Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Beyond Tomorrow (1940)

BEYOND TOMORROW is a nearly forgotten Christmas fantasy which I saw tonight for the first time. The movie had many wonderful elements, although I felt the plot took a wrong turn about two-thirds into the movie.

The film stars three terrific character actors -- Harry Carey Sr., Sir C. Aubrey Smith, and Charles Winninger -- as wealthy but lonely business partners who decide to throw their wallets out the window on Christmas Eve in hopes of landing an honest soul or two as a dinner guest.

Two of the wallets are picked up by a charming, homesick Texan, Jim (Richard Carlson) and a teacher at a children's clinic, Jean (Jean Parker). They return the wallets and spend a memorable Christmas Eve with their new friends; over time the couple fall in love and become surrogate children to the three older men, bringing joy into the men's lives.

The happy times are not destined to last, and after the three partners' unexpected deaths, they return as ghosts to help Jim and Jean solve their problems.

Although much about the film is delightful, including Jim and Jean's enchanting romance, I didn't care for the problems which developed after Jim became a radio star. I also found some of the fantasy elements slightly disturbing; younger viewers might be frightened by a sequence involving Harry Carey's character. The film has a touching ending, but I really wished the heavy-handed last third of the film had measured up to what came before. The initial scenes have a wonderfully uplifting Christmas spirit which is truly magical. The movie is part unknown Christmas classic and part disappointment.

I've enjoyed Richard Carlson in a number of films over the last year or two, especially THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938). He was enjoyable in this as the drawling Texan. I assume his singing voice was dubbed, but it would be fun to know for sure. Sweet Jean Parker played Beth in the original LITTLE WOMEN (1933), a Christmastime perennial. Together Carlson and Parker make a lovely young couple.

You just can't beat the three character actors who also star in the film; Smith and Carey, in particular, are favorites of mine. (A bit of trivia: while Parker appeared in the original LITTLE WOMEN, Smith would play Grandfather Laurence in the 1949 release of the story; LITTLE WOMEN was his last role, filmed before he died in December 1948.) The supporting cast includes Maria Ouspenskaya, Helen Vinson, Alex Melesh, and Rod La Rocque. Hank Worden has a one-scene part as a hospital visitor.

BEYOND TOMORROW was filmed in black and white and runs 84 minutes. It was directed by A. Edward Sutherland. The film was produced by cinematographer Lee Garmes, who produced three other films during his long career. As a cinematographer Garmes filmed many classic movies, including David O. Selznick productions such as GONE WITH THE WIND, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, DUEL IN THE SUN, and the fantasy PORTRAIT OF JENNIE.

A card at the start of the print shown on Turner Classic Movies indicated that the film had been restored in 2005. Even so, the print was fairly dark and rough. The film is available on DVD and video, but it should be noted each of these releases predates 2005. If what TCM showed was a restored version, it makes one wonder just how watchable the older releases are.

The trailer is available at the TCM site.


Blogger Irene said...

Well, I'll let you know how the DVD is. Much to my surprise the county library system has 2 copies of this film :)

10:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'll be interested to hear what you think about the movie and the print, Irene! I think part of my problem with the movie is that, even accepting that it's a fantasy, it got kind of strange theologically, along with being a bit scary. I'll be curious to hear your take. It's definitely worth checking out, as there was a lot about it that I liked.

Best wishes,

11:03 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Just finished watching this movie. I agree totally with everything you said. Loved the beginning of the film. So cheery and uplifting. But then he becomes a star and strays. Strange the way the movie went. Theologically so very off base. The print was dark most of the time and not very good. Not so bad that it was distracting though. Even though I really ended up not liking the movie because of the way it went, I'm glad to have seen it and it is interesting to see these little known movies.

Regarding Charles Winninger, I knew I had seen him in old films but there was something else about him and then when I looked him up I discovered it was the role he had in I Love Lucy as Fred's old vaudeville partner. I really liked him in this movie and in the other things I've seen him in.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Irene,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts about the movie. I was especially interested as sometimes I wonder if I see something in the wrong "mood" and it will strike me differently on the next viewing -- so I was interested that it hit you the same way. There's a wonderful movie somewhere inside this but as a whole it just didn't work.

I agree, it's really interesting seeing these relatively obscure movies. I'm constantly amazed at how many "new to me" or "hidden gem" titles are still out there waiting to be discovered.

I always think of Charles Winninger as Cap'n Andy in the Irene Dunne version of SHOW BOAT and as the father in the original STATE FAIR. I didn't realize he'd been on I LOVE LUCY.

Best wishes,

7:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

P.S. My dad reminds me that Charles Winninger was in the original *musical* STATE FAIR. It was filmed previous to that in the '30s with Will Rogers. :)

Best wishes,

9:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older