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Skippy Homeier was only 13 years old when he wowed Broadway audiences with his performance in Tomorrow the World, playing a callous German boy indoctrinated by years in the Nazi youth movement before being sent to live in America with his uncle. The following year, he made his feature debut recreating the role for the film version of Tomorrow the World (1944), which took its title from Hitler's threat, "Today Germany, tomorrow the world!" In the role of Emil Bruckner, Homeier is openly hostile to the warmth and tolerance of American family life pictured in this film until uncle Fredric March applies some audience-pleasing discipline.
Young Homeier started his career in radio in his native Chicago at the age of 6. After Tomorrow the World, he was often tapped for pictures as a troubled, usually unsympathetic adolescent. As he aged, his on-screen name changed first to simply "Skip," then to "G.V. Homeier" (initials for his real name, George Vincent). As a young man in the 1950s, he often appeared in crime dramas, such as Cry Vengeance (1954), and Westerns like Budd Boetticher's The Tall T (1957), though his most famous role in this genre was as Jimmy Ringo in The Gunfighter (1950). In later years, he worked mainly in television, most notably as Judge Older in the Manson murders docu-drama Helter Skelter (1976).
The other leads from the stage version, however, did not get cast in the film version. Ralph Bellamy had extensive experience in motion pictures by 1944 - often as the "other man" in such screwball comedies as The Awful Truth (1937) and His Girl Friday (1940), but March, a distinguished stage performer himself, was considered to have more star power. Betty Field took over the role of March's girlfriend that was played on Broadway by Shirley Booth. A popular theater and radio star, Booth didn't get her first motion picture break until she was 54 years old, recreating her stage role in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) and winning a Best Actress Oscar in the bargain. For Field, the part of Leona was one of many acclaimed appearances between the late 30s and late 40s in such films as Of Mice and Men (1939, her debut), King's Row (1942), Jean Renoir's The Southerner (1945), and as F. Scott Fitzgerald's Daisy in The Great Gatsby (1949). She never achieved star status, however, and after Gatsby she made few films, usually turning up in supporting roles as a neurotic older woman in such movies as Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Butterfield 8 (1960), and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).
Another rising star at the time of this film's release was screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr., son of the famous Algonquin Round Table wit. Lardner Jr. was an uncredited contributor to the screenplays of A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), and Laura (1944). He also won an Oscar (with Michael Kanin) for penning the Tracy-Hepburn vehicle Woman of the Year (1942). But the values of tolerance and decency Lardner preached in Tomorrow the World didn't hold up too well in Hollywood a few years later. Blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten, he could not work under his own name between 1949 and 1965. Even his uncredited or pseudonymous work (under the name Philip Rush) was infrequent. It wasn't until he was billed for the screenplay of The Cincinnati Kid (1965) that he came back into official favor in the movie industry. Lardner won another Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for M*A*S*H (1970).
Tomorrow the World was one of a small handful of films of the period, among them The Seventh Cross (1944), that sought to depict the everyday German. Instead of focusing on cruel Nazi stereotypes, the film concerned itself with those who were misguided or victimized by Hitler's brutal regime. Nevertheless, the world was still at war in 1944, and young Nazi Emil had to be dealt a firm hand before he could be redeemed in the eyes of audiences. A lot of the credit for making his transformation believable has to go to the young Homeier and director Leslie Fenton, a former actor known more for action-adventure stories up to this point.
Director: Leslie Fenton
Producers: Lester Cowan, David Hall
Screenplay: Ring Lardner Jr., Leopold Atlas, based on the play by James Gow and Armand d'Usseau
Cinematography: Henry Sharp
Editing: Anne Bauchens
Art Direction: James Sullivan
Original Music: Louis Applebaum
Cast: Fredric March (Mike Frame), Betty Field (Leona Richards), Agnes Moorehead (Jessie), Skippy Homeier (Emil Bruckner), Joan Carroll (Pat Frame).
by Rob Nixon