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There's Always Tomorrow is a 1956 American romantic melodrama film directed by Douglas Sirk starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Joan Bennett. It was produced by Ross Hunter and distributed by Universal-International Pictures on January 8, 1956. The screenplay, based on a novel by Ursula Parrott, is by Bernard C. Schoenfeld, which tells the tales of a toy-maker's unhappiness with his domestic life and his seeking of an exciting adventure with an old flame who pops into town.

Plot

Toy manufacturer Clifford Groves has a life of boring routine in Pasadena. His wife Marion is busy raising their three children - Vinnie, Ellen, and Frankie. Clifford feels like the robot toy his company is introducing, moving mechanically from place to place in his life. Then, a former co-worker, Norma Miller Vale, turns up at his home unexpectedly and reveals she is now a glamorous fashion designer.

Just as Cliff is about to leave on a frequently mentioned but long-postponed vacation with Marion to Palm Valley, Frankie injures her ankle and Marion decides to stay home and tend to her. Since it's too late to cancel, she urges Cliff to go alone. He reluctantly agrees, scheduling a business appointment at the location, thus giving him at least some additionally justifiable reason for going. However, upon arriving and subsequently being informed that the meeting fell through, he bumps into Norma, who is revealed to be a lonely divorcee taking a brief vacation at the same resort. They enjoy the weekend together, in riding horses and dancing. Unexpectedly, Cliff's son Vinnie drives to Palm Valley with his girlfriend Ann, and two other friends. Vinnie looks up his father, and finds him in Norma's room. Spying on Cliff and Norma talking, he assumes they are having an affair.

Back home, Vinnie confides in Ellen about what he saw. Norma is invited to dinner with the family the next day, but the evening turns awkward as Vinnie and Ellen display open hostility towards Norma and refuse to speak to their father, while Ann, the most level-headed among the kids, privately chastises her boyfriend Vinnie for his immature behavior. Marion, however, seems oblivious to any suspicion and when Cliff angrily says that he has had enough of being treated like a wind-up robot, ready to serve everyone's needs, she soothes him with warmly comforting and gently dismissive words that his various overreactions are due to tiredness and misunderstanding, that too much excitement in life would be just that, too much, and then starts getting ready for bed. Cliff, frustrated and sleepless, gets up and leaves the bedroom to call Norma, asking her to meet him the next day, just as Vinnie comes in and overhears the key part of his father's conversation.

During the dinner, Norma invites Marion and Ann to visit her design studio and, while there, Ann tries finding the right way to tell Norma that a rendez-vous with Cliff would cause unhappiness to the family, but Norma is sensitive enough to understand the import of Ann's meaning. After Marion and Ann leave, she calls off the meeting. Cliff, who can no longer control himself, goes to Norma's hotel and declares his love for her, but she tearfully asks him for time to think. In the meantime, Vinnie and Ellen go to Norma and begin with accusations, but as she points out their self-centered neglect of their father, they wind up pleading with her not to break up their parents' marriage.

Ultimately, in another tearful confrontation with Cliff, Norma tells him that he would always regret abandoning his family and that she must leave alone. Cliff is left alone with his wind-up robot in his office as it goes back and forth on his desk. Later, back at the house, Vinnie reconciles with Ann, admitting that he was immature and selfish. Cliff looks longingly out a window as a plane carrying Norma flies overhead. In her seat on the plane, Norma has tears in her eyes, while Cliff is left to contemplate what is to become of his and Marion's marriage.

