable to anyone with a romantic heart who hasn't seen this yet. I can only say that a scene in the rain is a poignant moment never forgotten by those who have seen it, either recently or years ago.
A great cast gives Johnson and Wyman the room they need for two lost souls to find each other. Those with a romantic heart will find much to enjoy with this film, finally available on DVD.