« Then and Now #4 | Main | Can digital video make you ill?, OR, Datapanik in the Year '08 »

July 07, 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Nathan Duke

This is one of the saddest films I've seen and that scene where Ma rocks in her chair during the social gathering held by her son's wife is pretty hard to sit through. Also, I wonder how much, if at all, this film influenced Ozu's "Tokyo Story."


This is indeed the saddest, most devastating film I've ever seen - and that includes documentaries. I don't think I could bear to watch it again, but I do think everyone should see it if they get an opportunity. This is real life and what many people face when their parents get old, especially if they are still raising children.

Sam Adams

DVDBeaver has notes for the tech-inclined on how to reburn DVDs w/o forced subtitles (linked, if memory serves, to the French editions of several early Hitchcock films). Wish there were some place to order French dvds that didn't charge an arm and a leg for shipping. L'horreur!


I was lucky enough to see this in Boston about 3 weeks ago, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I think you nailed it about the awkwardness of the apartment scenes; I felt irritation while Lucy while remaining sympathetic to her problems. It's a heartbreaking film.

As for its influence on Tokyo Story, I remember reading that while Ozu never saw this film, his screenwriter Noda Kogo has seen it and liked it. Does anyone have more information about that?

Miguel Marías

This is certainly good news - for anyone who has never seen "Make Way for Tomorrow" (by the way, you can find now as well, through Amazon.fr, "Ruggles of Red Gap", another great McCarey film). However, I'd try to find out whether Criterion or whoever owns now the film is going to transfer it on DVD, because unfortunately it has been published in France not by Carlotta or some reliable company, but by BAC, which is unfortunately the only or best source wherever of old Soviet movies (Barnet and others), but very carelessly made: unrestored or incomplete prints, utter disrespect for the frame ratio (they usually are cut on all four sides). So it might be wiser to continue waiting, specially at a cost of US$ 30+
Miguel Marías


I was also at that Boston screening. Another local who was at the screening wrote a fine blog post on it versus Tokyo Story here http://listeningear.blogspot.com/2008/06/honor-thy-father-and-mother.html

According to Bordwell's book on Ozu, you're right that Ozu didn't see the film but Noda had. Ozu's more direct influences from America appear to have been, in the prewar, Chaplin, Lubitsch, and Harold Lloyd. I remember reading that, while stationed somewhere during the war (Singapore?), Ozu came across some recent American films, at which time he and a few other filmmakers (some his collaborators?) saw some late-30s Ford, such as How Green Is My Valley and Stagecoach...


Is this the movie that Orson Welles gushes over to Bogdonavich in the audio version of "This is Orson Welles"? At no point in that series of interviews does Welles show more enthusiasm for a film. He's positively giddy.


@ Miguel Marias.
Please note that BAC is not Bachfilms (who brought us those lefthanded copies of russian/soviet cinema). So this may not be the finest edition, but their series of Paramount Classics is generally reliable.

Miguel Marías

Thanks, Jakob, you're right, it's BAC and not Bach Films. So that both French DVDs of McCarey in the '30s become a must.
Miguel Marías


Criterion is supposedly releasing this soon. Check the Criterion forum

Jonathan McMillan

There is a wonderful moment from the 1937 Academy Awards Ceremony; preserved on film and found in the twentieth minute of the “Frank Capra Jr. Remembers,” accompanying special feature for the dvd, “You Can’t Take It With You,” where Capra Sr., presents the Oscar to McCarey, shakes his hand, and then reaching back, grabs the statuette by the torso and with a good-natured, smiling expression, proceeds to attempt to wrestle it away from Mr. McCarey. What Mr. Capra seems to jokingly be trying to say is that he felt he should have won the award for his film, “Lost Horizon.” The ten-second clip ends before we see who wins the match, but we know that it is indeed McCarey, as we're certain Mr. Capra would surrender it gracefully. And besides, Mr. McCarey has a hold of “Oscar” by the base.

Then as he steps up to the podium to speak about his quirky 1937 comedy, Mr. McCarey said to all those in attendance, “Thanks, but you gave this to me for the wrong picture.”

Jonathan McMillan

Make Way for Tomorrow entered and exited American movie theaters in May, 1937 without much attention at all, and has retained that status to this day. It comes under the class of Movies That No One Has Seen But Me, Or So It Seems. It's hard to love it so much and have it unknown. That is, up until now.

Paramount allowed Leo McCarey to make this motion picture; (he waived his salary to be able to) but they refused to promote it due to its subject matter. Then, released from his contract due to its commercial failure, McCarey went on to score a hit for Columbia and a Best Director Academy award for himself with his quirky comedy, “The Awful Truth”

McCarey’s 1937 drama gave his two lead players more armfuls of the sweetest embraces, both physical and literary, than any lead actor/actress teaming in my long term memory. Victor Moore was splendid as the funny and warm old gentleman who had failed to prepare for his retirement, but it was always Beulah Bondi: surely the most versatile character actress on all levels the movies have known, that tugged at my heart during any number of her very stirring scenes. Her darling Lucy Cooper could be both a warm granny and a meddling, cantankerous old girl; but her performance of this 70-something woman was so real, it was staggering in its depth. All the more so when you realize that she was only in her mid-40’s at the time. It wasn’t the make-up, it was her crafting of this marvelous character.

