Monday, January 04, 2016

Tonight's Movie: And Now Tomorrow (1944)

NOTE: This post is my contribution to the Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon hosted by Cinema Dilettante, Now Voyaging, and the Young Sisters Appreciation Group (on Facebook). The blogathon started on Sunday and runs through January 6th, the 103rd anniversary of Loretta Young's birth. It's no secret here how much I admire Loretta Young, whose centennial celebration I was honored to attend two years ago, and I hope my readers will visit all the blogathon posts honoring this remarkable woman.

Loretta Young and Alan Ladd star in AND NOW TOMORROW (1944), based on a popular novel by Rachel Field.

AND NOW TOMORROW may not be a perfect film, and it admittedly stretches credulity near the end, but it's also an excellent example of polished '40s filmmaking. An outstanding cast makes this just the kind of warm and cozy romance one likes to enjoy on a rainy afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Loretta plays Emily Blair, who is stricken with meningitis at her engagement party to Jeff Stoddard (Barry Sullivan). The illness leaves Emily deaf, and she defers her wedding, spending the next couple of years traveling to doctors in search of a cure.

Emily returns home in defeat, just as Dr. Merek Vance (Ladd) arrives in town to visit his mentor, Dr. Weeks (Cecil Kellaway). Dr. Vance is testing a new serum which he is hopeful might help bring back some of Emily's hearing.

With Emily gone so long, Jeff has transferred his affections from Emily to her spirited sister Janice (Susan Hayward), but he feels obligated to follow through on his commitment to Emily, as he can't stand the idea of putting her through further loss by breaking their engagement. Dr. Vance, meanwhile, has other ideas on who Emily should marry but feels constrained from expressing his feelings for her while she's engaged to Jeff.

Sure, it's a fairly soapy plot with a melodramatic medical episode near the ending -- but it's also just plain wonderful entertainment, without a dull moment. Who wouldn't want to spend time with this cast, beautifully filmed by Daniel L. Fapp?

The movie was a reunion for Young and Ladd, who had previously worked together on CHINA (1943). Young and Ladd were each born in 1913, and their somewhat reserved personalities are a good screen match; watching them together, the viewer feels they understand each other. How much of that is chemistry between two simpatico talents and how much is simply fine acting is anyone's guess.

Young had prior experience playing a deaf woman in THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939), one of my favorites among her films, and she does very well with that aspect of the performance, including communicating the frustration and isolation that can come with hearing loss.

One of the things which has always drawn me to Loretta Young is that she seems to glow with an inner light, something which goes beyond the work of a talented cinematographer. She radiates a genuine sweetness along with some steel, and both attributes are visible in this character.

As the dedicated doctor, Ladd has the chance to play a less angst-ridden character than he sometimes played in the '40s, and it's a nice change of pace. He's a man who knows where he's going and what he's doing...except for the fact that he can't seem to stop the attraction he feels for his patient, Emily.

Sullivan is surprisingly sympathetic as the two-timing fiance, as he is genuinely torn between two women. He truly loves Emily at the outset and later feels it would be dishonorable to hurt her...though he's got enough dishonor in him to make love to her sister. Still, given Emily's refusal to marry him after her illness and the lack of time she invested in their relationship from that point, the situation seems understandable, given his proximity to the no-holds-barred Janice.

Hayward is one of the most interesting characters in the film, playing someone who's not exactly bad, but not exactly good, either! She loves Emily, but she loves Jeff more, and she wants him no matter the cost to Emily. It would have been interesting to watch if Young and Hayward had even more screen time together in this; it's worth noting that each of them would go on to win Best Actress Oscars in due course.

The fine cast also includes Beulah Bondi, Grant Mitchell, Helen Mack, and Anthony Caruso. More familiar faces populate the bit parts, including Mae Clarke, Doodles Weaver, Elinor Donahue, Darryl Hickman, Byron Foulger, Mary Field, James Millican, and even more.

AND NOW TOMORROW was directed by Irving Pichel. The screenplay was by Raymond Chandler (yes, the author of Philip Marlowe mysteries!) and Frank Partos. Victor Young composed the musical score. The running time is 86 minutes.

