Journey for Margaret (1942) - Journey for Margaret (1942) - User Reviews - IMDb
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no cliche, this one
dexter-1024 February 2000
How refreshing it is to come across a World War Two film minus the usual cliche scenes and ideas that infiltrated so many movies during the war years. Robert Young (as reporter John Davis) gives a consistent and profound portrayal surrounding a real concern for the human condition in terms of the effects of war on children. Margaret O'Brien (as orphan Margaret White)is haunting as the child with the magnesium bomb. William Severn's performance (as playmate Peter Humphreys) is addictive. But then there is so much good acting in this film by so many of the cast, especially that of Fay Bainter (as Trudy Strauss). The film makes it clear that war is the common enemy of all children, for, as Trudy says, "surely children must be allowed to cry for all they have lost."
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The war through the eyes of a child is thrilling and frightening, more so if you are alone.
Kaz-2021 August 1999
I accidently came across this movie while channel surfing. I was stuck in my seat, it has the old time romance, but through all the softness it seems to show you the horrors of war through a child's eyes. It was one of those movies you wish would never end.
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London in wartime
blanche-225 February 2009
"Journey for Margaret" is a propaganda film but with a twist. Made in 1942, right after the U.S. entered World War II, it's based on a real story. A reporter, John Davis (Robert Young), and his wife Nora(Laraine Day) are caught in London during the blitz. Nora loses the baby she is carrying and eventually goes home to the states. John stays, but the passion that made him a powerful writer is gone. He's seen too much hopelessness and futility. While working an air raid, he helps to save a little boy, Peter, from a home where the rest of the family is killed. It leaves an indelible impression on him.

John meets Peter again when he visits an orphanage run by Trudy Strauss (Fay Bainter). There he also meets a very traumatized little girl, Margaret (Margaret O'Brien). Peter and Margaret bond with John. When it comes time for him to leave England, he wants to bring them with him to the states and adopt them. But all the flights to Lisbon are full for months in advance, and the only way he can bring them is to bring them as his 40 pound luggage limit. So that means only one child can go with him.

This is a really interesting film with excellent acting from everyone. Young gives a heartfelt performance, and Day is very touching as his wife. Margaret O'Brien, even at age 4 or 5, was capable of strong emotional acting.

Wonderful story.
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Very melodramatic but effective--this movie will pull at your heart!
MartinHafer19 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Margaret O'Brien did a lot of movies as a child actress and in several of them, there was such as high level of "schmaltziness" (i.e., way over the top sentimentality) that for a while, I avoided her films. I later realized this was just due to an occasionally bad script and she WAS generally a very good young actress--as I later saw in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES as well as this film.

Now, although this is a wonderful movie, it will definitely tug at your heart--but not in a phony or manipulative way. So, when you watch it's best to have a box of tissues handy--even if you are a guy! Robert Young and Laraine Day are a young couple who just lost their only child. Later, when Young is in England during the war, he goes to a local orphanage--wondering if maybe he and Day should consider adopting. However, what he didn't anticipate was charming little Ms. O'Brien and how ultimately SHE picked HIM out to be her new father! Plus, she had befriended a little boy at the orphanage and wanted to bring him along as part of the deal. While Young's heart is definitely captivated, there are so many complications---not the least of which is whether or not his wife even wants to adopt--let along TWO kids at the same time! The movie is a nice blending of sentiment and positive wartime propaganda. Your emotions are stirred AND the film really does a lot to advance the war effort--giving us a lot to fight for when we think about the kids! A great wartime movie with a wonderful script, excellent acting and a deftness in direction that keeps your interest throughout.
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JTBWRITER17 August 2002
"Journey For Margaret" was one of the best movies regarding WWII I have ever seen. Did you know this was based on a true story? I read it in an old Readers Digest, and the original tale is much sadder as because of wartime regulations, only Margaret can be adopted and taken back to America. However, there is no way that ending would have played in 1942! Robert Young and Laraine Day, overlooked so often when discussing MGM/old Hollywood stars, really portray the pathos of would-be parents losing, then gaining their chance of parenthood. Don't miss this flick when it next plays on Turner Classic!
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"I'd like to get my hands on that dirty Nazi swine".
PudgyPandaMan5 February 2009
These words were spoken by a bystander in the film who sees the after effects of a German bomb raid on London on the injured victims, including children. That was the sentiment of many Americans during WWII as well.

