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Bill Bucko
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Warning: contains "spoilers"!

“You Came Along”: A Note on the Movie

by Bill Bucko

In 1945 Ayn Rand worked for six months as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, while planning and researching Atlas Shrugged the remainder of the year. In addition to her movie adaptation of Chris Massie's Love Letters, she thoroughly revised and reworked an original screenplay by Robert Smith, called “Don’t Ever Grieve Me.” The resulting movie, renamed “You Came Along,” was another noteworthy box office success. Miss Rand’s contribution to the screenplay appears to have been substantial; “You Came Along” captures much of her unique spirit, combining the cheerful, light-hearted mood of operetta with an underlying seriousness of purpose. The fast-moving, witty dialog, used to express the theme of courage and benevolence in the face of tragedy, really sounds like her.

The movie, released a few weeks before “Love Letters” in the summer of 1945, starred Bob Cummings as Major Bob Collins and Lizabeth Scott, in her screen debut, as Ivy Hotchkiss. Don Defore and Charles Drake had supporting roles as Captain Anders (“Shakespeare”) and Lieutenant Janoschek (“Handsome”). Some of us will remember Bob Cummings’ great charm and benevolence from his 1950’s TV series, and Don Defore from the “Ozzie and Harriet” show, on which he played Thorny. John Farrow directed. Victor Young wrote the tuneful musical score, whose main title song became a popular hit.

The three airmen of the story are war heroes, and inseparable companions. But through a bureaucratic mix-up I.V. Hotchkiss, the Treasury agent assigned to accompany them on their nationwide bond tour, turns out to be Ivy Hotchkiss—and, just to begin with, there are obvious problems when they discover the fliers have been booked to share the same hotel room with her. But she is undaunted. When warned ahead of time that the three men were “wolves,” she cheerfully replied, “But I don’t happen to be Little Red Riding Hood!”

Yet chaperoning the “three musketeers of the skies,” she discovers, is no easy matter. During a boring dinner speech in Boston they sneak out to the nearest nightclub, where she finds them surrounded by admiring females, passing out dime-store “Pour la Merite” medals. “Hubba hubba hubba” is their battle cry, as they consult their “little black books” for “vital statistics,” ready to home in on their “target” of the moment. When they reach Chicago they make a date with Ivy, then take turns standing each other up, in a comedy of errors. But the madcap highjinks gradually give way, in this movie, to a more serious mood. The fliers spend most of their time acting as though life were all fun and games. But, at moments, what lies beneath is revealed: these are men of great decency and loyalty, with real values. By accident, Ivy discovers their never-to-be-mentioned secret: one of them has leukemia. “You’re standing by, aren’t you?” she says slowly, in shock, as she pieces the facts together. “That’s why you never leave him alone. That’s why you’re always so gay—so he won’t have time to think about it ...” The bond tour reaches California, where on a visit to the Fliers’ Chapel the airmen are each given a “good luck” coin bearing a quotation from a poem by Longfellow, which they read and ponder, thoughtfully:

He giveth you your wings to fly

And breathe a purer air on high,

And careth for you everywhere,

Who for yourselves so little care.

In the ten short days of the bond tour, Bob and Ivy fall in love with each other, in spite of the fact that he is dying. Each secretly ponders what to do, how to be fair to the other, how to preserve as much happiness as possible in spite of what is to come.

They meet on a dark night, under the stars. Almost jokingly, Bob warns her that he’s “the kind that loves them and leaves them ... Nice girls should never take me seriously, never give me a second thought. No future in it for them. Can’t be.”

Summoning her strength, Ivy replies calmly: “Suppose she doesn’t care about that?”

“Well, she should know it, anyway.” Their relationship was supposed to remain “just fun up in the air;” but it has grown into something much more serious. They cannot deny their love any longer. He tells her to rely on him, as he once relied on the north star to guide him home when his plane’s instruments were shot away.

But the next morning, in an apparent change of mood, he has a present for her: he offers her one of his phony “Pour la Merite” medals. “Take it,” he says quietly, though the cheap medal seems to belittle their love. She weeps and turns away. “Take it,” he insists; “you’ve got it coming to you.” He urges her to turn the medal over. Underneath it she finds a wedding ring ... “If you want it.”

