Friday, December 24, 2010

Make Way For Tomorrow

One of the more interesting choices in tonight's Christmas Eve lineup is Make Way For Tomorrow, airing at 10:00 PM ET.

Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi star as parents who have five adult children. Unfortunately, it's the Depression, and business hasn't been good, so the bank is about to foreclose on their house. The parents call four of their children together (the other one is living out on the west coast) to discuss the situation, and an uncomfortable situation is reached: the parents will just have to move back in with their children. Except that none of the children has enough space for both parents, so Mom and Dad will have to split up for a time while some more permanent arrangement can be worked out.

Needless to say, this is an arrangement that can't work out. The parents don't like being separated, and the children don't like having their parents around 24/7. It's part selfishness on the part of the adult children, but it's also eminently understandable. Mom and Dad aren't perfect, and have an unwitting tendency to get in the way or otherwise make trouble for their kids. Mom's being around while one of the daughters-in-law would like to hold her bridge meeting which she needs to do to bring a little extra money in is a problem, while Dad gets a winter cold that's a sign he really ought to live in a warmer climate. Besides, the younger generation never set up house with the idea in mind that they'd have to have space for their elderly parents.

Eventually, the difficult decision is made to send Dad out to the west coast for his health, although the daughter out there doesn't really have room for both parents, while Mom is going to have to go to an old folks' home, a decision that would just break Dad's heart if he knew about it. Dad comes to the big city to make his train transfer to the West, which gives him the opportunity to meet his wife for what is obviously going to be the last time, and the two reminisce about their honeymoon in the city 50 years earlier....

Make Way For Tomorrow is a wonderful surprise from almost 75 years ago. It can be schmaltzy at times, but deals about as well as could be done in those days with some really difficult questions. They're questions which are still timely today, with our aging population and a lower number of younger people to take care of the old in old folks' homes, as well as the need of more parents for more assisted living. Thomas Mitchell plays the son with whom Beulah Bondi moves in; Fay Bainter plays his understandably unhappy wife. She comes across at times as being terribly mean, but then, it wasn't her fault her mother-in-law was foisted upon her! And darnit, Ma shouldn't be telling the daughter-in-law how to raise her kid. Dad moves in with Minna Gombell and her husband, and she might be even more unsympathetic than Bainter. But the whole thing is excellently handled by not having the parents be saints.

Make Way For Tomorrow got a DVD release earlier this year from the Criterion Collection, which means that while it's available, it's also more expensive. Still, this is an excellent movie that rings true even 75 years on.

No comments: