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 "In Which We Serve"

In 1942, the film “In Which We Serve” was released, it was written, produced, co-directed and starred Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973) and loosely told the story of HMS Kelly’s exploits.  The main character of "Captain Kinross" was played by Coward – Mountbatten’s friend, and during the film he wore Mountbatten’s actual cap and used his actual words in the dramatic scenes. The film was a great success and starred other such British theatrical names such as Dame Celia Johnson (1908-1982), Sir John Mills (1908-2005), Sir Bernard Miles, later Lord Miles (1907-1991) and Sir Richard Attenborough, later Lord Attenborough (1923-2014) and earned Coward an Honorary Oscar. The film was thought to be so realistic about Navy life that the Royal Navy showed the film to new recruits throughout World War II (1939-1945).  The film remains a classic example of wartime British cinema through its patriotic imagery of national unity and social cohesion within the context of the war.

 

Film poster for "In Which We Serve"

 

Sir Noël Coward

in the role of "Captain Kinross"

 

ABOVE: wearing Mountbatten's

own helmet in a battle scene

LEFT: addressing the crew of HMS Torrin, using Mountbatten's own words 

Interestingly - Sir David Lean was married at the time to the actress Kay Walsh (1911-2005) who played the role of 'Freda' in the film.  Lean subsequently married the actress Ann Todd (1909-1993), whose first husband was Victor Malcolm (1905-1977), the son of Jeanne Marie Langtry, later Lady Malcolm of Poltalloch (1881-1964) who was the illegitimate daughter of the celebrated actress Mrs Edward 'Lillie' Langtry, later Lady de Bathe (1853-1929) a former mistress of King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910) and also Prince Louis of Battenberg, later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven - Mountbatten's father, who it is said was the father of Jeanne Marie Langtry.

During production of the film, Coward invited King George VI (1895(1936-1952) and other members of the Royal Family to the set.  The King, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth (1900-2002), Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-    ) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002) were shown around the Denham Film Studios, Buckinghamshire by Coward and Sir David Lean (1908-1991) - who Coward asked to direct the 'action scenes'.  Both Mountbatten and Edwina joined the Royal visitors, whose presence proved to be good publicity for the film.

 

To view Sir Noël Coward's film trailer "In Which We Serve" click above

 

The visit of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth & Princess Margaret (seated)

to the set of "In Which We Serve" at Denham Film Studios.

Mountbatten & Edwina can be seen standing behind

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth

 

King George VI (left) was personally shown around the set of "In Which We Serve" at Denham Film Studios by Sir Noël Coward (centre)

Despite the success of the film, Coward's script did cause Mountbatten some 'challenges' - in one scene the film shows a copy of the "Daily Express" dated 1st September 1939 bearing the headline "no war this year", which was Coward's revenge at the newspaper's continual criticism of the film during production.  In 1942, the newspaper's proprietor - The Rt Hon. William Maxwell 'Max' Aitken, 1st Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) said to Mountbatten at a dinner-party accusing him of self-glorification and ingratitude - "you and Coward have gone out of your way to insult me and try to hold up the Daily Express to ridicule!"  He also said - "I shall never forgive you for this piece of disloyalty.  From now on, you watch out.  You will live to regret the day that you took part in such a vile attack on me."  

 

Other cast members from the film "In Which We Serve"

(left to right): Sir John Mills, Lord Attenborough,

Dame Celia Johnson & Lord Miles

When Coward sent a draft of his autobiography to Mountbatten for his comments some time later, Mountbatten wrote to Coward - "you may not realise it, but I have been greatly criticised, chiefly among my brother officers, for being a party to the making of a film which was apparently designed to boost me personally."  The film however, is dedicated to the Royal Navy - "whereon under the good providence of God, the wealth, safety and strength of the kingdom chiefly depend".