Thursday, February 18, 2010

109. Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Leo McCarey
Written By: Vina Delmar, from the novel The Years Are So Long by Josephine Lawrence
Main Cast: Victor Moore, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Fay Bainter


When Leo McCarey accepted his Oscar for Best Director for "The Awful Truth" he said, and I quote: "Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture", referring to the fact that if he was going to be named Best Director, it should've been for make way for tomorrow.

The plot is quite simple. When Barkley and Lucy Cooper face financial hardships and the bank takes their home away from them, they turn to their five children for a solution. During a meeting, called by the couple of fifty years, they talk over with their children the options of where to go from here. Wanting to divide the responsibility up, the children decide that two of them we'll house one of the parents, with George taking his mother and Cora taking her father. From there we flip flop between the new living conditions of the two elders. Lucy Cooper, who is now living with her son George, his wife Anita and their daughter, Rhoda. The house is forced to undertake a new way of life with Lucy in the picture, as Rhoda now refuses to have her friends over, for fear that her grandmother will talk their legs off. Anita, Lucy's daughter-in-law, is also hesitant to teach her bridge class, for fear that Lucy will get in the way.

On the other side of the fence, Barkley or Bark, as he's referred to in the film, has taken to long chats with the owner of the local general store and does so to get away from his very demanding, very irritable daughter, Cora. When Bark becomes sick with a cold, Cora bosses him around and refuses to put up with his whiny ways, as all Bark wants is his wife by his side, as he's sure that she could cure his illness. When push comes to shove, and things just don't seem to be working out on either end, the two sides both make decisions. George makes the decision to put his mother in a nursing home, while Cora thinks it's best if her father goes to California to live with one of the other siblings. The final thirty minutes of the movie are the parts that Orson Welles was referring to when he talked about the film making a stone cry, as Bark and Lucy say their final goodbyes and I dare any viewer to hold back the tears.

Of course, being a married man, this film made me think a lot of my wife. In fact, I was constantly putting myself in the place of the actors and envisioning what it'd be like to be in these characters' shoes. I think that's what made the water works come on for me so hard when the final moments of the film were taking place. The two primary actors: Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, do a fine job of creating that special on screen chemistry and use a very natural dialogue to get their characters over as a real married couple. As the two quibble about whether their honeymoon began on a Wednesday or a Thursday, you really get into the spirit of these two characters and it makes it that much more sad when they're torn apart. Few films that I've seen have actually made tears stream down my face, but this one did just that, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. This is quite possibly, and without putting a lot of thought to it, the saddest movie I've ever seen, as it forced me to remember personal experiences and that helped me relate to the characters so well.

RATING: 9/10 Another movie makes a big time bid to get into my Top 20 and with only four films left 'till we hit the 101 mark, who knows what the Top 20 will consist of...not even me, yet.

NEXT UP: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves...My first animated film in the book and Walt Disney's first full length feature film. It should arrive from Netflix tomorrow and I will review it directly.

February 18, 2010 1:54am


  1. I consider myself a fairly knowledgable old movie buff, but I've never even heard of this film. Will definitely keep an eye out for it after reading this review.

  2. I see Ebert just added this to his "great movies" section. Criterion is releasing it next week.

  3. Not sure if you're getting the replies that I'm e-mailing to you, so I'll reply here: I actually watched this one on YouTube, so if you're interest if strong enough, you can check it out there. I'm really glad Criterion decided to put this one out, because it's certainly one that I wouldn't mind owning.

  4. I refuse to watch movies on youtube. I can wait until Tuesday to see it(love Criterion, they always seem to find great prints for their transfers) Glad you liked The Crowd.
    Haven't been getting your emails.

  5. Well then I'll just reply here, and thanks for letting me know. I'm not crazy about watching on YouTube either, but if it's the only way I can see something, I'll make an exception. I really did enjoy The Crowd and this last burst of great movies, is making it harder and harder to make my Top 20 list.

  6. Just saw this, what a great movie! It kinda reminded me of Dodsworth, both are dramas that feel unusually realistic in terms of characters & dialogue, esp for a 1930s Hollywood film. I'm surprised it was even made. There are similarities to Toyko Story, a much more celebrated film, but I think I prefer this.

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  8. Oh you lucky people, I wish I could get to see this one. Loved Tokyo Story.
    This one is pretty much unheard of in the UK..

  9. I wish you could see this too Ray, and I may just have to squeeze in "Tokyo Story" soon. I think it's currently streaming on Netflix, so maybe soon.

  10. This is at LAST getting a release in the Uk in the next month.. I really am looking forward to getting it at last. I will let you know what I thought...

  11. Got it at last.
    Whilst there were certainly moments when it strayed on the wrong side of that very fine line between 'moving' and 'over sentimentality', for the most it was very good. I strongly admired that Lucy and Bark were not portrayed as perfect - you could very much sympathise with Anita trying to do her Bridge class (so much that she would - I think- be justified in asking Lucy to stay in her room whilst the lesson was on). Poor Rhoda, having to share a room with Gran - not just 'for now' but for am indefinate time. So your sympathy swung from one to the other all through the film, with only really Cora coming over as being 'wrong' (most notably in her awful treatment of her fathers elderly, inteligent German-Jewish Newsagent friend.)(I wish I knew that guy and could go and sit by his stove and discuss the news each day)
    A good film, delighted to have seen it at last.
    However - sorry wcurry- I prefered Tokyo story which (In my opinion) firmly stayed the right side of that line all the way through. This one predates Tokyo Story by about 10 years, but other Ozu films predate it. If you enjoyed this film, I strongly recomend trying almost anything by Ozu - simular slow (said as a compliment)paced study of family, especialy inter-generational - realationships. TS being the one that explores the 'problem' of bothersome elderly parents V ungrateful/selfish youngsters who forget that they too will get old.
    By the way, just what did Rhoda get up to that night? Something bad enough that the poloce were involved, but not serious enough that she herself was likely to be named?


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