Getting old in America sometimes seems like an unforgivable sin that, if you're lucky, you can't help committing. I just got around to seeing Make Way For Tomorrow, a 1937 release from Paramount Pictures about a couple married 50 years and forced to separate in New York City due to finances and selfish family members. Not only did it put tears in my eyes at the end, but I pretty much sat slack-jawed at the brilliant acting and directing in this simple, tough yet touching film. The DVD is in the Criterion Collection of fine films. I highly recommend it. This 90-minute gem could make Darth Vader cry.
Beulah Bondi and Thomas Mitchell were in their mid-40s when they made Make Way For Tomorrow. He played one of Lucy Cooper's grown and married children.
The title has a sunny, optimistic tone to it but there's a dark undercurrent present. The subtext for seniors could be, "Get out of the way. There's no room for you here. You're old. You're broke." That's what I mean about this movie being tough yet touching.
Leo McCarey directed this classic. It opens at Christmastime with cold and a thick blanket of snow. Lucy and Barkley have five grown kids. Four of them, each well-dressed, are paying a holiday visit. One lives in California. From the chit-chat, we pick up that six months have passed since some previous contact from the grown offspring. Dad hasn't worked for four years. He is still seeks employment. Mom and Dad break the news that they couldn't keep up the payments on their house and the bank took it. They're forced to separate and each lives with one of the children temporarily.
Lucy and Barkley Cooper must face the facts of the present and the future.
I'm glad I'm old enough now to appreciate this film. Because of the financial hardships of modern times, I've also grown into it. I can feel the truth of Make Way For Tomorrow. One other thing: I took some acting classes in New York City. Those classes gave me a greater respect for acting -- a complicated and challenging craft that, if done well, looks easy when it really isn't. Ms. Bondi, from film roles starting in the early 1930s to episodes of CBS' The Waltons in the mid 1970s, made hard work seem effortless.
Beulah Bondi's performance in Make Way For Tomorrow is a masterpiece. And she was only in her 40s. Today's young film acting students should study classics like this.
Irene Dunne was a Best Actress nominee. The story of a sophisticated young married couple that separates due to assumed infidelity, teeters on the brink of divorce and then falls in love all over again brought Leo McCarey the Hollywood gold for Best Director.
McCarey gave us two marvelous, different movies in the same year. I feel that Make Way For Tomorrow was also worthy of Oscar nominations in the Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Director category. Check it out on The Criterion Collection.
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