Thursday, August 30, 2018

THE FRED MACMURRAY BLOGATHON: There's Always Tomorrow (1956)


Phyllis Loves Classic Movies is hosting the Fred MacMurray Blogathon running from August 30 to September 1.


HERE is where you will find the tributes to this outstanding actor.

Fred MacMurray is a favourite actor of mine. Comedy or drama, he rarely puts a foot wrong. I attribute this to his early training and career as a musician. He knows how to play those notes on the page, and how to improvise when needed. There are spoilers in this look at There's Always Tomorrow.


There's Always Tomorrow is MacMurray's only collaboration with director Douglas Sirk. Leading lady Barbara Stanwyck had previously starred for Sirk in 1953s All I Desire. There's Always Tomorrow is the final of four films co-starring the team of Stanwyck and MacMurray following Remember the Night, Double Indemnity and The Moonlighter.

The screenplay for There's Always Tomorrow is by Bernard C. Schoenfeld (The Dark Corner, Phantom Lady) based on a novel by Ursula Parrott (The Divorcee). I find echoes of Noel Coward's Still Life, filmed as Brief Encounter, in this treatment of loneliness in a marriage. 


Fred MacMurray

This is Cliff Groves (Fred MacMurray), by any level a successful man. His toy manufacturing business is lucrative and satisfying. His wife Marion (Joan Bennett) is attractive, bright, good-natured, and runs a comfortable home. His children are all healthy and apparently happy. Son Vinnie (William Reynolds) is in college and in the throes of his first great romance with a smart young woman called Ann (Pat Crowley). Melodramatic teen Ellen (Gigi Perreau) is an overly-dramatic teen, but not a troublemaker. Youngest daughter Frankie (Judy Nugent) is living through "the dancer" phase.

Why does Cliff look unhappy in this picture above? It could be the rainy day, but it is more likely related to the feeling of neglect. He went out of his way to plan a lovely evening for Marion's birthday, but she is tied up with Frankie's dance rehearsal. His son, daughter, and the housekeeper (Jane Darwell) all pass on his offer of the theatre tickets he had obtained. So, there he sits, alone in the kitchen with a dinner that doesn't feed his stomach or his soul. It is becoming a more common situation as his family devotes themselves to their own lives, taking Cliff for granted.


Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

This is Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), a successful fashion designer from NYC visiting California for a convention and on behalf of her home store. Twenty years ago she was an employee of Cliff's. She was a friend, and she was in love with him. Lately, the divorcee has been feeling lonely and perhaps wondering what she missed by running away from her emotions and toward her career. This impromptu visit will open up a world of feelings between Norma and Cliff.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

This is Cliff and Norma at a desert resort where circumstances have brought them together. Norma had given her convention speech and was relaxing. Cliff had planned to take Marion away for the weekend but little dancer Frankie had sprained her ankle. Cliff also made plans to meet a business contact who cancelled at the last moment.

Cliff and Norma rode horses, and swam, and danced the night away. They laughed and reminisced, and connected. On the surface, it was nothing but a fun and innocent time. Under the surface, there was something less innocent simmering, but at this point, if Cliff or Norma are aware, they suppress it.

Pat Crowley, William Reynolds

Vinnie and Ann, with some friends, had driven to the resort hoping for a swim and to sponge off dear old dad. Vinnie observed his dad and Norma laughing in the sunlight and immediately jumped to the worst conclusion. Vinnie's indignation and condemnation upset Ann. As an outsider, she has been in the unique position of being able to observe the family dynamics. "It's funny. I'm positive your father hasn't done a thing to be ashamed of, but, you know something, I wouldn't blame him if he had."


Joan Bennett

Cliff invited Norma to dinner in order to show off his family. It was a disaster thanks to the open hostility from Vinnie and his sister Ellen. Marion and Ann did their best to make Norma comfortable. Afterward, Cliff was livid. Marion, on the other hand, picked up on Nora's loneliness and expressed gratitude for her own contented life. Cliff can only see that Norma is independent and successful. How could that not make one happy?

Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett

Cliff tried to share his unsettled feelings with Marion, but he felt she wasn't truly listening. It isn't that Marion isn't caring or attentive, but perhaps it is more that she isn't saying what Cliff wants or needs to hear at this moment. Alternately afraid of his feelings for Norma and rushing toward them, Cliff is at a crossroads.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

Time is nearing for Norma's return to New York and it forces Cliff's resolve. He achingly professes his love for her. Now it is Norma's turn to be torn between rushing forward into something she desperately wants or running away for a second time.

Gigi Perreau, William Reynolds, Barbara Stanwyck

The cold light of day brings a visit from Cliff's elder children. They confront Norma and she sets them straight about the time in the desert. They are embarrassed but are proud that they are protecting their mother. Norma gives them something to think about when she reminds them that their father is an individual as well. That their father does everything for them and may be due a little more consideration than they have given him in the past.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

Vinnie and Ellen gave Norma much to think about as well. Reuniting with Cliff has been fun and emotional, but looking into the future with clear eyes Norma sees only a man who will regret that he is not the father and husband he is today. Norma must break Cliff's heart and her own.

Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett

The final scene reminds me of Brief Encounter where Fred Jesson seems to understand that his wife Laura has been through something life-changing. Cliff watches a plane flying overhead, possibly the plane that is taking Norma out of his life for the second time.

Marion: "Hello, dear. Feeling better tonight?"
Cliff: "What?"
Marion: "You've worried me these past few days. It's not like you to be irritable and depressed."
Cliff: "I know, but I'm all right now. You know me better than I know myself."
Marion: "I should after a lifetime you know."

There's Always Tomorrow is a gentle drama, but a deeply emotional one. The 1950s was an interesting period in the career of our leading man Fred MacMurray with a number of westerns (Face of a Fugitive, Good Day for a Hanging), film-noir (Pushover), drama (The Caine Mutiny, Woman's World) and comedy (The Shaggy Dog). The 1960s and The Absent-Minded Professor would cement Fred MacMurray as a Disney Legend and My Three Sons as a historically favourite classic TV dad.










16 comments:

  1. This was one of, if not the first, Stanwyck movie I ever saw. Wish I could remember where I saw it. The thing I remember most is those silly little toys of MacMurray's.

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    1. It's funny the things that stay in the memory. Long after some plots have left my mind, I can still remember furniture!

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  2. Paddy Lee, another really good write-up. In this movie Clifford Groves(Fred MacMurray) doesn't seem to be appreciated by his family. This is kind of like the actor Fred MacMurray. He was a top notch actor that seemed to be taken for granted by the so-called critics, and apparently the members of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. Fred never received a nomination. He did receive a Golden Globe nomination for THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR(1961).

    Fred MacMurray has always been a favorite of mine and also Barbara Stanwyck. They worked together in four movies, and had such great chemistry.

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    1. Fred not only knew how to play his role, he knew how to share the screen with his leading ladies, especially those he worked with several times: Barbara Stanwyck, Madeline Carroll, Claudette Colbert and Carole Lombard. The actresses all shone in the partnership, but he never faded into the background.

      I'm pleased to hear that Fred received a Golden Globe nomination for The Absent-Minded Professor. I admire a great comedic performance and, for me, that is one of the best.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it.

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  3. It's a long time since I've seen this film but I remember I liked it. Fred MacMurray is, like Joseph Cotten, a very underrated and overlooked actor, maybe because neither of them were ever flashy.

    I agree with your comparison to Brief Encounter. Both films are, despite of what has transpired, an affirmation of marriage. I like how Fred Jesson says in the end: "Thank you for coming back to me."

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    1. There are many wonderful fathers in the movies and TCM generally celebrates them on Father's Day, but Cliff in There's Always Tomorrow should be included in such a lineup. The taken-for-granted-dad.

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  4. Ok I skimmed because I haven't seen it yet- But I'm dying to watch- come on TCM and Play it!! Fred and Barbara have this magical chemistry that on paper you wouldn't think would work but then on screen you just go OH my god- you're perfect for each other! And of course because its SIrk- youre in for this deep analytical watch under the surface type of film- will have to return to this after I eventually see it!

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    1. I hope you do get the opportunity to see this soon. I look forward to hearing what you think of it. It is the sort of film that is worthy of a couple of looks.

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  5. Great review! It's been quite a few years since I've seen this one, but boy do I remember those awful kids! When Stanwyck finally tore into them, I practically cheered. The way they treated MacMurray (sweet Fred MacMurray!) so angered me that I think that may be the reason I haven't given this film another look, although the combination of MacMurray, Stanwyck, and Sirk certainly makes it worthy of one.

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    1. Thanks.

      I love how Pat Crowley's character made the treatment of their dad a turning point in her relationship with the son. Something unexpected and something of which Cliff will never be aware.

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  6. This is one of those films I can't NOT watch when I come across it. Melodrama isn't usually my thing, but MacMurray and Stanwyck make this a better film that it otherwise might be. I love how MacMurray's character lights up when he's around Stanwyck. You've got me in the mood to see this AGAIN.

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    1. Yes. Some movies do that to you. They are yours, or you belong to them.

      The casting is perfect. What you said is true in that Stanwyck and MacMurray bring the emotion up a notch with their chemistry and subtle performances.

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  7. I loved some of the other Stanwyck/MacMurray films but I must confess I didn't like this one. It's not the actors or the story but it just smells of 1950's ethos, especially Joan Bennett's character. I just didn't buy that all this romantic drama could have been going on between her husband and another woman and she was so clueless about it.

    On the other hand, Stanwyck and MacMurray in Double Indemnity were a fabulous pair :-).

    Tam May
    The Dream Book Blog
    https://thedreambookblog.wordpress.com

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    1. There's no doubt MacMurray and Stanwyck are a star team to be reckoned with, especially in Double Indemnity.

      Perhaps Joan's character knew more than let on, obeying that pervasive 1950s ethos. Even today we are apt to tell ourselves what we want to know.

      Thanks for reading and adding something for me to think about regarding this Sirk film.

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  8. “There’s Always Tomorrow” looks like such an emotional story. I loved that little conversation between Marion and Cliff. It makes me really want to watch the film. Do you know where I can get it? I usually buy movies online via http://www.digitalgp.co.uk/ . I hope that this one is on offer.

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    1. The movie is both emotional and interesting. It isn't often we get something from the husband/father's point of view.

      I know there was a DVD release, but can't recall if it was separate or as part of a Barbara Stanwyck box set. I always hope a movie can be found online somewhere before I spend the money. However, some movies are worth owning.

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