Tender Comrade (1943): Edward Dmytryk’s Romantic War Drama, Starring Ginger Rogers as Noble American and Robert Ryan as the Soldier Who Loves Her

Made during WWII, Tender Comrade was produced by RKO as a star vehicle for Ginger Rogers, after she demonstrated her dramatic skills in several films, including “Kitty Foyle,” for which she won the 1940 Best Actress Oscar.

Tender Comrade
TenderComrade.jpg

Theatrical poster

Rogers plays Jo, a woman whose husband Chris (Robert Ryan) is off fighting the war.  Though pregnant, Jo finds a job at Douglas Aircraft, saving her money by living with several of her female co-workers.

The tale, scripted by Dalton Trumbo, is preachy and full of patriotic statements and declarations, such as “Share and share alike, that’s democracy.”

The War experience brings out the best in the women, and the movie is sentimental to a fault.  Jo and her friends pool their salaries and divide evenly their responsibilities.  Self-sacrifice and nobility are cherished values, as the femmes wait for news from the Front about their husbands and lovers.

In the film’s longest scene, during Chris’ visit, Jo expresses her frustrations, calling him “Mr. Wolf,” leading to his awkward marriage proposal and emotional reconciliation.

When news arrives that Chris has been killed in combat, Jo delivers an impassioned cheer-up speech to her infant son.

The “collectivism” implicit in “Tender Comrade,” not to mention the feature’s very title, caused  trouble for screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and director Edward Dmytrk during the HUAC “Communist witch hunt” era; both were sent to jail.

In 1943, however, audiences didn’t worry much about Communism as the Soviet Union was an ally of the U.S.  Unlike other 1940s films, “Tender Comrade” has not withstood well the test of time, and now seems to be mostly significant as a piece of agit-prop.

The movie was a commercial hit, earning a profit of over $800,000 at the box-office.

Cast
Ginger Rogers as Jo Jones
Robert Ryan as Chris Jones
Ruth Hussey as Barbara Thomas
Patricia Collinge as Helen Stacey
Mady Christians as Manya Lodge
Kim Hunter as Doris Dumbrowski
Jane Darwell as Mrs. Henderson
Richard Martin as Mike Dumbrowski

Credits:

Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by David Hempstead
Written by Dalton Trumbo
Music by Leigh Harline
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Roland Gross
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures

Release date: December 29, 1943

Running time: 101 minutes

Note:

I refreshed my memory and notes when TCM showed the movie on July 16, 2020.