Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937)
"It could make a rock cry" Orson Welles.
There are these directors that are completely forgotten for decades and after reissues or articles about their films they come back in fashion. In this moment this is the case for the films of Leo McCarey. Since the reissue of his masterpiece Make Way for Tomorrow by the tremendous folks of Criterion Collection, McCarey came back in the major directors of all time. His films, like An Affair to Remember, Duck Soup and The Awful Truth were already celebrated by movie buffs. But his more obscure films have the chance of being seen by more people with reissues like The Ruggles of Red Gap. Myself, I have only seen Duck Soup with the Marx brothers which made me laugh a lot by the creativity of the gags and the crazy story.
In Make Way for Tomorrow as said by Orson Welles, it's McCarey's skill to tell a wonderful little story about an aged couple that can't live in its house and that must live separated at their children's houses. The story is quite simple and did not take a bit of age. The subject is on topic, with all the economic disturbances of our time some aged people won't be able to afford to keep their homes and live on their own. The "propos" of the film feels like an American version of a Yasujiro Ozu film. But, it doesn't feel as a remake at all. It's the same sad light approach to life and the little moments of our lives.
Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi as the old couple are unforgettable; it's never often to see aged characters on the front of a story. The producers tend to think that the audience wouldn't be able to identify itself with these kinds of characters. Especially, because the audiences want to see young, beautiful and healthy people. In the case of Make Way for Tomorrow, the story is so well written and told that the age of the characters didn't bothered me at all. The sentimentality and nostalgia of the film is so well handled that it never feels tacky or too much. One of the best scenes is where Ma's talking to Pa on the phone in the living room filled with people playing cards. We become the "voyeur" who listens to a conversation that should have been private and that touches the viewer by its tenderness and honesty. I think this is one of the forces of the story, the feeling of truth, honesty and reality it has. The characters put away their dignity and have to face the facts and keep the faith they have in life to pass through it. There are some touching scenes that will stick with you for many days.
Without a doubt I think Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow is a masterpiece and deserves its place among the great films of the 1930's!
P.S.:I thought it was kinda cool to begin a review with an Orson Welles quote...
A Film Retrospective by Michaël Parent