Wednesday, January 27, 2021

THE HOME SWEET HOME BLOGATHON: Make Way for Tomorrow, 1937


Gill at Realweegiemidgetreivews and Rebecca at Taking Up Room are hosting The Home Sweet Home Blogathon featuring movies about home and family, and family connections in movies. The blogathon runs from January 27th to 29th. The blogathon wrap-up and bonus.

For those not familiar with the film's plot or reputation, my look at Make Way for Tomorrow contains spoilers.



Lucy and Barkley Cooper (Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore) have long since raised their family and sent them out into the world. The middle-aged children are comfortable in their lives and the years have made them, if not neglectful of their aged parents, they have placed the older folks comfortably in the back of their minds. Of course, to parents, the age of the children has nothing to do with their pride and love in what was once that happy little group of children. 

The home in which these children were reared has been lost to the bank. Bookkeeper Barkley has not worked for four years and the six months grace period given is about to expire. The adult Cooper children are shocked, they wish they had known sooner, perhaps something could have been done.

Thomas Mitchell, Ray Mayer, Minna Gombell, Elisabeth Risdon

George (Thomas Mitchell) and his wife Anita (Fay Bainter) live in the city and their daughter Rhoda (Barbara Read) is about to go to college. Nellie's (Minna Gombell) husband Harvey's (Porter Hall) business is doing as well as it should. It also is not doing badly. Harvey doesn't like the existence of in-laws.

Cora's (Elisabeth Risdon) husband Ralph (Bill Payne) has nothing against in-laws, but their house is small and Cora has a natural coldness. Robert (Ray Mayer) is the "baby" of the family and a bachelor. He isn't even considered as a caretaker of his parents. Addie lives in California and hasn't really been in touch with anyone for years - not even an orange!

Quite naturally, Lucy and Barkley do not want to be a burden, but that is just what they are in the eyes of their children. Quite naturally, Lucy and Barkley wish to remain together, but that is impossible given the various circumstances of their brood. It is decided that Lucy will live in New York with George and Anita, sharing a room with granddaughter Rhoda. Barkley will remain in the country, sleeping on Cora's couch. Of course, this will only be for three months or so until something more permanent can be sorted out. Like their parents facing eviction, the Cooper children hope for "something to turn up."

Anita cares as much about Lucy "as any daughter-in-law can, but..." Lucy can't help but be a hindrance to the family, taking up space, interrupting the Bridge classes that Anita teaches, keeping Rhoda's friends from the apartment, keeping Mamie (Louise Beavers) from her night out. In a letter to Barkley, Lucy describes the visit to a Home for Aged Women arranged by their daughter Nellie; how dreary it was and how lovely Nellie thought it. Lucy can see what is coming and she is frightened.

Beulah Bondi

During one of Anita's Bridge classes, Lucy receives a welcome phone call from Barkley. The audience and the room full of card players hear one side of the conversation. The loneliness expressed is heartbreaking.

Barkley becomes ill with a bad cold under Cora's loving care. His only friend, shopkeeper Max Rubens (Maurice Moscovitch) helps by commiserating, providing encouragement, and offering chicken soup. 

Barkley's health becomes the impetus for the Cooper children's solution to the problem of what to do with mom and dad. Addie is told that Pa must move to California for his health. Addie agrees, but she can only take one of them. Lucy discovers a letter to George confirming her enrolment in the Home for Aged Women. Lucy's innate dignity and thoughtfulness will not let George tell her the plans. She requests the move to the Home which we know she despises. George knows this as well and will always bear the shame.

Lucy and Barkley have a few hours to spend together as he comes to the city to board the train taking him west. Lucy orders the children to keep the news of her move to the home a secret. As far as Barkley is concerned, Lucy will continue to be cared for by her favourite child.

Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore

Memories of their honeymoon 50 years earlier, bring the couple to the Vogard hotel. The kindness which should have been their due from their children is found in the strangers in the city. The hotel learns of the couple's earlier connection with the establishment and treats them with consideration worthy of one human being to another. These scenes are treated with a delicacy and dignity that keep the emotions the audience has shared and are experiencing simmering until they fill our hearts.

Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore

The children are waiting for the couple at home with a roast beef dinner. They are making a celebration of this parting. Barkley phones to let them know that he and Lucy have other plans. We do not hear what Barkley says to his children but we see their reaction.

Robert: "That's funny, isn't it? We've known all along that we're probably the most good-for-nothing bunch of kids who were ever raised, but it didn't bother us much until we found out that Pop knew it too."

