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.
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?
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.
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.