“Do you want it that way?” she asks, agonized.

“I don’t know ... It’ll have to be the way you want it.”

Knowing what their marriage would entail, knowing how hard it will be for her especially, the one who will be left behind—she decides to accept. And Bob exacts a pledge from her:

“Can you promise me something? Something important ... you’ve got to keep this promise, you understand. You’ve got to keep it.”

“I can try, I can try very hard,” she whispers back.

“No matter what happens—and no matter when ... don’t ever grieve me.”

“I’ll never be sorry,” she promises.

Like Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged (and like Ayn Rand and Frank O’Connor in real life), Bob resolves that “suffering must not be granted recognition” in the presence of the one he loves (Atlas Shrugged, p. 375). He follows a course one would not actually follow in real life: he tells Ivy a series of “white lies,” to pretend that he is not dying. Like Night of January 16th, therefore, “You Came Along” is a sense-of-life story, not a fully realistic drama. As Miss Rand explained in her introduction to her play: “its events are not to be taken literally; they dramatize certain fundamental psychological characteristics, deliberately isolated and emphasized in order to convey a single abstraction: the characters’ attitude toward life. The events serve to feature the motives of the characters’ actions, regardless of the particular forms of action—i.e., the motives, not their specific concretization.” (Introduction to Night of January 16th, pp. 7-8).

Of course, Ivy already knows that they have at best only a few months together. But she, too, decides to focus all her attention on the values they can share, in the brief time that is still theirs. (This is egoism applied to one’s psychology: dwelling on the negative when nothing can be done about it, does not serve one’s self-interest.) “It doesn’t really matter, does it?” she muses. “One year or twenty years. Or just a few weeks ...” Remembering the men he’s seen die in the war, Bob tells her: “I’m a lucky guy, luckier than most. I want you to remember that.” In church, he prays: “I have nothing to regret, and nothing to ask.” When the flight surgeon summons him, as an unusual case, to spend his last days at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C., he still refuses to allow tragedy into their life: he pretends he’s been called to England to give advanced training to pilots. “No goodbyes,” he tells his airmen buddies, with a handshake, though they know this is their last farewell; “No goodbyes,” he reminds his wife, trying to leave her with a vision that will sustain her when he can no longer do so in person ...

The climax of the film features the violently dramatic economy of means that was one of Miss Rand’s literary hallmarks. In the movie’s most powerful moment, near the end, Bob strides across the airfield to a waiting plane, on his way to die. We hear no dialog—nothing but the deafening roar of the plane’s motors, and an upsurge of tensely dramatic music ... He reaches into his pocket, finds a coin, and presses it into the hand of the man who carried his coat. He then turns, waves farewell, and climbs into the plane without a word. The attendant glances down at the coin in his hand, then looks up, startled. It is the “good luck” medal with the poem.

The story of “You Came Along” is reminiscent of We the Living, in that it ends not in triumphant fulfillment, but in loss. But it is a loss with the knowledge that great values had existed, if only for a while. The overall tone of the movie is cheerful, illuminated by a courage as shining as Kira Argounova’s when she spends her last moments thinking of the wonders her life could have held ... Lizabeth Scott plays the strong and tender heroine to perfection. And Bob Cummings skillfully projects the immense, benevolent gratitude of a man who has found the woman he loves. “I am having a good time,” his character tells Ivy after their marriage, when she remarks that he has abandoned his happy-go-lucky ways to become a homebody. “I want you to know that.” And thanks to the fine acting and script, we know it, too. I am reminded of Mary Ann Sures’ comment* about “one essential point of [Ayn Rand’s] philosophy: that it is the happy moments in life that really count.”

* Interview in Ayn Rand Institute Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 3

Copyright © 1993 by Bill Bucko

From my essay "Gems from the Past":

“You Came Along” and “Love Letters,” Miss Rand’s screen adaptations for Hal Wallis productions of other authors’ works, premiered in the summer of 1945. Both were very well received by the public. Variety gave them favorable reviews (on July 4 and August 22, respectively), which you can find, complete with cast lists, in Variety’s Film Reviews, volume 7 (1943-49). According to Richard Shale’s reference book Academy Awards, Victor Young’s haunting score to “Love Letters” was nominated for two Academy Awards, but lost out to Miklos Rozsa’s “Spellbound” (best score) and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” (best song) ... The Longfellow poem quoted in “You Came Along” is his “Sermon of St. Francis,” from Birds of Passage ... “You Came Along” was broadcast at least 4 times in 1989-90 on the “Arts and Entertainment” channel; to the best of my knowledge they have not shown it since.

