|Index||10 reviews in total|
I didn't expect much since Charles Farrell and Marian Nixon are the
stars but this is a fine little domestic drama (from a Broadway play)
about two Depression-Era young people trying to save enough money to
get married. The film is directed by Frank Borzage.
The opening scenes take place in the newly complete Empire State Building as the couple looks out over the night-lit city, their future seeming to be as limitless as the view.
Then we get back to their Street Scene tenement neighborhood where the realities of life close in on them and stifle their future. Farrell lives with a grasping widowed mother (Josephine Hull) while Nixon lives were her unhappy parents (William Collier, Minna Gombell).
Gombell is planning to run off with another man; Collier is a failed salesman recovering from a heart attack. The young couple keeps squeezing nickels and dimes into their marriage account but something always comes up to rob them of their savings. Will they ever marry? Farrell (not a fave) is actually good here as the serious young man trying to get ahead; Nixon (substituting for Janet Gaynor) is terrific as the sweet girl trying to keep everyone happy. Collier is excellent as the loving failure of a dad. Gombell and Hull play 2 of the most unsympathetic mothers you'll ever see. Gombell feels she's been robbed of her youth; Hull is a smothering mother who can't let go of her son.
Borzage keeps the film moving and does a good job with the material. Hull is especially interesting here, long before her movie successes in Arsenic and Old Lace and Harvey. She's the only member of the Broadway cast to make it to the film.
Excellent early talking picture with loads of "pre-code" racy language and situations, scandalous behavior, and a genuinely touching romance between Charles Farrell and Marian Nixon. Don't be fooled into thinking this is just another light romance. The terrific dialog is often surprisingly frank, especially when Minna Gombell -- in the performance of her life -- tells her daughter things no child should hear from a parent. Even 75 years later, that scene is genuinely shocking. All the parts are well acted, but a particular standout is Josephine Hull; her scenes with William Collier Sr. are absolutely hilarious. Direction by Frank Borzage is, as usual, nearly flawless. This film really should be much better known.
In Frank Borzage's monumental -and absolutely extraordinary-
filmography,"After tomorrow" is the follow up to "Young America" and
with hindsight,it made sense.The 1931 work dealt with the wall between
the kids and the adults;"After tomorrow" deals with the problems of a
young couple whose mothers are either selfish (the girl) or over
possessive (the boy).It's the generation gap all over again.
Sid's mother feels that that time is passing her by:the first time we've seen it,she yells "don't call me mother!" .She can't stand her daughter anymore,which is the living proof that she's getting old ;leaving her old husband the day her daughter marries does not make feel her ill-at-ease .This scene when papa refuses the dough is thoroughly Borzagesque.
Peter's momma is afraid of the dark,and she needs her dear one to sleep the sleep of the just.She's not really nasty but her soon-to-be daughter-in-law is an enemy .Her presence is almost a comic relief,in a story which verges on dramatic.
Marian Nixon and Charles Farell ,Borzage's favorite actor manage to stay very natural,which was not that easy in the years following the silent age.They are wonderful in the scene of the hat after the job interview.
One of Borzage's finest movies?Probably not,but even the "OK" movies of this great man are so much better than so many other directors' best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While Marion Nixon is OK playing the lead role, she's kind of doing a
Janet Gaynor impersonation. Perhaps the movie would have been even
stronger with the genuine article. But again Nixon is good; my previous
experience with her was seeing her in the Cagney film "Winner Takes
All" (1932), where she's a blonde.
The film is good, highlighted with a striking performance by the great Minna Gombell as Nixon's mother. The film is beautifully lit, especially during the scene where Farrell and Nixon playfully wrestle and end up on top of each other; the lighting just oozes sex; definitely a Borzage touch.
The film broaches the idea of pre-marital sex (going away together for a "holiday" as Nixon euphemistically puts it), but like most other pre-code movies, firmly supports the traditional morality of waiting until marriage. But perhaps the victory is in even broaching the subject at all.
