Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Tomorrow is Forever (1946)

TOMORROW IS FOREVER tells a somewhat melodramatic but engrossing story, with fine performances by a wonderful cast.

As the film begins, John and Elizabeth MacDonald (Orson Welles, Claudette Colbert) are happily married newlyweds when John is reported dead at the end of World War I. In reality, John has been wounded and disfigured so terribly that he does not want to return to be a burden to Elizabeth. Unknown to John, Elizabeth is expecting their child.

During her pregnancy, a frail Elizabeth is taken in by her sympathetic employer, Larry Hamilton (George Brent), and his family. Love blooms, and with the passage of time Larry and Elizabeth marry and Larry raises Elizabeth's son Drew (Richard Long, in his film debut) as his own.

Flash forward nearly two decades later. An Austrian chemist named Erik Kessler arrives in the U.S. with his adopted daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood). Kessler and Margaret have fled war-torn Europe, and Kessler has secured employment with Larry's company. Underneath his beard and accent, the limping Mr. Kessler looks somewhat like...John MacDonald. And Mr. Kessler is rather stunned when he meets his new employer's wife.

The above is all established very early in the movie. I'll leave off there so viewers can find out for themselves what happens next. It's a complicated story with many interesting angles.

The cast is excellent, with Welles particularly touching; his performance is commanding but subdued. (It must be said, though, that at times his makeup seems too obvious and in danger of coming off.) Colbert and Brent are always effortlessly elegant, and they give warm, affecting performances. Little Natalie Wood is quite good as a war refugee; the scene where she has a flashback and sobs hysterically in German is quite remarkable. She calls to mind Margaret O'Brien's great performance as a British WWII orphan in JOURNEY FOR MARGARET.

The movie was directed by Irving Pichel. The musical score is by Max Steiner. The film runs 105 minutes.

The screenplay was based on a novel by Gwen Bristow. Although I haven't yet read this book, I have very much enjoyed some of Bristow's other books, including JUBILEE TRAIL (filmed with Joan Leslie), CALICO PALACE, and CELIA GARTH.

This movie can be seen on VHS.

TOMORROW IS FOREVER is frequently shown on TCM.

An article at the TCM link above has lovely quotes from Richard Long and Natalie Wood about what it was like for them, as newcomers to film, to work with Claudette Colbert. Wood once said that Colbert was "so kind...such a loving woman." Long was quoted, "I was green and awkward, and I know she sensed my hesitancies and doubts. I always felt that in the complicated scenes I had to do with her that she was playing back specially to me, her eyes willing ease and encouragement." As I recounted in a post on THE SECRET HEART, released the same year, June Allyson so admired Colbert and appreciated her support that she asked her to be godmother to her daughter.

A new Colbert biography, CLAUDETTE COLBERT: SHE WALKED IN BEAUTY, is due out next October. Other books available on Colbert include Lawrence J. Quirk's CLAUDETTE COLBERT: AN ILLUSTRATED BIOGRAPHY and William K. Everson's entry on Colbert in the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies -- a series which deserves to be brought back into print, updated, and expanded.

Update: This film has been released on DVD-R by MGM.

2018 Update: TOMORROW IS FOREVER is now available in a restored edition from ClassicFlix on Blu-ray and DVD. It includes a commentary track and an isolated musical score track. This is the edition any interested viewers will want to obtain going forward.


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I've made a goal to read one biography/film history related book a month. I've got to read to many other things to do more than that! Therefore I will be checking out that new Colbert book, which has been added to my list.
On this subject: I just finished a great biography of John Wayne that is little on the plus side of 10 years old. It's called John Wayne: American (which was on the medal of honor given to him by the Carter White House) by two excellent historians and authors: Randy Roberts and James S. Olson. They provide a very well rounded, appreciative without being worshipful and critical when necessary without being demogagic. A very good book. They discuss not only his life and family, but discuss his films and career in depth, and his politics and the politics of Hollywood.
Now I just picked up a book about Jean Harlow at the library. I know-there is no rhyme or reason to my madness!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That is a terrific goal! I can really relate to the difficulty -- since I read for a living (as many as 350 pages a day), personal reading time is at a premium. I usually have several different types of books underway at one time.

JOHN WAYNE: AMERICAN, sits on our shelves; my husband and I have each read it. I'm glad you mentioned it, perhaps someone else will now pick it up. :)

I am currently in the home stretch on Jeanine Basinger's THE STAR MACHINE, which is one of the finest film books I've ever read. Perhaps I'll do a post on it in future. She has a way of looking at familiar issues (i.e., the Hollywood star-making process of old) with fresh insights, and her "case studies" of various actors and her personal impressions of many, many movies have had me jotting down titles as I go.

I just got LEONARD MALTIN'S MOVIE CRAZY on a recommendation from my dad and look forward to it as my next film book. I also just did a quick reread of William K. Everson's book on Colbert, as I hope to watch several of her films this year.

Keep us posted on your reading progress and how you like the Harlow book! Tips on good reads are always very appreciated. :)

Best wishes,

4:50 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

Ah- I just put a request in for Star Machine yesterday! Great minds, etc. I always love to read your book recommendations- it gives me more titles to add to my ever-growing list.
Movie Crazy is good stuff, btw.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to hear another thumbs up for MOVIE CRAZY. Looks like the book covers a fun collection of topics. I particularly look forward to the interview with Robert Young and his wife.

Best wishes,

7:23 PM  

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