Copyright © 1992 by Bill Bucko

"You Came Along" has still not been released on VHs or DVD.

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I have long been a fan of "Love Letters", which is as you note is out on VHS, but I have never been able to find "You Came Along" or even see it on broadcast TV. Is there any source you know of where I can purchase a copy?

By the way, your review is excellent. I was under the impression that "You Came Along" was the lesser of the two movies she worked on that year, but it sounds like it contains the same type of Ayn Rand touches that are in "Love Letters," so it should definitely be worth seeing.

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I am reminded of Mary Ann Sures’ comment*  about “one essential point of [Ayn Rand’s] philosophy: that it is the happy moments in life that really count.”

I would like to challenge this statement by Mary Ann Sures (which may be based on personal comments Ayn Rand made directly to her). I think what Ayn Rand said somewhere in her published works was, in my words, that it is the best moments of life that make life overall worthwhile. I do not recall now where she said that, nor her exact words, but she did make a statement about this subject in writing or in a recorded and published lecture.

By best moments, I mean the moments of sharpened awareness, of exhiliration, of "peak" positive experience.

Ayn Rand defines happiness as a "state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values." ("Galt's Speech," For the New Intellectual, p. 150 hb, 123 pb.) Happiness is not an emotion (as exhiliration is), although it is akin to emotions in that it is a value response. Emotions come and go quickly compared to states of consciousness. Emotions are like daily tides, whereas a state of consciousness is more like the centuries-long rise or fall of ocean level.

One can be happy, on a continuing basis, while experiencing a variety of emotions -- positive or negative -- during the course of a day, week, or longer period. If I feel frustration because my computer doesn't work right, I am not unhappy as a result. If I fail to achieve my three highest personal values (the work I love, my friendships, and my favorite leisure activities) for a long period of time then I am unhappy.

Roark is happy throughout The Fountainhead, despite moments of pain. Steven Mallory, by contrast, is unhappy when Roark meets him, but Mallory re-earns his happiness through resuming his work (now for Roark, in part) and his friendship with Roark (and the others he meets through Roark).

Mary Ann Sures's main point -- which was Ayn Rand's point -- is that the special positive moments pay for the moments of boredom, drudgery, or pain.

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... I have never been able to find "You Came Along" or even see it on broadcast TV.  Is there any source you know of where I can purchase a copy?

It is not commercially available.

About 20 years ago, when neither of the 1945 movies had been released, an employee of Second Renaissance Bookstore told me: "If and when either movie is released, we will know of it the very same day."

Artistically, "You Came Along" certainly is on a level with "Love Letters."

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["You Came Along"] is not commercially available.

About 20 years ago, when neither of the 1945 movies had been released, an employee of Second Renaissance Bookstore told me: "If and when either movie is released, we will know of it the very same day."

Artistically, "You Came Along" certainly is on a level with "Love Letters."

Fortunately, films that are not commercially available are often available at a local treasure house known as Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee which also does a big mail order business.

Eddie will sell or rent an authorized copy, if it is available. If it is not, he will lend you an unauthorized copy for free if you buy or rent one of his other items. He has just about EVERYTHING.

For more information see http://www.saturdaymatinee.com/Videos.htm and http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1212/p15s01-almo.htm.

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Thanks Betsy. I see that there is a phone and fax number on this page Digital City Yellow Page (?)

and I'm contacting them today.

Fortunately, films that are not commercially available are often available at a local treasure house known as Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee which also does a big mail order business.

Eddie will sell or rent an authorized copy, if it is available.  If it is not, he will lend you an unauthorized copy for free if you buy or rent one of his other items.  He has just about EVERYTHING.

For more information see http://www.saturdaymatinee.com/Videos.htm and http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1212/p15s01-almo.htm.

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