Cast

  • Barbara Stanwyck as Norma Vail
  • Fred MacMurray as Clifford Groves
  • Joan Bennett as Marion Groves
  • William Reynolds as Vinnie
  • Pat Crowley as Ann
  • Gigi Perreau as Ellen
  • Jane Darwell as Mrs. Rogers
  • Race Gentry as Bob
  • Myrna Hansen as Ruth
  • Judy Nugent as Frankie
  • Paul Smith as Bellboy
  • Helen Kleeb as Miss Walker
  • Jane Howard as Flower Girl
  • Frances Mercer as Ruth Doran
  • Sheila Bromley as Woman from Pasadena
  • Dorothy Bruce as Sales Manager
  • Hermine Sterler as Tourist's Wife
  • Fred Nurney as Tourist
  • Hal Smith as Bartender

Production notes

Twenty two years earlier, Universal produced a same-titled version of this story, directed by Edward Sloman. Released in November 1934, the film provided an infrequent leading role for character star Frank Morgan (five years before The Wizard of Oz), with Binnie Barnes as his old flame and Lois Wilson as his wife.

Douglas Sirk originally wanted There's Always Tomorrow to shot in color, but Universal refused; the studio, however, did grant the director's request of having cinematographer Russell Metty work on the film.

The scenes at the fictional Palm Valley Inn were filmed at the Apple Valley Inn.

In this film MacMurray's character says to Stanwyck's: "After all these years ... it's certainly wonderful to see you again.", and she replies, "It's wonderful to see you too." MacMurray and Stanwyck had previously starred together in three other films: the Christmas romantic comedy trial film Remember the Night, a western film called The Moonlighter, and twelve years earlier, in the classic film noir Double Indemnity.

Reception

Evaluation in film guides

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide gives There's Always Tomorrow 2½ stars (out of 4) calling it a "sudsy but well-acted soap opera", while Steven H. Scheuer's Movies on TV ups the rating to a 3 star (out of 4) evaluation, describing it as a "mordant, intelligent soaper". TimeOut Film Guide's Paul Taylor goes further, stating that it is "a brilliant example of his [Sirk's] mastery of lacerating irony" and concluding that "her [Stanwyck's] generically-correct fairytale 'sacrifice' of self to the sanctity of the family, and the sanctioned role of the independent woman, merely intensifies the romantic agony of both dreamer victims. Tomorrow never comes."

Assigning 3½ stars (out of 5), The Motion Picture Guide describes it as "another of director Sirk's melodramatic, bitter attacks on the values of American middle-class life in the 1950s" and informs that Sirk's planned conclusion "was even darker than what appeared on the screen. The ending he filmed has MacMurray's [toy] robot [Rex] marching across a table top--making a final connection between his character and Rex. The original scenario had Rex reaching the edge of the desk and toppling to the ground. After crashing to the floor, the robot would struggle through a few final kicks before the end credits rolled." In the write-up, Sirk's biographer, Michael Stern, quotes the director, "In tragedy the life always ends. By being dead, the hero is at the same time rescued from life's troubles. In melodrama, he lives on--in an unhappy happy end."

Home media

Universal first released this film on DVD in 2010 as part of The Barbara Stanwyck Collection from its "Universal Backlot Series", a 3-disc set featuring five other films (Internes Can't Take Money, The Great Man's Lady, The Bride Wore Boots, The Lady Gambles, and All I Desire). The transfer of There's Always Tomorrow from this set is presented in a full frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio and has a 4% video speed increase usually found in PAL Region DVDs, resulting in a total runtime of 81 minutes. Universal re-released the film in 2015 as a stand-alone DVD as part of its Universal Vault Series, which features no optional English subtitles, is framed in its theatrical widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio, and has the original 84-minute runtime. This version is also present on the 2018 TCM Showcase: Barbara Stanwyck DVD set (with The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity, and All I Desire).

On August 25, 2020, There's Always Tomorrow was released on Blu-ray in North America for the first time by Kino International under its subsidiary "Kino Lorber Studio Classics" with licensing by Universal Pictures. This release is presented in widescreen, has optional English subtitles, and the film's original trailer is included as a bonus feature (in widescreen format).

There are also DVD and Blu-ray releases of this film overseas, which use a slightly different widescreen transfer and some feature a textless version of the film trailer (in full frame).

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