This is an intimate portrayal of ordinary people during the Depression struggling against lack of money, wayward and selfish parents, inability to get married (waiting for four years to have enough money), and many vicissitudes of everyday life which are often extremely harrowing. The characters are all 'extraordinarily ordinary', meaning that there is nothing at all remarkable about any of them, none is particularly bright, none has much ambition, and the heroine's one aim in life is to get married to her totally uninteresting boyfriend, who never takes his hat off when he is engaging in intimate conversations with her and has nothing to recommend him, not even a bit of charm. Marian Nixon is a frail, squeaky-voiced but delightfully innocent actress who plays the heroine. She has eyes too wide apart, but she loves her man, loves her man, loves her man. It is very touching because she really means it. Her performance is entirely convincing. Her mother, played by Minna Gombell, is embittered, hard, selfish, and disloyal, but Marian is such a goodie goodie she never even notices. William Collier Senior is an excellent father for Marian, gentle, loving, but hopeless because he has lost all initiative. This is not a film to see to cheer oneself up, but it is an honest and sensitive social drama which is well made and of great interest as a period piece. It is remarkably lacking in any trace of affectation, and being pre-code, it is unrestrained by the ludicrous restrictions soon to be placed on dialogue and action in Hollywood. The title 'after tomorrow' refers to the fact that everything is being deferred to tomorrow because of poverty, and 'after tomorrow' is the dream when it all might have happened. The script has a lot of wit. The direction is good. Charles Farrell plays the boyfriend, and he is really so uninteresting in every respect, looks, character, aspirations, that how anyone could be in love with him is a mystery. So maybe this is a new kind of mystery film: how people who are so ordinary that making a film about them seems an impossibility nevertheless make us want to watch them enacting their difficult lives. Probably the best performance in the film is by Josephine Hull, whose well-rounded portrayal of an infinitely exasperating and despicably selfish and self-indulgent mother of the boyfriend is a triumph of the dramatic art. The rapid oscillations in her moods, her alternating endearments and curses, her rudderless cascade of self obsession, are portrayed with the finesse of a lace maker.
"Back Street" brought down to roaches, clinging 'n swinging moms and basement cold water flats! Depression Dirge Tune: "All the world will smile again. Dialogue punctuated by the "Aw! Gees! and "Swells" vocabulary of that inchoate time. Grace notes: Clinging mom's Wedding Gift: a bra wafted aloft. Silver plated wedding gift (for 4) from co-workers. Nostalgic Notes: Doctor conveniently across tenement street. No Radio! No fans!No fridge! Surprises: Anti-smoking message and barely chaste lovers. Ending: Erotic Niagara Falls. Better than North by Northwest but in the tradition of "Our Daily Bread", the"Crowd" and "Beggars of Life".
This weeper is well directed, as you would expect with Frank Borzage
directing. No one had a surer touch at directing a sentimental romantic
drama than Borzage, and with James Wong Howe as the director of
photography, you have some effective, beautiful shots. Together they
know how to produce shots of depth and beauty that illuminate the story
and create a three dimensional world, whether it's a deep-focus shot of
the wedding rehearsal where you can see the neighbors hanging over the
fence watching, or a shot of Marian Nixon and William Collier seated
together, with only one in focus, under a scrim of light.
But this movie, while good, misses being great because of the lack of great performances at its heart. Charles Farrell was a good performer, but his stardom was due to being teamed with Janey Gaynor in their breakout hits, and Marian Nixon, while competent, is clearly a stand-in for Miss Gaynor. The best performance in the entire movie is William Collier Sr., who is great, reminding me of a pudgy, beaten-down Harry Carey.
Definitely worth your time if not worth seeing more than once.
Anyone reading the plot of After Tomorrow would rightly avoid this film
as a weeper of the first order. That Borzage turned it into a riveting
horror film is evidence of his great skill. Every performance is
wonderful, natural. We all know at least some of these characters
because they are so real and universal. Josephine Hull is amazing.
Gombell and Collier steal the film with some of the most realistic
performances I've ever seen. And even Charles Farrell is well suited
for his roll. (I had watched Liliom the day before and couldn't imagine
anyone less suited for a roll.) Because the plot is ordinary, Howe's
photography is less apparent than usual but still shines.
