AKA Beyond Christmas.
As illustrated in this fantastic article by Cleaver Patterson, Christmas has long held a tradition of accompanying the celebrations and decorations with time by the fire hearing tales of ghosts and the supernatural. Some of these tales are terrifying and some aren’t, but they all entertain people at this particular time of year. Beyond Tomorrow falls into this category.
Three old men are urged on by one of the group to throw their wallets out of the window, with a ten dollar bill and their card in each. Whoever returns the wallets will be welcomed in to dine with the gentlemen at their laden, festive table. Three wallets are thrown out. Two are returned. James Houston (Richard Carlson) returns one while Jean Lawrence (Jean Parker) returns another and the two accept the kind invite to join the gentlemen and make merry. A short while later, James is impressing everyone with his singing voice and Jean seems to have fallen in love with him. The elderly gentlemen are most pleased by this development and they all decide to stay in touch and stay friends as happiness envelopes them. But when tragedy strikes, things quickly sour. James seems set for a great life as a famous singer while Jean feels them growing further and further apart and things may be broken beyond repair, unless some generous spirits are somehow able to help.
Beyond Tomorrow is quite a mixture and almost becomes something too melodramatic and bland in places before, fortunately, picking itself up every now and again just often enough to keep things lively and fun right through to a great finale (that also has a few genuinely hilarious lines amongst the potential misery).
The cast are great. Carlson and Parker are a nice enough couple, with the former convincing everyone of his singing talents while the latter just stays lovely from start to finish. Maria Ouspenskaya is very good as the gifted Madame Tanya and Helen Vinson is very good as the wedge coming between James and Jean but the stars here are the elderly gentlemen who start the ball rolling. Harry Carey is a gruff cynic, C. Aubrey Smith is an easygoing chap and Charles Winninger is the most optimistic of the three of them and the one convinced that everything can work out right if only they help out a little bit.
The script by Adele Comandini (from a story by Comandini and Mildred Cram) isn’t as sharp or fun as it could be but hits the bullseye with one or two great lines here and there, including the finale mentioned above. A. Edward Sutherland does just fine but it’s a shame that the second half of the movie is more about a sudden rise to success than the events that bookend that brush with fame. At only 84 minutes, the movie certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome but it doesn’t really zip along either.
I’d rate this lower if the damn thing didn’t pan out to be so charming and simply adorable. It’s a light, fun movie that tries to spice things up with drama that isn’t necessary and it’s certainly worth watching if you’ve never seen it before.
DIRECTOR: A. EDWARD SUTHERLAND
WRITER: ADELE COMANDINI (WHO ALSO CO-WROTE THE STORY WITH MILDRED CRAM)
STARS: HARRY CAREY, C. AUBREY SMITH, CHARLES WINNINGER, RICHARD CARLSON, JEAN PARKER, MARIA OUSPENSKAYA, HELEN VINSON
RUNTIME: 84 MINS APPROX