Sadly this Paramount film is not available in the U.S. on either DVD or VHS. It has been released in Europe on a Region 2 DVD. It was originally scheduled to be part of the new Alan Ladd Collection in the new "TCM Selects" series, but after the original announcement, it was pulled from the set. It's unclear why it was dropped, but I read one rumor that the print quality wasn't acceptable for DVD release. I was able to see it thanks to an old recording from the late, lamented American Movie Classics channel.

Let's hope that in time this worthwhile film will once again be available to a wider audience.

March 2016 Update: AND NOW TOMORROW has just been released on DVD-R in the Universal Vault series.

8 Comments:

Blogger Kay said...

I just saw this movie for the first time last week and I wasn't as impressed as you, Laura dear! I thought Alan Ladd was dismal as a doctor and especially unbelievable as the "streetwise" ghetto-born doctor. The modern hair and dress distracted me bigtime (but then, I'm always a costumer at heart), as the story is supposedly set in 1937 and the styles are strictly late 40's! Oh, well, I love any chance to see Loretta in action. I do agree that Susan Hayward's role was the juiciest one. She was terrific, always gritting her teeth and trying to be a good sister while watching her dopey boyfriend refuse to stand up for their love! Thanks for a fun review--you've helped me appreciate it a bit more! Warmly, K

7:38 AM  
Blogger Liz L said...

I just got a region free DVD player this week and now your post has made me think that I might want to try and get a copy of this film to break it in! Thanks for joining in!

7:31 PM  
Blogger Della Street ™ said...

I agree completely with Kay- your review truly made me think of the film in a better light! Of course, cynic that I am, I probably would have enjoyed the movie even more, if I had shut that voice in my brain off that kept saying, "IS THIS EVEN A THING YOU CAN CURE?!" :) I suppose it won't hurt to revisit the old AMC recording again!
xoKayla

9:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your notes! It's fun to compare our different takes, and if I caused you to perhaps think a little better of it, that's nice too!

Hayward was so good in supporting roles in films such as this, I MARRIED A WITCH (1942), or REAP THE WILD WIND (1942) that it's not surprising she ended up a leading lady!

Kayla, I don't think it's really a thing you can cure! Only in the movies. :)

Thanks to all for a great blogathon!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:35 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I just saw this recently, and had two very different opinions when watching it the first time vs. the re-watch about a week later. The first time I was majorly distracted by the lack of medical credulity, from Young not modulating her voice to accommodate her supposed inability to hear, to the various "cures" discussed and demonstrated in the movie. As a result, the story, the acting, and everything seemed unrealistic. When I returned to the film the second time (because, IMO both Ladd and Young deserve a second shot :-) ), I let go of the above-mentioned issues and found it much better, and the performances more compelling and believable, as an interesting 40's melodrama.

Thanks for your review. I only wish this had been on the Ladd DVD set recently released by TCM!

11:53 AM  
Blogger  said...

This sounds like a cool entertainment for a lazy day. I thought of Loretta's performance as a deaf woman in Graham Bell's Story when I read the plot, and I agree she played a deaf woman very well. I hope I can find this And Now Tomorrow to watch!
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
Kisses!
Le

9:54 AM  
Blogger Hamlette said...

I saw this probably 20 years ago on AMC, liked it a lot, wanted to see it again for all those years, and eventually got a grey-market copy earlier this year (because I'm binge-ing on Alan Ladd movies, having fallen for him in early February, and suddenly NEEDED to see it again). I have to say that for a slightly corny, weepy movie, it's very enjoyable. I got so excited when they released it to DVD officially this month, and immediately ordered a copy. Like you said, this is a warm and cozy love story, and I felt like Ladd and Young had some great combative chemistry -- they really pulled off two characters trying so hard not to like each other, and failing. I plan to watch it again very soon!

8:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you all for your comments!

Jocelyn, what you said about reacting to the film two different ways makes sense to me!

Le, ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL is a favorite of mine I hope to review here later this year.

Hamelette, thanks so much for your comments, great to hear from another Alan Ladd fan! I'd be curious to know what you think of the DVD print when you watch it again! I'm wondering if I should upgrade my grey market copy now that it's finally available -- I'm leery only because of the rumor it was dropped from the TCM Ladd set due to being a poor print.

Best wishes,
Laura

8:24 PM  

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