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C. Aubrey Smith
Melton, Chadwick and O'Brien, rich but lonely heads of an engineering firm, invite three strangers to dinner on Christmas Eve. Only two show up, James and Jean, they fall in love and become friends with their three benefactors...until the latter are killed in a plane crash and come back to their old home as ghosts. In the coming months, true love encounters some rough spots; can ghostly O'Brien help the young folks? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sprightly Help for the Lovelorn from the Great Beyond
"Beyond Tomorrow" from 1940 begs to be re-discovered by today's somewhat jaded and special effects over-saturated audiences. Director A. Edward Sutherland knew his business and even if his films aren't top drawer Hollywood, they're not backlot dreck either. Thanks to Alpha Video this film was a mere $4.99 at Manhattan's J&R superstore.
Many movies feature a departed-from-this-mortal-coil soul aiding those left behind to find love or, perhaps, solve crimes. It's hardly a novel genre. Most are hokey even with top stars (like, say, Robin Williams). "Beyond Tomorrow" with effects pretty good for the times is a charmer from beginning to end.
Three gentlemen, getting on in years, are very successful engineers who live in a palatial town house in Manhattan. In addition to being business partners they're close friends. George Multon (Harry Carey) has a mysterious past act taking a ride on his conscience. Ramrod straight Alan Chadwick formerly served in a British regiment in India. Jovial Michael O'Brien (Charles Winninger) brings a blithe Irish spirit to the trio's Christmas Eve. The engineers have two housekeepers, Madame Tanya (the versatile actress of stage and screen as well as drama teacher Maria Ouspenskaya) and the butler Josef (Alex Melesh). The two Russian emigres have their own story: refugees from the demise of the Romanovs, Madame Tanya voices her thanks at being in America to which Josef concurs (these actors had no later problems with HUAC).
A novel ploy is hatched by the tuxedoed engineers to brighten up their Christmas Eve. Each hurls a wallet with his business card and a $10 bill to the snowy sidewalk outside their manse. The idea is that whoever returns the wallet and money will be invited to dine in sumptuous luxury.
An actress, Arlene Terry (Helen Vinson) takes the money and throws the wallet to the ground. This is the real beginning of fantasy in the flick as such behavior didn't then and never could happen in Gotham. But a handsome guy from Texas, a would-be crooner, James Houston (Richard Carlson), and a nice gal, Jean Lawrence (Jean Parker), return the billfolds. (This was a decade before Carlson became the nation's and the FBI's hero as the patriot who penetrated the Evil Empire's domestic operation as shown in "I Led Three Lives." Carlson enjoyed a prolific if not artistically important screen and TV career.)
Wouldn't you know that neither had any plans for Christmas Eve.
So the two single folks, alone on Christmas Eve in New York, meet at the old codgers' roost and, of course, an immediate attraction ensues. Amused and moved by the instant romance formed under their roof, the engineers more or less adopt the couple.
But then...tragedy strikes. Ignoring the ominous prediction of disaster from Madame Tanya, the trio fly off to get new business and perish when their plane hits a mountain. Everyone's grief stricken.
But, at least for a while, the three dead guys come home to try and manage affairs. And they find a big problem. Discovered as a singing sensation Jim is at risk of being seduced by the divorced (1940s signal for "Loose Woman Dead Ahead") Arlene Terry (remember, we already know she's a snake because she didn't return the wallet).
Poor Jean is increasingly left alone while Jim pursues his career and Arlene pursues him. The ghosts lament his approaching indiscretion but can they save the day?
Much of the story is predictable but the acting is first-rate. Winninger's O'Brien will capture the heart of all who enjoy lovable Irishmen with deep hearts and a hardy brogue.
Jean Parker is adorable as the big-hearted kid who finds and almost loses love in the Big City.
This wasn't a big budget film but for the time the spectral characters are pretty state-of-the-art. The outcome is never in doubt but the trip there is charming.
Readily available on DVD: go for it.
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