Today We Live (1933): Howard Hawks’ WWI Romance, Starring Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Robert Young

Set in London in 1916, during WWI, Today We Live is a Pre-Code movie revolving around romantic triangle, directed by Howard Hawks.

Today We Live
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Theatrical release poster

The screenplay was written by the story’s original and respectable author William Faulkner. “Turnabout” was Faulkner’s first tale to be adapted to the big-screen, and the dialogue is occasionally stiff.

A Paramount player, Gary Cooper, just about to become a major star, was loaned to MGM to make this feature. Joan Crawford, who plays the rich British girl at the center, gets star billing. She looks good but she struggles with essaying an authentic British accent.

Crawford plays a privileged aristocratic woman, Diana Boyce–Smith, who tries to do her domestic chores while her father is fighting on the front.

When the tale begins, she rents a section to the house to Bogard (Gooper), a young American arriving in London as a student.

After getting the news that her father had been killed, her brother Ronnie (Tone) and her childhood friend Claude (Young) are drafted.

Diana falls for Bogard, but she joins the War effort in an ambulance unit in order to be close to Ronnie and Claude. Later on, when the U.S. declares War, Bogard joins the American Flying Corp.

Diana and the three significant men find themselves at the front. When Bogard is believed to be dead in combat mission over France, Diana returns to her sweetheart.

But, following conventions of this kind of melodrama, it turns out that Bogard is alive. A series of narrative complications ensue in order for the central couple to be reunited at the end.

Despite the caliber of talent involved, in front and behind the camera, the film is not a highlight in the otherwise illustrious careers of the actors involved.

To increase the entertainment values of what’s essentially a thin plot, Hawks inserts some aerial sequences, which are passable but not exciting even by the standards of the time.

Spoiler Alert:

Claude joins Bogard on an air fight, and he is blinded when hand-launching a torpedo against a German battleship.

Upon learning of Claude’s blindness, Ann says final goodbye to Bogard, feeling it is her duty to care for Claude.

All three men participate in an aerial suicide mission, in which both Claude and Ronnie die in action, though their boat makes a torpedo run. Their sacrifice allows Bogard to survive, and although Diana is sad to lose both Ronnie and Claude, she and Bogard are reunited.

Met on Set

Crawford met her future husband, Franchot Tone, on the set of this film, and they got married two years later.

Bogard’s nick name is Bogey, which is strange when heard for the first time.

Cast

Joan Crawford as Diana Boyce-Smith
Gary Cooper as Richard Bogard
Franchot Tone as Ronnie Boyce-Smith
Roscoe Karns as McGinnis
Robert Young as Claude

Credits:

Produced, directed by Howard Hawks
Written by William Faulkner (dialogue); screenplay by Edith Fitzgerald and Dwight Taylor, based on Turn About Saturday Evening Post 1932 by William Faulkner
Cinematography Oliver T. Marsh
Elmer Dyer (aerial photography)
Edited by Edward Curtiss

Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed by Loew’s Inc.

Release date: April 14, 1933 (US)

Running time: 113 minutes
Budget: $663,000
Box office: $1,035,000