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Blu-ray Review Make Way for Tomorrow Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Senior HTF Member
Apr 24, 2006
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
Make Way for Tomorrow Blu-ray Review

When Leo McCarey stepped up to the podium to accept the 1937 Oscar for Best Director for the now classic screwball comedy The Awful Truth, he thanked the Academy but added, “You gave it to me for the wrong picture.” Yes, the movie that the legendary director felt he should have been honored for remained for his entire life his favorite film: Make Way for Tomorrow. This 1937 steely melodrama doesn’t have the zest of his Oscar-winning film of that same year, but its comedy and drama are carefully wrought and quite memorable in their own right. Was McCarey right or was the Academy? Generations of movie lovers have argued about it for years, but I think the Oscars got it right for a change. That doesn’t negate, however, the very real accomplishment present in Make Way for Tomorrow. This new Blu-ray package updates Criterion’s original 2010 release of the movie on DVD.

Studio: Criterion

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

keep case

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 05/12/2015

MSRP: $39.95

The Production Rating: 4/5

With their homestead foreclosed on by the bank, golden anniversary married couple Barkley and Lucy Cooper (Victor Moore, Beulah Bondi) find they have nowhere to go. Their five children balk at taking them both in; still in the midst of the depression, they’re barely making ends meet themselves, but they finally decide that son George (Thomas Mitchell) and his wife Anita (Fay Bainter) will take Lucy while daughter Cora (Elizabeth Risdon) and her husband Bill (Ralph Remley) will take Barkley at least for a few months each until other siblings can take over. But they don’t go out of their way to make either of the “interlopers” especially comfortable or welcome in their respective homes. Lucy must bunk with George’s teenaged daughter Rhoda (Barbara Read) while Cora puts her father up in the parlor on the sofa. With the loving old couple separated by three hundred miles and practically estranged from the households where they’re living, it becomes more and more difficult for them to reconcile their feelings of purposelessness and loss.

This is probably the least sentimental melodrama featuring old people dealing with the ravages of time that has ever been made. The screenplay by Vina Delmar is rather harsh and unforgiving with both Lucy and Bark, but no one in the family, not parents nor their children, emerges blameless. Lucy’s intrusion into Anita’s bridge classes is almost cruel in its directness and lack of tact (Lucy rather absurdly reveals the cards in various competing hands; she blithely rocks away while her creaking chair distracts everyone, and yet a moving scene where a call from her beloved Bark must be taken in the same room where bridge is being played, the adults shamefacedly listening while Lucy speaks half truths about her life there, continues to haunt throughout the remainder of the movie.) Just as unsettling is the icy treatment Cora gives her father who’s suffering with a cold, trundling him into the bedroom only when the doctor arrives so she can hide her cruel treatment of him. Later when dear elderly merchant Max Rubens (Maurice Moscovitch) brings over some soup, she tries to mask her shameful treatment with outrage at his effrontery, but Max easily and rightly puts her in her place. The unpleasantness and barely masked resentment is forgotten in the film’s last half hour, an idyllic reunion of the couple (and the best directed sequence in the picture) for a sort of “condemned man’s last meal” (he’s being shipped off to California; she’s going to an old age home for women) as they return to the site of their honeymoon and are given a royal reception by strangers, the antithesis of their treatment during the film’s preceding hour by their own children. It certainly helps to make the film’s final agonizing moments more endurable.

Beulah Bondi gives the film’s most astonishing performance. Playing a character clearly twenty or thirty years her senior, she’s completely and utterly believable as an old woman and heartrending in every scene as the loving mother who simply can’t seem to do anything right. Victor Moore, certainly better known as a comic presence in scores of movies before this one, plays against type here and offers a lovely, affectionate glimpse of resigned old age. Future Oscar-winners Thomas Mitchell and Fay Bainter play off one another’s guilt and guile beautifully while Maurice Moscovitch steals all of his scenes as the amiable storekeeper who can offer friendship and simple advice without expecting anything in return. Louise Beavers as the maid Mamie also figures wonderfully in a couple of quite unforgettable scenes.

Video Rating: 3/5  3D Rating: NA

The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film grain is heavier than one is usually accustomed to in viewing movies on disc from the 1930s, but at least Universal didn’t do the scrub job on this that it did with To Kill a Mockingbird. Grayscale rendering is adequate without the deepest depths of black, and you’ll note a couple of white scratches amid lots of little anomalies and some occasional bits of debris that show up momentarily throughout the presentation. There’s just a bit of jitter noticed early-on, too. The movie has been divided into 11 chapters.

Audio Rating: 3.5/5

The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is stronger than one might be expecting with fidelity good for a film from this period. Engineers, however, weren’t completely successful in removing all of the hiss from the encode as it’s noticeable once in a while during quieter scenes. Dialogue, however, comes across strongly and is never compromised by the occasional music cues of Victor Young and George Antheil or the sound effects.

Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

Tomorrow, Yesterday, and Today (19:53, HD): a 2009 video interview with writer-director Peter Bogdanovich detailing the films and career of writer-director Leo McCarey with special focus on Make Way for Tomorrow.

Gary Giddins Interview (20:09, HD): the film critic speaks on the film’s achievements, its handling of the societal move away from children’s assuming responsibility for their aging parents, and its place in the film oeuvre of Leo McCarey. He also covers some of the same ground as Bogdanovich in discussing McCarey’s place in the industry during his own era and today.

Thirty-Page Booklet: contains complete cast and crew lists, a selection of stills from the film, and three fascinating essays: critic Tag Gallagher’s analysis of the movie in depth, director Bernard Tavernier’s celebration of the movie and his memorable first and subsequent encounters with it, and excerpts from critic Robin Wood’s examination of the movie in his book Sexual Politics & Narrative Film.

Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

One of the least seen major films in the career of Oscar-winning director Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow now comes to Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection. We welcome it to the fold with open arms. Now fans of the director can see both The Awful Truth and Make Way for Tomorrow to decide which film was the more deserving choice for awards that year.

Reviewed By: Matt Hough

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Robert Crawford

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 1998
Real Name
I've never seen this film beforehand, but after watching "The Awful Truth" on Criterion Blu-ray, I'm going to buy this release.

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