Friday, July 17, 2009

Early Edition

I suppose I should get back to writing more substantial synopses of upcoming movies. So, the next selection is the rarely-seen 1944 film It Happened Tomorrow, which TCM is showing at 8:30 AM ET Saturday, July 18.

Dick Powell, who at this stage of his career was trying to get into more serious roles as a way of changing his image as a musical actor, stars as Larry Stevens, a man who at the start of the movie is seen celebrating his 50th anniversary with his wife Sylvia (Linda Darnell). Sylvia comments that nobody would believe Larry's story of how they met, so we flash back half a century ago to the gay nineties, and the events that brought them together.... (Sadly, the fact that the story is told as a flashback does give away an important plot point later on in the story.)

It's now the 1890s, and Larry is a young reporter at one of the New York City newspapers. He and several of his colleagues are having a celebration in the newspapers "morgue", where the old papers are kept, and Larry makes a point that he wished he knew what tomorrow's news could be, because that would make him a better reporter. The oldest guy there, the morgue's librarian, tells him to be careful what he wishes for, because it may come true and he might not like the consequences. It's easy to see what happens next: Larry is given a copy of the next day's newspaper, and nobody believes that he knows ahead of time what's going to happen.

Along the way, he meets Sylvia, the daughter of a vaudeville psychic (and accomplice in his act), and falls in love with her, although not everything is a bed of roses. When Larry gets news about a gang of bank robbers, and knows the news before it happens, the police department's natural assumption is that Larry is part of the ring of crooks. If that's not bad enough, Larry eventually gets a newspaper in which his own obituary is the banner headline. Of course, we know he can't die, since he has to live for his anniversary all those years later, but it sets up a tense enough climax.

It Happened Tomorrow is a satisfying enough movie. It won't be put up there with the truly great movies of the era, but it tells an interesting story, it tells it well, and it's good for the whole family to enjoy. It was directed by René Clair, a French director who was part of the wave of people who went into exile in the US after the Nazi occupation and made some highly original movies during their years in Hollywood (see Julien Duvivier's Tales of Manhattan). It Happened Tomorrow is just as original, and happily, has been released to DVD.

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