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MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (Paramount, 1937), directed by Leo McCarey, ranks
one of the very best and well scripted dramas from the Golden Age of
Hollywood, and one worthy of recognition and/or rediscovery. No longer
available on any local TV channel as it was in the 1970s, MAKE WAY FOR
TOMORROW had frequent revivals on American Movie Classics, from June
20, 1994 until its final air date, April 3, 1999, and a Turner Classic
Movies premiere September 6, 2010. Thus far, it's never been
distributed on video cassette but DVD distribution did finally come
many years later.
Yes, MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW is sad, moving, but so very true to life dealing realistically about coping with old age. Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi (in possibly the best film role in her entire career) play an elderly couple who lose their home and find that their adult children are finding excuses NOT to take them in. A situation that even rings true even by today's society. Leo McCarey won an Academy Award as Best Director that year for the comedy THE AWFUL TRUTH (Columbia), starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. McCarey was reported to have said that he had won for the wrong movie, that it should should have won for this one. I agree. As much as THE AWFUL TRUTH is a fine movie in its own right, MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW is a far better production, dramatically anyway.
In support here are Fay Bainter (in a rare unsympathetic role); Thomas Mitchell (the only one of the children to know how selfish he has been while the others refuse to realize it themselves), Porter Hall, Barbara Read (as the adolescent granddaughter) and Elisabeth Risdon. While MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW lacks star names, it consists of character actors in leading parts, which is just as good. Victor Moore, usually in comedic supporting parts or leads in program productions (better known as "B" movies), is fine in a rare dramatic role, but is overshadowed by Beulah Bondi, whose performance is excellent as well as tear inducing. Although she plays a woman possibly in her late 70s, she was actually 45 when the film was made. Sadly, MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW did not receive a single Academy Award nomination. If a nomination was to be offered, it definitely would go to Bondi as Best Actress for such highlights as sitting sadly in her rocking chair as the radio plays the sentimental score of "I Adore You" as introduced in Paramount's own COLLEGE HOLIDAY (1936), along with her closing scene at the train station bidding husband Moore farewell to the underscoring of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," scenes that remain in memory long after the movie is over.
The plot might sound trite in print, but to see it is to appreciate the kind of movie that can never be remade in the same manner as the original nor come anywhere close to great motion picture making such as this one. (***1/2)
One of the few American movies to look seriously (and reasonably honestly)
at old age, this 1937 melodrama won wonderful reviews, but apparently it was
so sad that audiences couldn't bear to look at it. While McCarey was justly
celebrated for his sensitive direction, let's start with the shrewd, shaded
screenplay, where nobody's entirely good or bad: The children do mean well,
but let selfishness intervene; the aged parents are victims, but they're
also unavoidably inconvenient and occasionally annoying. It is,
unfortunately, a timeless topic -- parents turning into dependent children,
children turning into their parents' parents, and the government yammering
ineffectually about the problem decade after decade.
McCarey spins the tale out with subtle humor -- just a wink from Victor Moore, a visual aside by Beulah Bondi, says more than several lines of dialogue would. Plus, this is a couple whose passion has survived the years; they can't keep their hands off each other. The notion's a bit hard to swallow, perhaps a contrivance to tilt the viewer's sympathies more in their direction and away from the thoughtless middle-aged kids. But it does work dramatically and makes the last 20 minutes or so almost unbearably poignant. And the last shot, of Bondi, is unforgettable; it's up there with Garbo in "Queen Christina."
An elderly couple lose their home and their grown children don't want them around, so where can they turn? After a creaky start, this thoughtful film becomes absorbing and very touching. It thankfully never resorts to feel-good measures: the oldsters are not painted as saints (in fact, Beulah Bondi's "Ma" is realistically nagging and nosy) and their kids are completely selfish (which is entirely believable). The picture has one of the most haunting endings that I can recall, and it's even more powerful to consider how timely it all is (and how this situation still rears its ugly head today). An emotionally gripping, wistful, memorable movie. ***1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... Old rivers grow wider every day
But old people just grow lonesome
John Prine, "Hello in there".
