Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tonight's Movie: From This Day Forward (1946)

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD is a lovingly detailed depiction of the struggles of newlyweds in the late '30s and early '40s, with beautiful black and white photography by George Barnes and an exquisitely nuanced performance by Joan Fontaine.

I've been wanting to see FROM THIS DAY FORWARD since it was featured on the November cover of Classic Images. Quite by chance I recently stumbled across a very good print on YouTube, so I watched it as soon as possible just in case it disappears!

Bill Cummings (Mark Stevens) has returned from service in World War II, and as he spends a day at a New York employment center, he thinks back on his marriage to Susan (Fontaine), beginning with the day he proposed.

Bill and Susan are happy but struggle with economic ups and downs, especially when Bill is laid off from his job. (In the flashbacks, their financial status is made clear, in part, by the various apartments in which they live; the set decoration is excellent.) Bill and Susan's relationship is set against the backdrop of Susan's colorful extended family, including her sister Martha (Rosemary DeCamp), Martha's chronically unemployed husband Hank (Harry Morgan), and Hank's relatives.

Mark Stevens had previously appeared in roughly a dozen small roles, but for this, his first film as a leading man, he was listed at the end of the credits as "Introducing Mark Stevens." He does an excellent job, expressing his frustrations while remaining likeable. I've recently thought that Stevens somewhat resembles Cornel Wilde, but in my opinion Stevens is the much more interesting actor.

Once upon a time, I actually found Joan Fontaine on the dull side, excepting REBECCA (1940) and JANE EYRE (1943). I have since rethought that opinion! As I see her performances, film by film, I'm especially struck by how extremely different her characters are in terms of body language and even vocally. I'm deeply impressed by the varied nuances in her characters. It's almost hard to believe that the same actress who so completely inhabited the teenage Tessa in THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943) is also the newlywed from the Bronx in tonight's movie. I thoroughly enjoyed her depiction of lighthearted, resilient Susan, and Fontaine was never more beautifully photographed.

Rosemary DeCamp, who plays Susan's sister Martha, is another chameleon I admire tremendously. Was there any accent she couldn't do? Meryl Streep's got nothing on Rosemary DeCamp (grin). I especially admired DeCamp as the Austrian refugee in HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941) and the warm German-accented psychiatrist she played in DANGER SIGNAL (1945). In FROM THIS DAY FORWARD she sports a tough Bronx accent. The frazzled Martha initially cautions Susan to contemplate the down side of married life before she weds, but at the same time, as the film goes on, it becomes more clear that Martha herself has a loving marriage and that the blustery Hank (Morgan) has a good heart.

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD was one of a few 1946 films on postwar readjustment, which also included TILL THE END OF TIME and, most famously, the multi-Oscar-winning THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. I was struck by the unique feel and style of FROM THIS DAY FORWARD; it continually amazes me how many different kinds of movies came out of the studio system.

And as a side note, FROM THIS DAY FORWARD seems to be a fairly rare film for the mid '40s in that a married couple are depicted sleeping in the same bed.

The supporting cast includes Bobby Driscoll, Doreen McCann, Mary Treen, Arline Judge, Queenie Smith, Wally Brown, and Erskine Sanford. Ellen Corby pops up as a stressed mother of an infant in a movie theater; I didn't spot him, but director Blake Edwards is listed as a dance extra.

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD was directed by John Berry (TENSION). It runs 95 minutes.

Garson Kanin adapted Thomas Bell's novel ALL BRIDES ARE BEAUTIFUL; the screenplay was by Hugo Butler, with uncredited work by several other writers, including Clifford Odets.

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD was released on Region 2 DVD, although it appears to be difficult to obtain at this point. It doesn't appear to have had a VHS or DVD release in the United States. It deserves it.

In the meantime, I highly recommend catching it soon on YouTube, and also visit Olivia and Joan: Sisters of the Silver Screen in order to hear Fontaine and Stevens in a 1946 Lux Radio Theater production of the story.


Blogger barrylane said...

Joan Fontaine is a subtle performer, and that was evident prior to her break out roles. She was leading lady to Louis Hayward in Duke of West Point when he was on the cusp of success, and she is warm and glowing, and ready to leap forward. Re Cornel Wilde. Not always where you want him to be, but in Storm Fear, another of several films made with Jean WAllace, he accomplishes something unusual. That is making a small and average seeming film much better than expected. He performance, espeically in his final scens, lights out. AS for Jean Wallace, she appears somewhat limited, but never fails to bring something sensual and unusual to her performances. Lancelot Guenevere has many flaws, and Wallace is too old, but she is Guenevere. These films are availabel, but sadly not in proper remastered editions.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

It looks like you have pointed me in the direction of another winner. Thanks.

7:54 AM  

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