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THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW (director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: from the novel by Ursula Parrott/Bernard C. Schoenfeld; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: William M. Morgan; music: Heinz Roemheld/Herman Stein; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Norma Miller/Vale), Fred MacMurray (Clifford Groves), Joan Bennett (Marion Groves), Pat Crowley (Ann), William Reynolds (Vincent Groves), Gigi Perreau (Ellen Groves), Judy Nugent (Frances Groves), Jane Darwell (Mrs. Rogers); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ross Hunter; Universal-International; 1956)
“Its title seems appropriate for a soap opera.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Douglas Sirk’s (“The Tarnished Angels”/”Lured”/”Imitation of Life”) social melodrama about the traps of bourgeois family life is a remake of Sloman’s 1934 film of the same name. Its title seems appropriate for a soap opera, but Sirk devilishly plays with it as irony as he did in the earlier All I Desire that also starred Barbara Stanwyck. The idealized nuclear family are depicted as white middle-class materialists living a comfortable and smug lifestyle, while for the parents their self-sacrifice for family life has taken over their dreams and life. Mom lovingly accepts this as her role in life while for dad it’s suffocating and hasn’t quite matched his expectations of what he thought family life would be like, as every day is about the same and for him tomorrow will never come.

Clifford Groves (Fred MacMurray) is a successful toy manufacturer living what outwardly appears to be a happy suburban lifestyle in his hometown of Pasadena, whose ideal wife Marion (Joan Bennett) and ideal kids–the teenage Vinny, the adolescent Ellen and the youngest Frances (William Reynolds, Gigi Perreau, and Judy Nugent)–all take their straightforward sweetheart of a father for granted and are self-absorbed in their own trips, thereby neglecting to give dad the love he needs.

On the day that Cliff’s toy company creates Rex the Walkie-Talkie Robot, his old-flame from twenty years ago Norma Miller (Barbara Stanwyck), who now goes by the name of Vale from her divorced hubby, shows up to tell him she would like to see him since she’s here on a business trip for the week. The lonely unattached workaholic middle-aged fashion designer left him twenty years ago to make her career in New York because he loved another woman and couldn’t return her love. In no time at all she destroys the fantasy notion that he has a ‘happy home,’ instead she finds him identifying with his robot toy as someone you can wind up and he does what’s expected.

Cliff’s homemaker wife, who has a cook, nevertheless in one contrived scene after another is too busy with the children to keep her neglected hubby company in his time of angst. This throws Cliff into the arms of the attractive Norma, who can only offer him comfort in knowing that he made the right decision to marry and have a family–nothing can be finer than watching your children grow up. But her presence stirs up resentment by the two older children who suspect him of two-timing their mom and in the father it stirs up romantic fantasies that he feels he’s missed out on by leading such a conformist life. When he tells Norma that he loves her, she leaves immediately for New York, not accepting his love offers but sending him back to his seemingly perfect marriage and telling him that he’ll miss seeing his children grow up if he takes the foolish step of leaving them. It ends with the tantalized Cliff looking skyward at his fantasy lover’s plane going East to another world and then viewing his utopian surroundings where his children are seen through the bars of the staircase in his comfortable private house, giving the impression they’re all imprisoned in their dull American Dream.

It’s an underrated and not much discussed film, one that uses its dull story line to convey (possibly only to sensitized critics and others who see through the 1950s as mostly conformist times of shallow dreams) how sometimes you get what you wish for and it turns out to be not the best thing that could have happened to you.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”