How do you prefer your holiday schmaltz? Do you like it straight up, or do you mix it with a little soda water?
We’ve been mulling this over since we saw the 1940 holiday drama Beyond Tomorrow, a movie about finding fame and losing your soul, the rewards of self-sacrifice, and friendships that survive anything, including death.
If this sounds like every contrived theme in the movie playbook, wait – there’s more!
Let’s add an aw-shucks singing cowboy who’s naive to big-city ways; a young woman who teaches sick children; and three lonely, older men who desperately need friends.
This is sentimentalism as subtle as a line drive.
Charles Winninger, C. Aubrey Smith and Harry Carey are three older men who suddenly find themselves without guests to celebrate Christmas Eve. They decide to toss three wallets, each containing $10, into the snowy street to see who might return them. Those who do will be invited to dinner. “Win or lose,” says Winninger, “we dine at seven.”
Happily, the aforementioned singing cowboy (Richard Carlson) and the selfless carer-of-children (Jean Parker) arrive independently to return the wallets, money intact. As you might expect, it’s Love At First Sight for these two young people, and soon everyone becomes best of pals. They all live happily ever after.
Uh uh. Not so fast, dear Reader.
Sadly, the three older men are killed in a plane crash, and become ghosts sent to guide Carlson and Parker. But, lo! What’s this? While the men are delayed in cosmic ether, Carlson becomes a famous singer and falls into the clutches of a scheming Broadway celebrity (the fab Helen Vinson).
We can tell you’re rolling your eyes, and we don’t blame you. This sounds like the worst kind of treacle. Listen to some of these lines:
See what we mean? Even the New York Times sniffed, “[The] mystical peregrinations are more preposterous than moving.”
There is something about this film that sucks you in, despite all logic and sound reasoning. It’s not the best holiday movie ever made, but it still leaves you feeling warm and cozy, like a pair of hand-knit socks.
For example, Winninger’s character is unfailingly sunny and hopeful, and he never gives up on Carey’s acerbity. Parker’s noble, self-sacrificing caregiver is a champion next to Vinson’s shallow, spoiled Broadway star.
This movie is nothing but sentimental balderdash, yet it does, in its flawed way, inspire its audience. In 1940, the year this film was released, North America was clawing its way out of the Great Depression, and WWII was underway in Europe.
We don’t recommend you drop everything to watch Beyond Tomorrow (re-released in colour in 2004), but if you’re spending a snowy evening sipping a Tom and Jerry*, we think you’ll enjoy it.
*This movie features a once-popular holiday drink called a Tom and Jerry. It’s a rather fussy, high-calorie cocktail, but it sounds dee-lish.
Beyond Tomorrow: Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith, Charles Winninger. Directed by A. Edward Sutherland. Written by Adele Comandini. RKO Radio Pictures, 1940, B&W, 84 mins.
I’ve seen this one, you’re right about it being kind of thick but sweet overall, like Tom & Jerrys :). The caliber of the elder gents makes it that much better, C.Aubrey is always fun. Merry Christmas!
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Right! The Tom & Jerry drink metaphor is perfect for this film! Wish I’d thought of it. 😉 If we end up sipping T&Js this holiday season, I’ll raise a glass to you in absentia.
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Ruth, I tend to drink Coke (especially Vanilla Coke) rather than fancy drinks, but I’m always curious about how people whip up fancy drinks (I don’t drink them, I just like to watch how people make them :-). However, your post about BEYOND TOMORROW got me thinking about when my parents would drink classy drinks like Pouss-Cafe Cafe, a drink with several layers that looked lovely to look at. Not being a drinker, I was more interested in seeing how the barkeeper got the layers to stay put! 😀 In any case, Ruth, though the sap quotient was high, your post was a fun read, as always! Have a great Sunday, my friend! 😀
Dor, I’ve never heard of a Pouss-Cafe Cafe. Will have to investigate! It’s funny how drinks fall in & out of fashion, isn’t it? Thanks for dropping by! 🙂
Ack – I am the put-the-pillow-over-my-head-and-wake-me-when-it’s-over type. But the drink sure does sound good!
Yes, I’m keen to try the Tom & Jerry – I’d never heard of it before. Maybe next time a person should stock up on the cocktails beforehand – the movie might look entirely different! 😉
My mom used to make Tom & Jerry’s for holiday cocktail parties she and my dad hosted. The concoction looked just scrumptious to my young eyes. Eventually, I managed to sneak a sip before one of their parties began. NOT what I expected. I had a similar reaction (many years later) to my first Martini.
This movie does sound, though, like it might be more enjoyable accompanied with a cocktail or two.
Ha ha! I think most people feel a pre-movie cocktail is essential; however, a drinking game could be implemented with each corny bit o’ dialogue.
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It seems all this movie is missing is a faithful mutt or it would have rated a 100 on the schmaltz-o-meter. This very well could be a forerunner of today’s formula movies where there must be X number of car crashes, Y explosions, Z fights between sexy women, and countless deaths, all of which to occur during the opening credits.
Though I’m not at all familiar with this one, it would be, as you say, something to watch on one of those frigid afternoons in our not-so-distant future. I’ve already got the cocoa mix and popcorn. 🙂
I love your term “schmaltz-o-meter”. Fantastic! A whole movie rating system could be built around it.
This movie is definitely one for a cold winter afternoon. It could be, in its flawed way, a nice bit of encouragement if a person is feeling down.
There is just something about Christmas movies that I love so no matter how mushy or contrived, I would probably like it. I can’t believe there’s even a singing cowboy in it. I would probably still like it though. I’ve never heard of this one, but will be on the look out for it. Great post!
Thanks, Shari. The ending of this film really asks a lot of the audience, which is a shame because the beginning holds so much promise. Helen Vinson is fun to watch, though, as is C. Aubrey Smith. It might be a good one to keep in mind for next year.