Tuesday, August 5, 2014

There's Always Tomorrow

Another of the Barbara Stanwyck movies in today's lineup that I haven't recommended before is There's Always Tomorrow. It's on tonight at 11:30 PM.

Barbara Stanwyck doesn't show up right at the beginning of the movie; that honor goes to the male lead, Fred MacMurray. He plays Clifford Groves, who runs a toy company out in the Los Angeles area and has done a good job for himself. At the end of the day, he goes home to a lovely wife Marion (Joan Bennett) and three wonderful kids. But of course, all of that is about to change, or else we wouldn't have a movie. That change, in fact, starts on the Mrs. Groves' birthday. Clifford comes home all ready to surprise Marion, taking her out to dinner and a show. It is quite the surprise, as Marion had all sorts of other plans doing things with the children since she's been busy raising them while Clifford has been out earning the money to keep them in that lovely house. Dad offers to take each of the kids, but they've got things to do, too, especially eldest son Vinnie, who's got a date with his girlfriend Ann.

Into all of this walks Barbara Stanwyck. She plays Norma Miller Vale, a woman who used to work for the Groves business before Clifford became a husband and father, and who went off to New York in the intervening years and became successful in fashion design. She's in town on business, and on a lark decided to see what happened to the man she worked with and had a good friendship with. Clifford, having theater tickets and reservations to dinner, decides to ask her to spend the evening with him. Purely innocently, of course.

Fast forward a few days, when Dad has planned to make up for Mom not being able to do anything on her birthday, by taking Mom out to one of the desert resorts for the weekend. However, youngest daughter Frankie sprains her ankle, and Mom thinks it would be better to stay at home with Frankie. But why not go off to the resort yourself, Cliff, Marion suggests. Schedule one of your business meetings there. So he does, and Norma just happens to be there, again purely coincidentally. Except that this time, Vinnie and some of his high school friends show up at the same resort where Dad has met Norma. Vinnie, of course, suspects the worst.

At this point, Vinnie has a complete change, much like Ann Blyth's character in Our Very Own, and the film descends into unintentional hilarity. Vinnie, being the oldest of the kids, gets his two younger sisters to take his side and they're utter jerks, too, especially when Dad invites Norma over to dinner with the whole family. Dad, beginning to feel unloved, decides that perhaps he should go off with Norma.

Douglas Sirk directed There's Always Tomorrow, and while it's not as over the top as some of his lush Technicolor movies, his fingers are all over the movie, partly in the sene that there's not really a happily ever after, but more in the laying it on thick once the kids see what Dad's up to. A lot of reviewers will give you some mumob-jumbo about this being a blistering indictment of the staid 1950s view of family happiness and the suburbs and all that, but I've always tended to think that's a bit more revisionist history than Sirk thinking how he can put agitprop into all of his movies. To be fair, much of the material he got was already on the border of overcooked.

As for There's Always Tomorrow, it's not terrible, but the way the kids turn on a dime makes the movie never rise to anythying close to greatness. And it's doesn't go as far around the bend as Imitation of Life or Written on the Wind, so it's not quite as fun to sit and laugh at. MacMurray and Stanwyck both do about as well as can be expected with their roles, making the movie ultimately worth one watch, although you may want to reach through the screen and smack those kids.

No comments: