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USA 1956
Directed by
Douglas Sirk
84 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

There's Always Tomorrow

Whilst not as well-known as his lavish Technicolor films such as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and Written on the Wind (1957), Douglas Sirk’s remake of Edward Sloman's 1934 film of the same name is a withering critique of middle-class family life in 1950s USA.
 
Fred MacMurray plays Clifford Groves, a successful Pasadena toy manufacturer whose unremarkable suburban life with ideal housewife Marion (Joan Bennett) and ideal kids (William Reynolds, Gigi Perreau, and Judy Nugent) is turned upside down when former employee Norma Miller (Barbara Stanwyck) turns up from his past. Norma is now a successful fashion designer and given the evident flame that she has been nursing all these years, Cliff begins to wonder if he made the right decision when he opted for the family life. His smug son, Vinny,suspects his father is having an affair and sets about to remove Norma from the scene.

I haven’t seen the 1934 version but There’s Always Tomorrowdespite feeling rather forced particularly in its early part which sets up Cliff’s self-inflicted domestic imprisonment, is a surprisingly effective portrait of a man in a mid-life crisis. Here Fred MacMurray, the epitome of genial suburban squareness who would go on to star in the long-running 1960s TV series Father Knows Best as just the kind of pipe-smoking paterfamilias he plays here, is perfectly cast, his characteristic willingness to please perfectly suiting his character’s ineluctably compliant personality. Barbara Stanwyck, who had played a similar role for Sirk in 1953’s All I Desire is less appropriate, her typically brittle self-possession so at-odds with her character’s romantic yearnings as to make one suspect that her Norma has some hidden malevolent agenda. Joan Bennett, on the other hand, is flawless in the much less demanding role of the “perfect” wife.

Although so unassuming in form as to have been largely forgotten There’s Always Tomorrow deserves recognition as a remarkably incisive and empathetic character study. .

 

 

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