-Author John Springer wrote in his book, “They Had Faces Then,” (Citadel Press, 1974) that, “Academy Awards ceased to have their full value the year she did not get a nomination for Make Way for Tomorrow. That role alone–if she had done none of her others–would make her a screen immortal.”
-Jean Renoir famously said that Leo McCarey understood people better than anyone else in Hollywood.
-Orson Welles said that this movie could make a stone cry.

After waiting for decades for this picture to be released on VHS, how wonderful that Criterion has granted MWFT its deserved restoration. Based on the menu of special features and judging by the devoted preservation Criterion has given to other motion picture treasures, I am confidently anticipating a tender and tearful reunion with the Coopers. Though it may not be as grand as other masterpieces such as Gone With The Wind, Citizen Kane or Casablanca, it inhabits my heart more dearly than those or most other films ever will.
And for that, I/we have Mr. Leo McCarey and our beloved Miss Beulah Bondi to thank.

Jonathan McMillan

New York Times, May 10, 1937

Leo McCarey's 'Make Way for Tomorrow'...has three qualities rarely encountered in the cinema: humanity, honesty and warmth. These precious attributes, nurtured and developed by the best script Vina Delmar has written, by Mr. McCarey's brilliant direction and by the superb performances of Victor Moore, Beulah Bondi and the rest, have produced an extraordinarily fine motion picture, one that may be counted upon to bid for a place among the 'ten best' of 1937..."

Review by Frank S. Nugent

Jonathan McMillan

Time, May 17, 1937

"The fact that a good story simply told is worth more than all the box office names, production numbers and expensive sets in Hollywood is one of those plain truths which the cinema industry finds hardest to assimilate...Taking a subject about which everyone has speculated -- the financial insecurity of old age -- the picture examines the case of Barkley Cooper (Victor Moore) and his wife Lucy (Beulah Bondi)...The story is presented with rare cinematic honesty. It is acted by Victor Moore, in his first serious cinema role, and seasoned Beulah Bondi with that effortless perfection which because it can come only from long experience, all younger actors lack. The result is one of the most persuasive documents about an old couple since the late Ring Lardner wrote Golden Honeymoon."

Jonathan McMillan

Beulah Bondi: Her Career is Proof that "Character Work" is Also an Art
by John Springer
Films in Review, May 1963
"...Two of Miss Bondi's films are especially good examples of her acting range and depth. In one she played the lead, and in the other a very small part. The lead was Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow, a motion picture classic of old age, which Paramount released in ‘37. McCarey, at that time best known for such screwball comedies as The Awful Truth and My Favorite Wife, was moved and excited when he read Josephine Lawrence's sad, bitter novel, The Years are So Long and, against Paramount opposition, insisted on bringing it to the screen. His picture was praised by critics everywhere, but audiences did not wish to see "a movie without glamour or sex-- just a picture about old folks." It was a total failure at the box-office, and although it has been available to television for many years, it has not been shown-- at least not in New York. An inquiry to CBS brought the reply that there were no plans to show it because "it wouldn't be liked."

Jonathan McMillan

From the article: "Dear Beulah," by Frank Aversano, in "American Classic Screen" March/April, 1979.
With the passage of time this highly rated, enjoyable film has lost none of its power to rend the heart and captivate. It may well be even more affecting with the passing of years. It was a remarkable oversight that the film did not receive even one academy award nomination. Without hyperbole, it can be said that Bondi's performance is as close to flawless as any can be; and anyone who wants an instant appreciation of this actress' talent and commitment to her roles could do no better than to see this film. It is the more impressive for having been sustained by for woman in her late forties. "I felt it was quite a challenge, "Bondi stated, "I think that Lucy Cooper is perhaps the oldest character I had ever played. I supposed her to be in her late seventies or early eighties. I thought it was a challenge, but I loved the story."

From the article: "Lord Fauntleroy at Seven and Granny Roles Ever Since," by Camilla Snyder, in New York Tribune, June 8, 1941.
"To be a convincing old woman," Bondi emphasized, "you must be a lover of life and a student of human nature. You must have a passionate desire to know what's going on in the heart and head of the character you are portraying. When you really care more about the character you are portraying than you care about yourself or how you look you are no longer just a person who earns a living by acting"

From the article: "Shun Stardom Says Beulah Bondi," by Harold Heffernan, in "The Chicago Daily News," February 14, 1940.
Nevertheless, regarding her lead in "Make Way for Tomorrow," Bondi declared, "Give me a good supporting role and that's all I ask. I never want to be a star again. The life of a star, with few exceptions, is brief. It's like a merry-go-round, only suddenly the music stops playing."

Vintage Jewelry Store

Wow! I remember the movie:) I saw it in the beginnings of sixties. I wonder to find a post about it in our modern time. I wish to everybody to watch "Make Way For Tomorrow", it is real gold classic and very good movie of those times.

Jonathan McMillan

I have come to believe, (closer everyday to being convinced) that since Mr. McCarey was not nominated for "Make Way for Tomorrow," and since picture directors vote for the director's category; his fellows, (collaboratively, or not) voted to give him the Academy Award for this film (out of professional reverence) rather than for the one which he was actually nominated.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad