This film from 1979 was directed by John Schlesinger. It was the first film he made in Britain since his amazing, ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ in 1971. He directed films in the USA between these two. The film was written by Colin Welland who also wrote the screenplay for ‘A Dry White Season’.
‘Yanks’ told the story of a two love affairs in wartime Britain. The American soldiers were brought in the northern town to train and await D Day. Known to the locals as ‘Yanks’ despite coming from all over the States, they quickly got to know the local population. Richard Gere played Matt Dyson a soldier who notices and falls for Jean Moreton, played by Lisa Eichorn. Their relationship develops over the course of the film despite Jean being ‘promised’ to a British lad who is away serving in the army.
Meanwhile, in the upper classes, Helen as played by Vanessa Redgrave is doing good works for the war effort. Her husband is away at sea and her son is at boarding school. Her work brings her into contact with the Captain of the US camp. They develop a relationship which, because of their status, is easier to pursue. The Captain, played by William Devane, whisks her off to other places to carry on their affair.
Both relationships encounter difficulty, though. For Jean, the death of her fiancée brings condemnation from her mother who, originally pleased to get to know Matt sees his presence as an insult to the memory of the dead man. For Helen and the Captain, though, her son’s unhappiness at boarding school and his persistent requests to be allowed home bring an end to what might have been.
Throughout the film we see the effect on the northern town of the Americans. The cultural differences between wartime British and the Americans are clear to see, and are evident in the title of the film which is a misnomer for most of the US troops.
The film was a project John Schlesinger wanted to bring to the screen. He was able to do so because he had experienced such success in the USA; his previous film, ‘Marathon Man’ had been a huge hit. Throughout his career, he mixed large scale films with smaller, more intimate films on subjects he particularly wanted to explore.
‘Yanks’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?