George, in his one unselfish act, delays the time when they should have left for the train station. 

Nellie: "Why didn't you tell us? That wasn't a very nice thing to do, George."

George: "I think so. I kind of thought they'd like to be alone."

Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore

Pa: "It's been very nice knowing you, Miss Breckenridge."


Leo McCarey

Josephine Lawrence's 1934 novel Years Are So Long was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection which was adapted as a play by Helen and Nolan Leary before being purchased by Paramount Pictures where the screenplay by Vina Delmar was produced and directed by Leo McCarey.

Leo McCarey thanked the Academy for his 1938 Best Director Award for The Awful Truth with "Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture" as he considered Make Way for Tomorrow his finest film. 

Director/writer Yasujiro Ozu and his collaborator Kogo Noda were inspired by Make Way for Tomorrow in creating their acclaimed classic Tokyo Story, 1953. Exploring multi-generational issues are central to many of Ozu's works.

Make Way for Tomorrow was placed on the National Film Registry in 2010.














36 comments:

  1. When I wrote about TOKYO STORY last year I mentioned this movie, but I didn’t know it was a direct influence. I keep wanting to see this, but is it really sad?

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    1. It is a sad film. It is filled with real and frustrating choices from the characters. It is beautifully done and Beulah Bondi's performance is one for the ages.

      The back and forth of influence across borders (in this case America and Japan) is one of the interesting things about cinema history. I love Ozu's work and it makes me appreciate McCarey all the more.

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  2. I saw VICTOR MOORE in his last two movies. He played the justice of the peace in WE'RE NOT MARRIED(two of the stars were GINGER ROGERS and MARILYN MONROE). His last movie was THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH which starred TOM EWELL and MARILYN MONROE. Victor played the plumber.

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    1. A long and storied career on stage, and some special movies for Victor Moore.

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  3. Besides VICTOR MOORE, some other famous men named Victor are VICTOR MATURE, JORY and BUONO. Also VICTOR MCLAGLEN, BORGE and FRENCH. One that is still living is VICTOR GARBER. Two fictional characters named Victor are on soap operas. THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS has VICTOR NEWMAN-the character was born CHRISTIAN MILLER. Victor is played by ERIC BRAEDEN. DAYS OF OUR LIVES has VICTOR KIRIAKIS who is played by JOHN ANISTON.

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    1. Some dandy Victors in that lineup; some very favourites, especially Mature and French.

      I enjoy John Aniston as Victor Kiriakis. When I (and he) were younger he was Martin Tourneur on Search for Tomorrow in a storyline I remember well.

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  4. Oh, yeah. I remember John from SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. Martin was the last husband(the fourth) of JOANNE VINCENTE played by MARY STUART. When I started watching the show Joanne had the last name Vincente. I liked the story with Martin's nephew TRAVIS SENTELL(ROD ARRANTS) and LIZA who was the daughter of Janet and the granddaughter of STU BERGMAN. Liza was played by the lovely SHERRY MATHIS. When Travis met Liza she was a widow. Her husband Steven(KOSLO, I believe) had been an artist. Steven was played by MICHAEL NOURI. I remember Steven and Liza singing the song that goes 'if a picture paints a thousand words then why can't I paint you?" A long time later I found out the song is titled "If"!

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  5. Not heard of this one, but you've got me intrigued. It does sound the perfect choice for this blogathon with a bot of family and of home... thanks for bringing this choice to the blogathon.

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    1. My pleasure. It is worth seeking out when you have the time.

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  6. Hi Patricia, this is such a lovely and touching and moving film, could be McCarey’s best. I watch it every holiday season. Beulah Bondi is one of cinema’s greatest character actresses, and this her shining hour! Thanks for doing it justice so beautifully!
    - Chris

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    1. Thank you so much, Chris. I appreciate those words from you.

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  7. What a great review! I've heard so much of this film but haven't yet gotten around to seeing it. Your post makes me wish I already had!

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    1. Make Way for Tomorrow is filled with so much heart and greatness that everything you have heard or read will pale next to your first viewing.

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  8. I have never seen make room for tomorrow. From your lovely description, it sounds like a thoughtful drama.

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    1. Very thoughtful and memorable. I hope the opportunity to see it presents itself to you soon.

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  9. I really think this is one of the finest films of the era. I love it, but it always destroys me.

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    1. Only someone without a heart would fail to be destroyed.