This film was meant to tug at the heart strings and build ongoing support for the war effort. It's hard to imagine Hollywood actually being supportive of military endeavors, given the current climate today.

There is one very touching scene, right after Nora (Laraine Day) loses her baby. She tells her husband (Robert Young) "They've killed our baby...all our babies, tomorrow's babies, the day after tomorrow's, all our babies, forever dead..." It really is a heart-wrenching scene. Another heartbreaking scene is when little Margaret is allowed to cry freely for the first time (without being punished by her mean ex-foster mom). The Orphange director wipes her own tears and says "Surely little children who have to change worlds must be allowed to cry for all the things they've lost".

I found this to be an interesting war era film with good performances by the actors. I was especially impressed with little Margaret O'Brien's performance, given this was her screen debut at only 5 years old. This film so impacted her, that she actually changed her name to the character's (she was born Angela O'Brien). It's a shame she never successfully made the transition to adult roles. I also thought the little boy Peter, played by William "Billy" Severn, was too adorable for words. He only has a few films to his credit and went on to travel the world as an evangelist for TBN. Unfortunately, he died of a massive heart attack at only 45 years old.

I also had a little history lesson as a result of the film. The film closes with the scene of the New York City skyline darkening due to a blackout. I thought that was some type of projection - that perhaps if the US wasn't diligent, that we too could experience the bombings that Britian and other countries had. But I did some research and was surprised to learn that East coast cities of the US actually DID have blackouts due to German U-boats lurking off the coast that were sinking merchant ships ( referred to as the "Second Happy Time"). I always appreciate when a movie helps me learn some US History in the process!

Some will find this film a little manipulative in trying to gain the viewer's sympathies. But I found it a good reminder of who the littlest victims of war were - the children.
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Absolutely beautiful!
avocadogreene16 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie very sweet, and the emotions it makes me feel are very strong; the sweetness of Mr. Davis comforting little Peter and Margaret in the children's shelter when bomber planes can be heard flying above, the wait for the wire from Mrs. Davis, saying that of course she wants to adopt the children, the agonizing decision of whom to take, adorable little Peter or equally adorable little Margaret, the sadness felt for Peter when he is not chosen, the adorable scene on the train, and the absolute joy of Peter being reunited with Margaret and Mr. Davis before they fly to America to meet Mrs. Davis, finishing the movie perfectly. The children were so sweet, they really completed the movie in my eyes. The way they clung to Davis, the viewer immediately knew that they HAD to be adopted by Davis, or nothing in the world could be right.
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A child's view of war
bhb-320 November 1998
A child's view of war and the viewer's look at the effects of war on the child.Very realistic London of World War II made during the war. A movie that offered war time families hope. Five year old Margaret O'Brien as the orphan girl will tug at your heart in a way only the "old time" movies could. DO NOT miss the hopeful ending of this film.
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Exquisite Film
kill-the-boxtrolls11 September 2011
"Journey for Margaret" is a beautiful film about the stress of World War II. John Davis (Robert Young) is an out-of-place guy who adopts two children, Margaret (Margaret O' Brien) and Peter (William Severn). While these children are sometimes hard to take care of, well, because of their fear of war. And that's what makes the movie so great.

Robert Young as the film's main protagonist gives out an eye-catching and astonishing performance as the children, especially Margaret, are set to make your eyes well up; with their unforgettable performance and gorgeous talent. While Margaret was only like 4 at the time, she still did well acting in "Journey for Margaret" and almost immediately caught the audience's attention despite her unique crying in "Meet me in St. Louis", her funny attitude in "Thousands Cheer" and tempting brattiness in "The Secret Garden." Robert Young was also a great actor too. Though, I remember him being in another Margaret O'Brien movie a couple years after this one where they were trying to help a cowardly ghost or something like that.