Because the story is so ordinary and the characters so real, their problems affect us strongly. That they seem insurmountable affects us deeply. This is what true horror is about, worrying that nice people will come to a bad end. It's a film that must be seen once but probably shunned thereafter because it is so strong - sort of like Re- Animator (1985).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I always thought Marian Nixon had it in her - she was always better
than her material - but was never able to rise to star status. She did
have a memorable role in "Young Nowheres" about a love affair between
an elevator boy (Richard Barthelmas) and a chamber maid but after that
it was back to "sweet young things" in "Scarlet Pages", "Ex Flame", and
"College Lovers" (all 1930). She had always been a second string Janet
Gaynor and when Fox signed her as just that, she was even given a role
rejected by the star herself - "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm". So it was
no surprise that she was teamed up with Charles Farrell for "After
Pete (Charles Farrell) and Sidney (Marian Nixon) have been going together for three years. If you wonder why they haven't taken the plunge (marriage), their opening scene will tell you. They sound as though they haven't a clue - the dialogue is so trite and only Nixon tries to rise above it. But there are other problems - Pete's mother, Mrs Piper's (Josephine Hull) possessiveness and Sidney's mother, Elsie's (Minna Gombell) greed. Elsie is bitter at the hand life has dealt her, married to a down at heel insurance salesman, who cannot keep up with her extravagant spending!! Unknown to everyone, she is having an affair with the boarder and plans to run away with him. Poor Sidney, she is up against it on both sides - coming home and having to do the chores her mother has neglected and then being accused of monopolizing Pete's affection by his mother.
Mrs. Piper is controlling - and odd!!! After confessing she has always guided Pete in matters of sex, birth control and "urges" - suddenly she is no longer a figure of fun. At one point Sidney cries "I can't bear it anymore" - and it is hard for the viewers as well, as things go from bad to worse. On the eve of Sidney's wedding Elsie is forced to confess - she had never wanted Sidney and has endured a loveless marriage where she always felt like an outsider. When Willie (William Collier Snr.) finds out, he has a heart attack and the marriage is put on hold yet again as Pete and Sidney's "marriage fund" is used to pay Willie's medical bills.
"The Silver Cord" had had a respectable Broadway run in 1927 and paved the way for a spate of "malevolent mothers". Even though Josephine Hull tried to prove how deadly some mothers could be she came off seeming more like Beryl Mercer in a grumpy mood. She was not believable. Another person who was not believable was Charles Farrell. I agree that he obviously achieved stardom on the coat-tails of Janet Gaynor and proved with his role as Pete that he could never be accused of being an exciting talent. At one point he says "I'm Pete - the "IT" man" - don't make me laugh!!! Minna Gombell, on the other hand was just so good in everything she did - she was usually the friend of the heroine or, in the case of "Hello Sister", the not so friendly friend, but whatever film she appeared in, she usually showed up the less than stellar acting abilities of the people around her.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Josephine Hull's two most famous roles were a serial killer in "Arsenic
and Old Lace" and the daffy sister in "Harvey". Believe me, these two
roles have her playing a MUCH more likable and possibly normal woman
than she played in "After Tomorrow"! While she is certainly not the
star of this film, her domineering character made her a real memorable
lady! Her over-protective and domineering mother was highly reminiscent
of the "biddy" sketch from "Little Britain". Oedipus clearly had a much
much more healthy relationship with his mum!
Charles Farrell and Marian Nixon play a couple of very sweet sweethearts. It's nice to see them together in the film and it's obvious they'll make a very nice married couple. However, this pending marriage is a problem because of their parents. She has a mother and father who appear nice and normal enough--though serious problems occur with them just before the wedding. As for him, his mother (Hull) is dead set against the wedding as this means letting go of the umbilical cord! Heck, it almost seemed like she was losing a lover and not a full-grown son! Naturally, this crazy lady DID make things tough and I kept hoping to see Farrell's character sock her one! Well, this does not happen, but it did all manage to somehow work out in this nice little romance.
While nothing super-exciting or dramatic occurs in this film, the project was so well directed and professional that a film with a B-movie plot came off as a terrific little picture from Fox Studio. Not a classic...but nearly enough to earn an 8 and a very good set of performances all around...even if Hull's character is a bit too awful to be believable.
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