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  10. LUCY COOPER! That was the married name of LUCY EWING on DALLAS! Lucy was played by CHARLENE TILTON. Lucy married med student MITCH COOPER who was played by LEIGH J. MCCLOSKEY. AUDREY LANDERS played his sister AFTON and ANNE FRANCIS did a few episodes as their mother ARLISS. Coincidently Charlene and Anne each had a "beauty mark". You may recall Leigh's soap opera roles including his two roles on SANTA BARBARA. I saw a little of the show when his character ETHAN was married to LAURA(CHRISTOPHER NORRIS).

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    1. I used to watch Christopher Norris on The Edge of Night and Trapper John.

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    2. Christopher Norris also show up in a wonderfully bad disaster flick which just so happens to be a favorite of both Realweegie and myself...Airport 1975.

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    3. It is nice to have wonderfully bad movies to fall back on. One of my sisters recently went through all of the Airport sequels. I know I probably saw it ages ago, but the series after the original is a blur by this time.

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  11. The name BARKLEY, of course, makes me think of THE BIG VALLEY. Do you recall the ep where HEATH goes to help a town that is to be evacuated due to an approaching flood? It had an INDIAN woman and a saloon girl in the story. The saloon girl was played by CLORIS LEACHMAN. Sadly Cloris died on Jan. 26 at the age of 94. She is, of course, best remembered for playing PHYLLIS on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and her own spinoff PHYLLIS. She did movies and TV-movies. She was on THE FACTS OF LIFE the final two seasons(1986-88). She replaced CHARLOTTE RAE(MRS. GARRETT) as her sister BEVERLY ANN. She did a TWILIGHT ZONE ep. She did at least three DISNEY movies including CHARLEY AND THE ANGEL which starred FRED MACMURRAY and HARRY MORGAN.

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    1. One of the treats of classic TV programs is seeing actors at the beginning of their careers.

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  12. Love the movie! BTW, I didn't know about Ozu being inspired by the film. That's cool! Anyhow, I was very close to my grandparents, so I always enjoy films about older people. Whales of August, Harry and Tonto, Tell Me a Riddle, etc., all great movies about the elderly. :)

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    1. Yes, they are great movies that look at seniors. The older I get, the more I begin to appreciate those movies.

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  13. There was also ON GOLDEN POND with HENRY FONDA, KATHARINE HEPBURN and JANE FONDA. Jane is to receive the CECIL B. DEMILLE AWARD at the GOLDEN GLOBES this year. I don't like the serious kinds of movies that Jane usually did. I do like some of her movies including ANY WEDNESDAY(with DEAN JONES and JASON ROBARDS), NINE TO FIVE and a dramatic TV-Movie THE DOLLMAKER.

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    1. Sunday in New York and Cat Ballou are a couple of Jane's lighter movies from the 1960s that I enjoy.

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  14. Speaking of LEIGH J. MCCLOSKY I looked up his credits and that was him on the second ep of PHYLLIS as BESS' boyfriend. Bess was played by the adorable LISA GERRITSEN who was one of the popular young actresses of her time. So Leigh played the fella to CHARLENE TILTON, CHRISTOPHER NORRIS and LISA GERRITSEN. Leigh and his wife CARLA married in 1978. Over 42 years ago! So he was already married when he got the part on DALLAS.

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    1. It's a small world, or used to be, in the TV industry.

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  15. DONNA REED played the daughter-in-law to BEULAH BONDI in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE starring JIMMY STEWART. Donna would have been 100 on Jan. 27. (Her passing was on Jan. 14, 1986. That was 13 days before she would have turned 65.) According to imdb FAY BAINTER guest starred on an ep of THE DONNA REED SHOW in 1962. She played an obstetrician about to retire. That would be unusual to see a woman doctor back then on TV-and in real life.

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    1. I must look for that episode with Fay Bainter.

      I'm glad we live in an era where female medical professionals are commonplace. They are the doctors I trust.

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  16. Whoa - talk about a situation going from bad to worse. I've never seen this film because it sounds so sad, but you've inspired me to look at it as an example of great filmmaking.

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    1. I'm so pleased you will take a look. Sometimes that detachment of observing a fine film will help us through the emotions. Sometimes.

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  17. I'd like to see this one--it looks like a sweet story with a great cast, and it's always nice to see the "ever after" part of a love story. Thanks again for joining the blogathon with this wonderful review!

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    1. I think Make Way for Tomorrow was unusual for its time, and timely in its subject.

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