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 <email@example.com>
BEYOND TOMORROW (A. Edward Sutherland, 1940) **1/2
Apart from "essential" Christmas movie fare like adaptations of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), George Seaton's original MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) and Bob Clark's A Christmas STORY (1983), there is also an assortment of fairly obscure but equally pleasant films dealing with the Yuletide season and this review concerns one of them. Incidentally, the film has received various budget DVD incarnations over the years as a result of its public domain status but, ironically enough, the official DVD release from Fox mistreats the film threefold: most bafflingly it offers a cut version (when the budget disc I watched was complete), the film is also available in a redundant computer colorized version and, most ludicrously, retitled it as BEYOND Christmas!
Anyway, the plot is simple enough: three old, wealthy but lonely bachelors make a bet with one another that if they each throw their wallets, containing just one $10 note, out of the window into the streets, they will eventually be returned by whoever finds them. As it happens, only two of them come back and the men invite the persons in question to sit at their Christmas dinner. The bachelors are winningly played by cheery Charles Winninger, bemused C. Aubrey Smith and grumpy Harry Carey while the impoverished lucky diners are silver-voiced country hick Richard Carlson and demure nurse Jean Parker; the old gentlemen, then, are doted upon by their deposed Russian émigré housekeeper Maria Ouspenskaya. Romance soon blossoms between Carlson and Parker but, after the tragic death of the three old men in a mountaintop airplane crash, Carlson soon falls in with Helen Vinson, a man-hungry divorcée who also happens to be a radio star and soon sets Carlson on his way to become the current hit crooner of the airwaves...
Unfortunately, the second half of the film is an unconvincing, bland depiction of unexpected stardom going to one's head but BEYOND TOMORROW is ultimately redeemed by the sensitive portrayals of the four veteran character actors and the uplifting fantasy elements so prevalent during wartime, given that the three old gentlemen return from their graves as ghosts to guide the straying Carlson back to ever-loyal Parker's rightful path. Schmaltzy, yes but it was rather an unexpectedly perceptive touch to have the ghosts still preoccupied by their earthly demons Smith re-uniting with his dead soldier son in the afterlife, Carey still being the loner tormented by "the darkness" and Winninger, of course, literally wanting more than anything else to reunite the two young lovers.
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