The concept of this movie being based on a true story is what makes it such a fantastic film. Kids probably wouldn't get it, but adults will find it truly amazing

10 out of 10
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Drawing Tears From The Hard Of Heart
bkoganbing15 January 2010
Margaret O'Brien did her first starring role in this film after only a bit part in Babes On Broadway. In fact in Journey For Margaret her troubles during wartime are the whole basis for the film.

She's not alone in her troubles, World War II left a lot of British and other children orphans. Newspaper correspondent Robert Young rescues young Margaret from a bombed out building during the London blitz. But unfortunately the experience leaves her an orphan.

A short time later Young is sent up north to a residence for war orphans and wouldn't you know it he meets up with Margaret along with the woman who runs the home, Fay Bainter. Of course a bond develops between Young and O'Brien.

Young's grieving as well, he and wife Laraine Day lost their unborn child during a bombing attack. Day's also suffered some post traumatic stress as a result and is in real danger of going off the deep end permanently. And still another orphan William Severn also manages to charm Young as well.

If this isn't enough plot ingredients for a real ten towel weeper than you have the soul of Medusa. There was tragedy behind the camera as well because director Woody Van Dyke was dying of cancer as he made this film. He would take his own life after completing Journey For Margaret.

Any committed film-goer knows exactly where this plot is headed. But the players are all capable enough and Journey For Margaret will still draw some tears from the most hard hearted of audiences.
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Journey for Margaret one of her best movies
kdengel7 September 2007
I have always loved Margaret O'Brien's movies. She is the cutest little girl. I don't think I have missed one. I don't understand why anyone would consider her an albatross or not like her in Journey for Margaret. I wish she had of made more movies. My very favorite movie with her in it was Little Women. She was also very good in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes and The Canterville Ghost, Glory, and Jane Eyre. She is very diverse in her acting. The movie Journey For Margaret was based on a true story. When John Davis was trying to find someone to take one of the children on the plane in place of luggage and he spoke to the Japanese embassy representative who told him he needed to be back in Japan by the first of December ___(1942), it reminded people of what happened on the 7th. Lots of history in this movie.
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A WWII Film Worth Seeing
atlasmb13 October 2014
This is a very interesting film, because it was released in 1942--not long after America entered the war--but it takes place in 1940 and 1941, so audiences had just lived through the events that were the background for the film's action. And they knew some of what was to come after the final scene in the movie.

Robert Young and Laraine Day are a young married couple who have been "on the scene", we might say, as the Nazis have invaded and threatened much of Europe. As the film opens, they have moved to London, where the city is under constant threat of bombardment. Their greatest desire is to have a child. In essence, they seek normalcy in a world where people have become accustomed to war, i.e. they are perpetually afraid.

I can only imagine how much viewers in 1942 identified with the characters in this film. Wishing to bring children into a safe world is such a visceral, universal desire. Later in the film, Robert Young is confronted with an emotional choice that surely tugged at the heartstrings of all who watched. And the ending of the film is a scene that brilliantly involves the emotions of viewers via a graphic representation of the horror of war. No doubt it inspired many to buck up with its hopeful message--as films of the day were designed to do.

Robert Young is strong in his role as the husband who is strong for his wife. Laraine Day is inspiring as the wife, though her part is limited. The two children (including Margaret O'Brien in her first credited role) are delightful.
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NOT a Chick Flick
vincentlynch-moonoi22 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I must begin by disagreeing with one reviewer who called this a "chick flick". Is something a "chick flick" because it is about children? And, by the way, what's wrong with a "chick flick" if it's a good film. Or perhaps the reviewer thinks all that can appeal to men is a comedy film full of toilet humor and sex.

Sorry, but I see this as a rather serious film that, in the beginning, shows some of the horror of war from the perspective of the women and children who survived the devastation of the blitz in London. It's far more of a realistic portrayal of what war is really like than John Wayne running up over a hill yelling, "Yo, Pilgrim" (not that there's anything wrong with a film like that either). No, this is not about the false bravado you might find on a battlefield, but it is about the courage amidst pessimism by those who are most affected by war...the victims in bombed out buildings who cannot defend themselves. Almost every film seems to have one ill-thought-out scene, and the drunk scene is this one fits that capacity. Otherwise, it's extremely well acted, although I must say the concluding scene is a bit trite. Robert Young and Laraine Day do very nicely here, and both probably deserved better than the B scripts they were typically handed. Fay Bainter is a welcome addition to virtually any film, and she is so young looking here! And, it's nice to see a film where Nigel Bruce plays a normal human being instead of a buffoon.

