Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tonight's Movie: It Happened Tomorrow (1944)

IT HAPPENED TOMORROW is a charming, atmospheric period fantasy directed with great style by Rene Clair and acted with verve by Dick Powell and Linda Darnell.

As Larry (Powell) and Sylvia (Darnell) celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, Larry reflects back on the strange few days during which he met and married Sylvia. That week in the 1890s was memorable for another reason: he received early editions of newspapers which predicted the future.

As he did in 1942's I MARRIED A WITCH, director Clair creates a unique atmosphere suffused with romance, magic, comedy, and a few chills. I particularly liked the way the story was framed, so that there is never any doubt about the happy ending; the viewer can thus relax and enjoy the proceedings all the more, anticipating where the story is headed. The movie's riotous final sequence is beautifully choreographed and carried off by cast and crew, and the last scene is a moment of nostalgic beauty which lingers in the memory.

20-year-old Linda Darnell was at the peak of her beauty in this film, and she also has a very nice touch with comedy. Powell is marvelous, and is particularly amusing in the later scenes where he approaches his doom with resignation. They make a lovely team; it's a pity they didn't make more movies together.

This film was made during the transitional period of Powell's career when he had left Warner Bros. and "juvenile" roles in musicals behind but hadn't yet embarked on his more mature "tough guy" roles; during this time frame Powell also worked with the great Preston Sturges on the comedy CHRISTMAS IN JULY (1940).

The supporting cast includes Jack Oakie, Edgar Kennedy, John Philliber, George Chandler, and Sig Ruman. The little great-granddaughter in the opening scene is played by Eilene Jansen (also known as Eileen Jansen); the same year, she played June Allyson as a child in TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR. She also played Linda Rodgers, daughter of composer Richard Rodgers, in WORDS AND MUSIC (1948).

This well-paced film runs 84 minutes. Robert Stolz's sprightly score was nominated for the Oscar for Best Scoring of a Drama or Comedy.

A card at the end of the film is a fun relic of the times: MAKE IT HAPPEN TOMORROW - BUY BONDS AND SAVINGS TODAY!

You can read more about this movie in a recent post at Skeins of Thought.

IT HAPPENED TOMORROW has been released on DVD by Kino.

The film just aired for the first time on Turner Classic Movies. The print shown on TCM was from the UCLA Archives.

I greatly enjoyed this movie. Most highly recommended.

Update: This film will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber and the Cohen Film Collection in May 2021. My review of the Blu-ray is here.


Blogger NoirGirl said...

I loved it too! Dick Powell is adorable no matter what he does. His film canon is such fun to watch. It is the definition of a diversified body of work.

Linda Darnell is so beautiful. She wasn't a bad actress, either. I like her performance in It Happened Tomorrow. She has a natural chemistry with Dick on screen that surprised me a little. I wasn't expecting them to click.

I agree, most highly recommended!

2:13 PM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

It's good to know that such a relatively obscure movie can be rediscovered. I'm tempted to buy the Kino dvd since the movie had a charm similar to all of Clair's early talkie work. A friend in France tells me that there are many French silents of his work, such as Les Deux Timides and Un Chapeau de Paille d'Italie, which are not available in this country. I'd love to see them for myself someday. I haven't seen any Rene Clair movies that haven't charmed me. I'm glad that others found it so enjoyable too.

Why do you think that the generation of the 1940s found the 1890s such an appealing subject for so many of their movies? There's The Lodger, Forbidden Street, Ivy, Heaven Can Wait, Hangover Square, The Strawberry Blonde, Gentleman Jim and many of the Alice Faye and Betty Grable musicals set in that period--not to mention that subplot in Cover Girl. I wonder if it was similar to the nostalgia we sometimes may feel for the 1940s, despite everything that occurred then?

4:28 PM  

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