TOMORROW IS FOREVER (director: Irving Pichel; screenwriters: Lenore J. Coffee/from book Tomorrow Is Forever by Gwen Bristow; cinematographer: Joseph A. Valentine; editor: Ernest Nims; music: Max Steiner; cast: Orson Welles (John MacDonald/Erich Kessler), Claudette Colbert (Elizabeth (MacDonald) Hamilton), George Brent (Larry Hamilton), Lucile Watson (Aunt Jessie), Richard Long (Drew Hamilton ), Natalie Wood (Margaret Ludwig), Sonny Howe (Brian Hamilton), John Wengraf (Dr. Ludwig); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David Lewis; RKO; 1946)
“A weepie family drama tailor-made for Douglas Sirk that is ably but too rationally directed by Irving Pichel.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A weepie family drama tailor-made for Douglas Sirk that is ably but too rationally directed by Irving Pichel (“Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid”). Claudette Colbert insisted on Orson Welles for the co-starring part over the objections of the studio, who were afraid he would be difficult to work with and try to take over the directing chores. That never happened, and Welles was a model of decorum and gave a superb performance (saving the film from its own dull correctness)–proving Colbert was right on insisting upon him for the part. This was also 8-year-old Natalie Wood’s second film, where she’s required to put on an Austrian accent and does so quite well.
Baltimore resident John Andrew MacDonald (Orson Welles) has been happily married to Elizabeth (Claudette Colbert) for a year, when he enlists as an officer in WW1. On the day the war ends his loving wife Elizabeth is devastated upon receiving a telegram that he’s been killed in action. She works as a library researcher for Hamilton Chemicals, and when she faints at the workplace her boss, Larry Hamilton (George Brent), the son of the president of the company, takes her to his spinster Aunt Jessie (Lucile Watson) until she recovers. It’s learned she’s pregnant and soon gives birth to a son named Drew. Larry marries her and they have a happy comfortable life together, never telling Drew who his real father is, as the story picks up some 20 years later in 1939 and Drew (Richard Long) is a 20-year-old college student and his brother Brian is 12. In the meantime, John Andrew MacDonald was never killed but ended up in an Austrian hospital with severe wounds that left him a cripple and a face that required plastic surgery. The Austrian doctor who performed the miraculous operation and wouldn’t let him die as he requested, was a humanitarian named Dr. Ludwig (John Wengraf). But the doctor couldn’t get MacDonald to change his mind and reveal his true identity. MacDonald gets a new identity as Erich Kessler, and lives in Austria as a scientist. But when the Nazis come to power they kill Dr. Ludwig and his wife. This leaves their 6-year-old daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood) as an orphan. Kessler adopts her and flees to London, and then comes to America to work in Hamilton Chemicals as a top research chemist.
Kessler limps through his former wife’s mansion disguised by a new face with a beard and a Bavarian accent. Elizabeth nevertheless senses that’s her long thought of dead hubby, and some heavy melodramatics are played out among unsuspecting family members until Kessler delivers his swan song speech to Elizabeth “We must live for tomorrow because tomorrow is forever.” This liberates Elizabeth to break free from the chains of the past and allows Drew to join the European war effort with his frat brothers as a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force, something she wouldn’t allow before Kessler set her straight.
It has women’s fingerprints all over its tender-hearted narrative-adapted by Lenore J. Coffee from the book by Gwen Bristow. It’s certainly well-made, well-acted, and sensible, all things considered, but should have been more illogical and insane–something Sirkian. Though entertaining, too much of it was dullish melodramatic fare mixed with wartime propaganda, and a carefully orchestrated stylized sense of conviction to the cause as dished out in dollops fit for a contemporary CEO of an arms plant.
REVIEWED ON 4/2/2005 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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