No, this is not one of the greatest war films of its era. It wasn't intended to be. It was a film designed to show the plight of children during war, and it does a great job of doing so. Highly recommended.
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Introducing Margaret O'Brien playing a real little girl named Margaret.
mark.waltz21 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
While the future Tootie of "Meet Me in St. Louis" had made some brief appearances prior to her major featured, star-making role in this, she didn't become well known to the public until she made this movie. O'Brien and William Severn are war orphans, victims of Nazi night raids in London, and brought together in the kindly Fay Bainter's home for war orphans where they meet the kindly Robert Young, an American war correspondent. Young is married to the sweet Laraine Day who was made barren by a night raid, and it is Young's job to either find these two youngsters good homes or convince the recovering Day to adopt them, as well as getting them out of Europe and into the safety of the United States.

A touching war propaganda drama made just after America got into the war, this gives the viewer an idea of what had been going on in Europe before Pearl Harbor and the American involvement in the second world war. O'Brien and Severn get a real opportunity to show how children can become good actors just by being natural, and their breakdowns and tantrums over psychologically dealing with their losses makes for a touching drama. There's some humor here, too, as Young becomes the subject of a touching rivalry between the two before they bond together, and how O'Brien reacts when she finds out that she was chosen to be brought to America while Severn was left behind.

Expertly directed by W.S. Van Dyke II, this is certainly one of the major films about the war made during the war and truly indicates why the war was being fought. Young is emotionally touching when he has a brief breakdown and expresses his anger at the Nazis for what their raids do to the children.
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SnoopyStyle12 October 2020
It's 1940 and London is under the blitz. American reporter John Davis escapes France with his pregnant wife Nora for London. Nora suffers trauma and loses the baby. She cannot have another and she goes home. Meanwhile, he's writing and working with an orphanage run by Trudy Strauss. They are given little Margaret after three foster mothers cannot control the s-u-l-k-y child.

The little Margaret introduction is devastating. Margaret and Peter clinging to John is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The kids are great. I would keep Nora in London to build chemistry with the children. It's a missed opportunity for emotional drama. The Sophie's Choice is a little tough. John should work harder to keep them both. I want him to fight against making the choice. Margaret is quite a little scene stealer and the train is another one of those scenes. As for the ending, it is a war propaganda film and it ends with a great propaganda message.
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Fantastic debut for Margaret O'Brien
HotToastyRag17 March 2019
I really didn't know what to expect from Journey for Margaret, so while the film was unfolding, I wasn't as in love with it as I am now. After the film mellowed for a few days, I realized what a fantastic movie it is. Right in the middle of WWII, and right after the United States' involvement, there came a host of films that all promoted the same theme: We're scared to death, but even if we don't win, we'll go down swinging. There were also quite a few movies with the reminder that we're fighting this war for our children, and masterpieces like The Pied Piper and Journey for Margaret, both released in 1942, belong in that pack. Robert Young and Laraine Day are an American couple in Europe, but after Laraine suffers a miscarriage, she returns to the States alone to recover. Robert gets involved in Fay Bainter's orphanage and bonds with two war orphans: Margaret O'Brien and William Severn. Margaret gets the introducing credit in this film, and in her first scene, she gives a mind-blowing, heart-breaking performance and bawls her eyes out. I don't know how director W.S. Van Dyke got a four-or-five-year-old to do a scene like that, but it's no wonder Margaret O'Brien rocketed to stardom after this film. Hot Toasty Rag was proud to award her the Juvenile Award for 1942-1943 for her work in this film, as well as a few others. While most of this film is extremely heavy and will have you reaching for your handkerchiefs, there are some adorable parts when Robert Young volunteers at the orphanage. Both Margaret and William become so attached to him, they actually get into a water fight during bath time, declaring, "He's my Mr. Davis!" "No, he's my Mr. Davis!" To pacify them, Robert suggests cutting himself in half. It's very cute, and it's no wonder he became known for his sweet, fatherly figures in film and television, after taking on roles like this.
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An American Couple in London During the Blitz - Based on a True Story
susan-31715 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
John Davis is an American newspaper writer, sending articles back to the US on various conflicts throughout the world. His wife, Nora, is with him during the London bombings. A bomb puts her in the hospital and she loses the baby she was carrying.

