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There's Always Tomorrow (1955) [BETTER]

Today I jumped forward two decades from Friday night's Barbara Stanwyck film, THE WOMAN IN RED (1935), and watched her in THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956).THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW is one of a pair of Stanwyck marital melodramas directed by Douglas Sirk which were just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. Also now available is ALL I DESIRE (1953), which will be reviewed here at a future date. (Update: Here is my review of ALL I DESIRE.)THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW reunited Stanwyck with Fred MacMurray, her costar in REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940), DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), and THE MOONLIGHTER (1953). It also reteamed MacMurray and Joan Bennett for the first time in nearly two decades; they costarred in 13 HOURS BY AIR (1936).MacMurray plays Cliff Groves, a Southern California toy manufacturer who has been married for two decades to his first love, Marion (Bennett). Cliff and Marion have three children: Vinnie (William Reynolds), who has a serious girlfriend named Ann (Pat Crowley) who's around the house much of the time; teenager Ellen (Gigi Perreau); and young would-be ballerina Frankie (Judy Nugent).One evening Cliff attempts to surprise Marion by taking her out for her birthday, but he forgets that Frankie has a dance recital that night. Rather than joining his wife and daughter, Cliff stays home alone for the evening, and who should knock on the door but Norma (Stanwyck), a long-ago colleague who had moved to New York and is now in California on business for the first time in years. Cliff and Norma spend the evening together, then happen to meet up when they're each alone staying at a desert resort. They enjoy some platonic time together, but when Vinnie happens to turn up at the resort with some friends, he sees his father with Norma and gets the wrong idea.Vinnie continues to think something's afoot with Cliff and Norma even after Cliff comes home and tells Marion and the family all about the weekend and spending time with Norma, and he and Marion invite Norma to come to dinner to meet the family.While Vinnie continues to stew, Cliff increasingly feels as though he's in a rut and rather taken for granted by his family, and Vinnie's rudeness when Norma comes to dinner doesn't help. Cliff slowly begins to toy with the idea of a new life with Norma...who may reciprocate his feelings.This was a very interesting film to watch and analyze, though I honestly didn't find most of the characters all that sympathetic.My attitude is doubtless influenced by being the parent of four (now adult) children, but the movie left me thinking that they made a melodrama out of a molehill. We were apparently supposed to feel for MacMurray and his "plight" as an unappreciated spouse and father, but he lost me from the start when he didn't bother to plan his wife's birthday in advance. The idea that he could parachute in and whisk her away for an evening when they have three children and a dance recital to contend with reflected a lack of maturity and consideration on his part. And why didn't he bother going to see his child's recital himself? (Because then he wouldn't have been home alone when Stanwyck knocked on the door, that's why.) Cliff was as responsible as anyone else in the family for any issues, including lack of communication and not enough parental discipline of his ill-mannered children. He chose not to cultivate the parent-child relationships, leaving events like recitals to his wife to handle, which may have also had the effect of her being too wrapped up in the children while he wasn't invested enough. To an extent they were living stereotypical '50s roles, but rather than thinking, "Oh, poor Cliff, he's got it bad with this family," I kept thinking "Oh, grow up already." It's interesting that the issue of maturity becomes a theme of the film. Stanwyck's character seems to recognize