My favorite MacCarey drama,better ,IMHO,than his beloved works such as "Going my way" "the bells of St Mary's" "An Affair to remember".
Its influence was important in Europa ,notably in France (René Allio's "La Vieille Dame Indigne" ) or in Italy (Luigi Comencini's "Buon Natale,Buon anno;Vittorio de Sica's "Umberto D" ).
The bridge game during which the old lady gets in the way.The sound of her rocking-chair,the phone call,the children ashamed of their mum,all rings true,all leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
The letter ma sent to pa :"I cannot read anymore,you'll read the rest when your glasses are fixed " the old man's buddy says as the news become more and more depressing .One should notice here McCarey's skills;a tearjerker maker would have shown us through the home for aged people,but the sentences of the letter are much stronger than the pictures "This is a lovely place" the daughter-in-law keeps repeating.
The last afternoon together ,the last hours which are all the more precious .The tenderness the director feels for his characters is infinite.Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi shine during this extraordinary romantic final: coming back to the chic hotel where they spent their honeymoon,they won't return to their selfish children's home for one last meal (what kind of beast could enjoy such a feast?).In the hotel,they dance and there's that magic moment : the conductor,realizing these old people cannot adapt themselves to the new jazzy rhythms ,asks his musicians to play "let me call you sweetheart".
The ending is one of the saddest I know.Whereas Frank Capra would have probably gathered the whole family in the station,or have Thomas Mitchell arrive at the last minute when the train moves off,McCarey refuses any happy end.Hence the failure of the movie when it was released.
Make way for tomorrow indeed! There are very revealing shots of New York with the skyscrapers and the cars which run faster and faster ,leaving the old by the wayside.And however these sacred lines had warned us before the tragedy began:" honor thy father and thy mother",written on an ominous sky.
Waiting for someone to say
Hello in there,
I cannot believe that this movie did not receive any Academy Awards! I give it "All T's", for touching, tender, terrific, and tearfully timeless!!! Why it continues to be overlooked and not made into a video behooves any Beulah Bondi fan and people like me that have had the privilege of catching it tucked away between 2am infomercials on other stations. Get it on the shelf in the video stores! I've been looking for it for years! Can you say, "Bitter batter baby buggy bumpers" to your spouse as lovingly as these two lovebirds did in that 1937 classic? Romeo, Juliet, Scarlett and Rhett can't hold a light to 'Pa' and 'Ma' Cooper!
Beulah Bondi gave her greatest performance as a mistreated elderly mother in this bittersweet, highly underrated Leo McCarey gem. Oscar should have noticed. (Actually, McCarey did win the Best Director Oscar that year, for the screwball comedy "The Awful Truth" - also written by Vena Delmar. In his acceptance speech, McCarey thanked the Academy, but said "you've given me this for the wrong film" - referring to "Make Way For Tomorrow.") Believe it or not, Bondi was only 48 at the time of filming, only four years older than the actors playing her children. A marvelous performance, and a lovely film
Only three things need be said about this exquisite film. Orson Welles said it could make a stone cry. Jean Renoir said that it proved that McCarey was one of the few directors who really understood people. Finally, Robin Wood-gay Marxist atheist- praised it as one of the few good films about old people.( The only other ones I can think of are Scorsese's short documentary about his parents, and- strange to say- Lynch's forthcoming film about the old fellow who drove a John Deere tractor 275 miles to visit his dying brother.) Wood also praised its Marxist critique of the capitalist system. However, its not so much "Marxist' as it is rooted in the best traditions of Catholic socialism, traditions that, judging by some of his later films, McCarey may not have fully understood. P.S. I just thought of two other fairly good films about the aged-Wrestling Ernest Hemingway and The Whales of August.
One of the greatest tear-jerkers of all time. The sad tale of how two parents lose their house and not one of their children will let their own parents live with them. I agree, Miss Bondi deserved to win the Oscar that year but what else can I say about that subject. If you ever get to see this film, bring along a box of tissues. Make that two.
