Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) Review

Director: Leo McCarey

Genre(s): Drama, Romance

Runtime: 91 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

Orson Welles famously said that Make Way for Tomorrow “would make a stone cry.” I didn’t quite have the same reaction to the film as Welles, but I can still safely say that this is a very good movie. The plot concerns itself with an elderly couple, Barkley (Victor Moore) and Lucy Cooper (Beulah Bondi), who, upon losing their home to the bank, have to spend their time split up from each other at the homes of their grown children. A happy flick it ain’t, but this is still considered one of the semi-forgotten classics of 1930s American cinema.

One of the things that one notices first is how ahead-of-its-time Make Way for Tomorrow sometimes feels. It’s not just the production values, but also the nuance of the story it tells. There are no clear heroes or villains here, just humans trying to live their lives. The grown-up offspring may not want a whole lot to do with their parents, but the elderly characters are awkward, grumpy, intrusive, naive, and/or inept.

This motion picture really hits its stride in the last act (some obvious rear-projection aside). Parts of the film prior to this occasionally felt a bit stagey, but once the couple goes out and gets to enjoy the city for a few precious hours, the movie really blossoms. The excellent performances are just the icing on the cake. The ending is no cop-out.

While I certainly like Make Way for Tomorrow, I can’t really say I enjoy it as much as, say, Orson Welles. I’m not really sure why…maybe I needed a hero or two to root for and/or a villain or two to hiss at. Still, this is a moving look at aging, generation gaps, and people acting like people. It’s only about 91 minutes long and pretty modern-feeling, so, even if you’re not a fan of straight dramas, there isn’t much of an excuse to not watch this one.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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