Review: Anatole Litvak’s “This Above All,” Starring Joan Fontaine and Tyrone Power

Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine in
Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine in "This Above All"

A reasonably compelling romantic melodrama, Fox’s adaptation of Eric Knight’s novel This Above All pairs Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine as lovers in England during the war. Fontaine plays a woman from a wealthy family who joins the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force against the wishes of her parents, and at first, the film portrays the women’s side of the war, one rarely seen on film—“My turn for a war story!” Fontaine wrote excitedly in her autobiography.1 Once Power’s troubled loner shows up, however, it focuses solely on their romance with war as a backdrop. The two fall in love, but tensions arise from their class differences as well as the dark secret he hides from her.

The film has many different modes to it, rarely meshing well. Fontaine is in a patriotic war movie, often monologuing about duty and unity while cheered on by Alfred Newman’s terribly overbearing score. Power, on the other hand, is in a much moodier film, attempting gritty realism in his performance (despite making no attempt at an English accent)—but director Anatole Litvak makes little attempt to smooth out the rough edges between those conflicting tones. Before dismissing them for general patriotism, the film does touch on interesting ideas of class conflicts during wartime, and Fontaine sells her propagandistic speeches as well as anyone could. This Above All was very successful at the box office, and soon after Litvak turned to directing actual propaganda films, working with Frank Capra on the Why We Fight series.2

Where to Watch

Buy it on DVD as part of the Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection

Rent it on iTunes / Google Play

For More on This Above All

Read the review in The New York Times

Watch the Trailer

References   [ + ]

1. Joan Fontaine, No Bed of Roses (New York: William Morrow, 1978), 150.
2. Michelangelo Capua, Anatole Litvak: The Life and Films (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1966), 63.