Make Way for Tomorrow is one of the most personal, heart-wrenching
films every recorded on celluloid. Though it's story is utterly sad,
nay, depressing, it is one of the most beautiful films ever made. It
does not hold back and goes places the heart and mind would not like to
wander of to.
We find ourselves in the midst of the Great Depression. A time before social security was put into play. We are introduced to Barkley and Lucy Cooper (Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi), an elderly couple who have just lost their home to the bank. They have known for several months, but saw no need to panic and tell their children just a few days before they are expected to move. The children are none too pleased that their parents are losing their house. More so because they will have to bare the burden of caring for them while they try and find a place of their own. With the unstable economy, it might be a while.
Lucy stays with her son George (Thomas Mitchell) and his wife and child while Barkley stays with their daughter Cora, several hundred miles apart from Lucy. They both find life with their children to be a bit unbearable. They have their good days, but mostly they find themselves getting in the way and becoming a nuisance. George's wife and daughter complain of being constantly bothered and having to deal with Lucy. Meanwhile Barkley health starts to get worse and Cora reluctantly must look after him.
The doctor says that Barkley must move to a warmer climate or else he could get worse. Lucy too finds that she is being shooed away by her own family. It is decided that Barkley must go to California with their other daughter but that only he can go because that is all their daughter can handle at the moment. Lucy and Barkley get together and spend the day with each other before he must head out west.
Just thinking of this sweet couple and what they are going through is hard. After having spent 50 years together, living in the same house and raising five children, to suddenly have everything taken away and having to live far apart must be devastating. They endure and try to make the best, just like they have been doing their whole lives.
One would think that the children, who were raised and cared for by their parents, would be sympathetic and a little less critical about the situation. It's hard to imagine that collectively their children can muster up the heart to care for their aging parents.
McCarey, whose work primarily consisted of both physical and witty comedies, delivers a much darker and emotional whopper of a film. It doesn't hold back and delivers scene after scene a new piece of drama that just makes you want to reach out and help these people. His style is not the most technically advanced, but the story he delivers is second to none. One aspect of his film-making that I enjoyed were the longer shots of conversation and contemplation. It makes the actors work harder and gets a much more personal performance onto the screen.
The acting is spot on. Both Moore and Bondi give fantastic performances, each playing their age perfectly. Somewhat forgetful yet always sincere and never mean. The children too, especially Mitchell, do a wonderful job in conveying their feelings about their situation. It's obvious that these aren't the greatest children in the world, but they are by no means the worst. Mitchell truly feels sorry for his parents, but he is also aware that he has a family that needs taking care of and their needs have been placed higher than his parents.
The final scenes of this film are some of the most intense and moving ever. I mean ever. I have never been more surprised, delighted, and completely torn apart over what was unfolding before my eyes. It's an absolutely brilliant sequence of events, culminating to an end that only a master of his craft could orchestrate.
It took me a while to get into this one. It's kind of awkward and uncomfortable, but it turns out that's largely the point. The story is about an elderly married couple (Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi) who lose their house to the bank. None of their five children has enough room for both of them, so they end up breaking up, supposedly temporarily, to live in the homes of two of their children. Moore goes with his daughter (Minna Gombell) and Bondi goes with her son (Thomas Mitchell). Much of the movie focuses on Bondi living with her son's family (Fay Bainter is Mitchell's wife and Barbara Read his daughter). It's Hell for all of them. Bondi's old fashioned ways are annoying to the family. She herself feels out of place and confused, having lived with her husband for 50 years. Meanwhile, Moore is having just as awful a time at his daughter's place. The whole picture finds its way to one of the most satisfying and powerful final acts I've seen, where the old couple finally reunites. It's pretty much the first time in the film we see them spend a significant amount of time together, and these two people who seemed so awkward apart feel like a whole together. We see their love, we feel for what they've lost. It's absolutely gorgeous. The very end of the film is a killer. I've never quite seen a film like this (well, Tokyo Story is obviously in part based on this). On a rewatch, I think it may be a lot stronger, but I liked it a heck of a lot this time around.
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