John sends his wife back to the United States but stays in London to cover the war. During a story about an orphanage, he meets up with a little boy that he had helped to rescue after a bomb took his family. Seeing John again brings the little boy, Peter, back to his senses.

Another child, Margaret, is played by Margaret O'Brien. She had been placed with several families but was too traumatized to make a home with them. She also takes to John and he ends up caring for both of them at the orphanage. He decides to adopt them and take them home to the US. His wife is very enthusiastic, too, as it seems she can no longer have children.

This was a wonderful movie and when Margaret O'Brien's character started crying, so did I and I didn't stop throughout the rest of the film.
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Margaret O'Brien's screen debut demonstrates her talent for tears
jacobs-greenwood11 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This film is the credited screen debut of Margaret O'Brien, the title character, and also stars Robert Young, Laraine Day, Fay Bainter, and Nigel Bruce. It was directed by W. S. Van Dyke.

It begins with an American reporter (Young) and his pregnant wife (Day) arriving in London from war torn Europe. They've been chased out of each country invaded by the Germans as they fell, with Young writing a column about the events for Bruce, presumably the paper's editor. Young wants his wife to return to the States before the baby is born, but she wants to stay with her husband as she has thus far.

London, of course, is under attack from the Germans daily and each man is assigned a number, an area to look for survivors in the rumble when his area is bombed. Bruce and Young both have the same number which is called various times so that the film makers can show the horror of living in an environment which is bombed every night, and lots of special effects too. Young also goes out most evenings looking for human interest stories, and one night he helps rescue a boy named Peter (William Severn), who has a stuffed animal lamb which Young inadvertently pockets.

Because the hotel's basement bomb shelter is full, Young and Day have to sleep in the 3rd floor corridor. One night, while Young is out, their hotel is bombed and Young returns to learn that Day has been taken to the hospital. He learns from the doctor that she has lost the baby and can never have children again, but that he shouldn't share this last fact with her until she's more stable. However, several months later and knowing it anyway, she must return to America to recover further because she and Young have been spiraling down emotionally, and salving it with alcohol. Their friend, Bruce, who has noticed the changes (especially in Young's writing) is worried that they shouldn't be separated, but she leaves anyway.

Bruce then assigns Young to write a story about Trudy Strauss (Bainter) and her home/school for orphaned children. Though he is reluctant at first, he accepts the assignment and finds Peter already at the school. He remembers the lamb he found in his pocket, and has it returned to him. While there, Margaret is brought in, back from a foster mother who can't deal with her and her crying, which the mother has been stifling. Strauss and her staff allow her to cry (something O'Brien does on cue particularly well) and help her to get settled in. Though Young wants to leave by this time, Strauss persuades him to stay and he, along with Peter, help Margaret come out her shell. In fact, Young makes a connection with both of the youngsters, giving them baths and putting them to bed, such that both claim him as their own.

It's not really hard to tell where the story is going at this point, given the title of the film and the fact that Young's wife is recently childless. However, how "it" gets there does involve some interesting negotiations and, of course, sentimental moments worth watching.
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Wartime film was a box-office hit...still holds interest
Doylenf5 May 2001
Margaret O'Brien had her first important role here, as a girl who survived a blitz during World War II that left her and her brother with shell-shocked trauma. While O'Brien was an appealing tot to some, I never cared for her brand of screen acting--but at least here her tears are understandable. (She always cried buckets of tears on cue.) Robert Young, Laraine Day and Fay Bainter do nicely in the chief adult roles and it has an authentic look to its London atmosphere of air raid shelters and bombings.

