Three wealthy but lonely older men invite strangers into dinner on Christmas Eve. Displaced Texan James Houston and Jean Lawrence, a teacher join not only George, Chad and Michael, but also their housekeeper, former Russian countess Madame Tanya for a surprisingly merry Christmas. The three older men form a strong bond with the young James and Jean and act as matchmakers for the new couple.
As months pass, those bonds grow tighter and transform not only the lives of the elderly men, but also Madame Tanya. They become a family of love if not blood. When the three men pass away, they continue to watch over Jean and James from the here after, determined to see them happy. But James rise to instant fame as a singer brings with it many temptations and challenges his relationship with Jean. Will the men’s supernatural guidance be enough to keep them together?
How is it possible that as a classic film and Christmas movie lover, I had never heard Beyond Tomorrow before?! I mean, really! My friends over at The Silver Petticoat Review recently brought this movie to my attention, but I didn’t know if I would have a chance to watch this more obscure title. Luckily, TCM decided to feature it in this month’s showings.
One of the things I love most about classic movies is the amazing talent of its’ character actors. There’s just nothing equivalent to it in today’s Hollywood. And what do you know? Beyond Tomorrow features some of my favorites with Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith, Charles Winninger and Maria Ouspenskaya as George, Chad, Michael and Madame Tanya. I really appreciated how this movie in particular gave these actors a chance to shine in more important roles.
I also happen to be partial to elderly men. Probably because my Grandpa set such a wonderful example. So, I really appreciated seeing the strong friendship and differing personalities of these three. Winninger and Smith are likable as always. But I especially enjoyed seeing Harry Carey, who stole my heart as the President of the Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as a grumpy guy who secretly has a soft heart. Ouspenskaya’s role as their beloved housekeeper was perhaps the most screen time, I’ve ever seen her given before. And I loved that her Madame Tanya found contentment serving others in contrast to her past life of wealth and leisure.
These friendships were the most interesting part of the plot to me. The romance between James and Jean played by Richard Carlson and Jean Parker was sweet, but not enough to really keep my attention, sadly. That is why I have mixed feelings about Beyond Tomorrow.
I adore the first half and last five minutes of this movie when the focus remains more on the older characters. Their interactions and conversations are so entertaining. Once they all die and the plot moves on to the interrupted romance of James and Jean I started losing interest.
Their story is one that has been told many times before. An innocent young man gets caught up in the glitz of success. He finds himself tempted by a predatory but beautiful woman. He is oblivious to the woman’s wiles and sacrifices his true love for a cheap imitation. Honestly, I found myself irritated with James and really thought Jean deserved better. The last five minutes, however, really tugged on my heartstrings in the way it redeems one of the characters. So you know, all’s well that ends well.
Beyond Tomorrow will never be my favorite Christmas movie. It has too much competition for that. However, it is still one which I think deserves to be seen. Luckily, it is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and will be airing again on TCM this month. If you get a chance, you should definitely give it a watch.
One Reply to “Classic Film Review – Beyond Tomorrow (1940)”
I just saw it last night and can’t believe that it was categorized as a B movie with that acting and the special FX. I must admit that tears were coming down my face a couple of times during the film- in relationship to the 3 old friends, who are about as kind and friendly as you’d want people to be, even though they are presented as rich industrialists. Indeed, the writers may not have been too inspired, but the actors and director sure were. Some of the best of the Golden era, imo. I saw it as a movie with Christmas launching the story, but it’s also a little fantasy and mystery. Mystery mostly surfaces through Mme Tanya- she’s certainly someone who’s been through a lot, as Jim says. What is her past? Does she have the Third Eye? Was the butler her former servant? Why did she wait until that night to present him with a medal from the mother country? What is Michael’s past that she refers to, about how he got mixed up with the wrong woman and lost it all? Whose house is it and did the 3 friends all live there? A very nice film which I’ve never seen or heard of before. Definitely worth watching at any time of the year, even though it is Christmastime now. PS, the final 2 wishes are not granted by Santa.