Opening night! Restored 35mm print!
Coward’s early experience with the cinema medium left him skeptical of it. So even when a three-man delegation—producers Filippo del Giudice, Anthony Havelock-Allan and a representative from Columbia Pictures—came begging him to make any picture he wanted, he remained, in his own words, “wary.” DInner with his old friend Lord Louis Mountbatten soon availed him of his wariness. Mountbatten recounted his experience of having his command, the H.M.S. Kelly, sunk off the isle of Crete—and Coward knew he had his idea for a film. He would tell the story of a warship from its launching to its sinking and interweave the lives of its captain and crew. There was immediate antagonism to the idea from British naval bureaucracy, requiring the influence of Mountbatten and his cousin, King George VI, to overcome it. In Which We Serve turned out to be one of the most acclaimed war films ever made and launched the directorial career of David Lean. Coward himself co-directed, wrote the script and composed the incidental music. He also acts the leading role of Captain Kinross and does so commendably, even though it was a distinctly non-Noël Coward role. One evening after the high-profile opening, Coward was leaving a restaurant when he heard someone at the next table criticizing the casting. Coward stopped, leaned over and said, “I thought I was very, VERY good!”