O'Brien made quite an impact on the public with this film--but seen today, it's hard to see why she was viewed as such an appealing moppet. Other child actors had more charm and probably just as much ability. And I have to agree with another commentator that even as 'Tootie' in "Meet Me In St. Louis", she was sometimes overbearing in her coy cuteness. Nevertheless, the film is a good war drama well worth watching despite its uneven pace.
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Rather good, surprisingly
Varlaam6 February 1999
You wouldn't automatically think so, considering the premise.

An American journalist in London during the Blitz gets emotionally involved in his work when he meets some cute, tragic orphans.

In spite of the film's three-hanky outline, it actually works quite well, being both funnier and less drippy than you would ever expect. Robert Young and Laraine Day may be second string leads, but they're really quite effective.

Peter, the orphaned boy with his little lamb, had much more appeal for me than Margaret O'Brien however. I have never really understood the hypnotic hold she had on moviegoers in the '40's. In "Meet Me in St. Louis", she's the albatross around Judy Garland's neck. To me, this film will always be "Journey for Peter's Lamb".

If I were required to choose the best 1940's war orphan film, then my choice would be clear. It wouldn't be "Journey for Margaret". It would be "The Search", the gripping semi-documentary from 1948.
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This comment will be unpopular -- Sorry, ladies
Calaboss6 September 2007
I know that my review of this movie is not going to be popular, but if every comment on IMDb was glowing, they wouldn't be worth much.

This movie is well made, well acted, and well directed. I'm NOT saying this is a bad movie at all. I give it 3 of 10 stars based on my enjoyment of the film, not based on its worth to others. Titanic was the most successful movie of all time, but I gave it a 4 based on my personal enjoyment of it. The problem I had with both films was/is, they are films for women. Nothing wrong with films for women, mind you, but let's call them for what they are, Chick Flicks. You can't expect me to like Fried Green Tomatoes either. It's a movie made for women, and men sitting there with a beer on a Saturday afternoon are not going to enjoy it. It's like those movies that run on the Lifetime channel, with names like "Not With My Daughter You Don't" and "All Men Are Filthy Stupid Pigs." Guys just aren't going to enjoy that stuff.

Journey for Margaret was one gigantic tug at the heartstrings, and I hate having those yanked. It always makes me uncomfortable. I'm not beyond emotion, in small doses. I loved It's a Wonderful Life, for instance, but the deep emotion of that film was broken up by humor, so I could handle it. Journey for Margaret is one long cry-fest, with gooey sentiment dripping on your shoes the whole way through. Women love to cry, so that works out fine for them, but men do not. Throughout this film I found myself saying, "Oh great, the pretty little girl is crying again." And I like Margaret O'Brien. She just about carried off The Canterville Ghost single-handedly.

So, ladies, enjoy the film. Guys, if you're reading these reviews because this movie is coming up in half an hour, find something, anything else to watch. "Oh look, that Star Trek episode where Kirk fights the Gorn is on!"
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Wondering what happened in real life
asoemdwee15 February 2008
I haven't seen the movie, but I did read the book, and I always wondered what happened to the little boy. I thought it was a beautiful story, and I wondered how the man made that choice - what made him take that decision? Of course, what I saw was an an abbreviation, so I may have missed a lot. am now in the process of adopting a child, so am particularly interested in knowing more about the situation. I read that in the film the children were reunited - did that happen in real life? Does anyone know? Of course real life is more prosaic than what we see in movies. I really would be interested in knowing what actually happens. I would also be interested in any other novel/stories about children in difficult situations who eventually get adopted. Thanks!
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I hated it! { I was only 12 years old!}
tejonm21 March 2011
I saw this movie in the theatre in 1942-43 and I really hated it, of course I was only a kid myself! I have avoided it all these years until tonight when I saw it on TCM. It really is a pretty good movie. I have seen Margaret O'Brien in many other things and she really was a pretty good actress. I mentioned seeing it to my adult daughter and gave her the story line. When I mentioned the flight to Portugal as the first lap in the flight to the US, she insisted that it wasn't so. I replied well, that was what they did in "Casablanca" and she retorted that "Casablanca" was in Africa. Well, since I was only 12 years old at the time I really don't know--I just presumed that it was because of the war.

Shirley in Indy
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