There’s Always Tomorrow
Director: Douglas Sirk / Script: B. C. Schoenfeld (from U. Parrott’s story) / DoP: Russell Metty / Editor: William Morgan / Music: Heinz Roemheld
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck / Fred MacMurray / Joan Bennett / William Reynolds / Jane Darwell / Gigi Perreau / Pat Crowley
In which a toy-maker plays with fire…
German emigré director Douglas Sirk, found his stride within melodrama, directing a string of intelligent pictures, each exploring different aspects of this distinct genre. There’s Always Tomorrow is one such, looking at how Clifford Groves (Fred MacMurray), a man hemmed-in by a family that comically ignores him, is offered a chance to recapture lost youth by the sudden reappearance of an old flame.
It’s a tale as old as the hills of course, but Sirk adds his own flavour, by making Groves the founder of a toy making business. Here, in this artificial bubble of innocence, the child-man can still find release without irony. Indeed, his great hope for the future is a new toy robot named ‘Rex: the Walky, Talky Robot Man’. Sirk has Rex walk along a table to an unknown destiny at the end of the picture, just as Groves’ would-be lover Norma Vale (played by the vibrant, charismatic Barbara Stanwyck) is literally flying out of his life for good. It’s a powerful metaphor for where his pursuit of The American Dream has gotten him: he is reduced to an automaton, trundling through his own life, oblivious both to those around him and his true self.
Who’s to blame? Wife Marion (Joan Bennett) certainly, for placing his needs below those of their kids who, lest us not forget, are themselves, turning into clones of their parents, inheriting corrosive behaviours into the bargain. Marion even has a better relationship with the housekeeper Mrs Rogers (a fine showing from Jane Darwell), than she does with Cliff.
Then it hit me: this could only have been a middle-class picture, right? Had it been Upper Class, no character would’ve batted an eyelid and had it been Working Class, Cliff would’ve been unlikely to have had the time to entertain Norma, let alone the spare cash or viable excuses. Furthermore, in making him a toymaker, Sirk is acknowledging this dilemma. Again, he might’ve made him a ‘struggling entrepreneur’, but that would’ve given us a different movie. This is a movie ABOUT the Middle-Class and FOR the Middle Class. It’s about their values. Morés. Hang-ups.
Also, Cliff had to be a self-made man; a Rising Star, for this to work. The end result is a cautionary tale, I think, about what lies at the end of the pursuit, if such pursuit is its own reward.
Clifford has a successful business, in an industry he evidently LOVES; you only have to see his animation when showing-off new lines to Norma, to see that she’s the first person in a long time, who shows any interest. To Cliffs’s colleagues, toys put bread on the table and to his family, they buy the soulless Executive Home with its modern appliances and a chromed land-yacht on the driveway. But toys are all that matters to Cliff: until Norma reminds him that he’s not just a businessman and a joyless provider: he’s a Man, to boot.
And he’d have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for his pesky kids…
As I said, a tale old as time.
Oh, Cliff! It’s been twenty years! Have I changed that much?