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Beyond Tomorrow (1940) combines several themes and conventions that have long been popular with audiences: older and wiser characters who intervene to change or improve the lives of younger ones; supernatural presences who return to Earth to solve a problem among the living; and the notion that fame and fortune are far less important than togetherness and true love. And all this set during the Christmas holidays, a time when the value of joy and giving are utmost. Charles Dickens set the tone for much of this with his often-filmed story A Christmas Carol. And a similar structure would prove most potent several years after the release of this picture in Frank Capra's classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Three wealthy but lonely older men, Melton, Chadwick and O'Brien, invite two young strangers to dinner on Christmas Eve. The two guests fall in love and become friends with their three benefactors. The three rich industrialists are killed in a plane crash but continue their interest in unfinished earthly matters. The young man becomes an overnight sensation as a radio singer and falls under the spell of a glamorous Broadway actress. The ghosts then take it upon themselves to reunite him with his true love.
Beyond Tomorrow was produced by the highly respected cinematographer Lee Garmes. It was not unusual for directors, actors, even writers to become their own producers. But it is rarer to see a cinematographer take up that part of the business. But then Garmes was no run-of-the-mill cameraman. He was among the handful of cinematographers who raised motion-picture photography to an art in the 1920s and 1930s. His lighting techniques contributed tremendously to the appeal of the three movies he did for director Josef von Sternberg and star Marlene Dietrich: Morocco (1930, for which Garmes earned his first Oscar® nomination), Dishonored (1931), and Shanghai Express (1932, his first Academy Award). In pictures since 1918, Garmes's work includes Scarface (1932), Gone with the Wind (1939, for which he received no on-screen credit), Since You Went Away (1944, for which he was again nominated), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), Detective Story (1951), and The Desperate Hours (1955). His last Oscar® nod was for The Big Fisherman (1959). His producing career, however, was brief, and the pictures he made were far less successful, including a musical romance The Lilac Domino (1937), a collaboration with writer-director Ben Hecht set in the world of classical dance, Specter of the Rose (1946), and uncredited work on a little-known comic western, Shame, Shame on the Bixby Boys (1978), released the year of his death.
Beyond Tomorrow provided a showcase for a number of veteran performers. Harry Carey was a silent film star, in pictures since 1910, who kept his career going as a B-movie western player and A-list character actor in the sound era up through the late 1940s. John Ford dedicated his film Three Godfathers (1948) to the then recently deceased Carey, who had starred in two earlier versions, one in 1916 and another in 1919, directed by Ford himself. His son Harry Carey, Jr. became part of Ford's famous stock company and played in the 1948 remake. Father and son's sole movie together was Howard Hawks's Red River (1948), one of three movies released after Carey Sr.'s death.
Charles Winninger's cherubic face graced many a picture in his long career from 1915 to 1960, including Nothing Sacred (1937), Destry Rides Again (1939), and State Fair (1945). His best-known role, which he created on Broadway before playing in the first film version, was as Cap'n Andy in Show Boat (1936).
C. Aubrey Smith was one of Hollywood's most enduring character actors and supporting players, the very essence of the long-faced, distinguished stereotypical Englishman. Already over 50 when he began his film career in 1915, his amazing longevity and ability to convey his specific type of stock character in a wide range of stories carried him through more than 100 pictures up to his last, at the age of 85, Little Women (1949). When he wasn't busy standing up for the Empire in such films as Clive of India (1935) and The Four Feathers (1939), he could be seen supporting the likes of Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory (1933), Jean Harlow in Bombshell (1933) and China Seas (1935), and Irene Dunne in the war melodrama The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), his upper lip stiff for another dark time in English history.
In addition to the three leads, the film gave meaty roles to the great Maria Ouspenskaya, whose career stretched back to the early 1900s and her stage work with the legendary Stanislavski, and Rod LaRoque, a major player of the silent era and husband of another silent film star, Vilma Banky, from 1927 until his death in 1969.
Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Producer: Lee Garmes
Screenplay: Adele Comandini, story by Comandini and Mildred Cram
Cinematography: Lester White
Editing: Otto Ludwig
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson
Original Music: Harold Spina
Cast: Harry Carey (George Melton), C. Aubrey Smith (Alan Chadwick), Charles Winninger (Michael O'Brien), Richard Carlson (James Houston), Jean Parker (Jean Lawrence).
by Rob Nixon