When Tomorrow Comes – Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Boyer and Dunne soaper debuts on Blu

Active since the early days of Hollywood, director John M. Stahl was one of the 36 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927 and also briefly served as an executive at the independent Tiffany Studios during the silent era. Successfully making the transition to sound, he made his mark with Imitation of Life (1934, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar) and Magnificent Obsession (1935), both of which would be remade by Douglas Sirk during the 1950’s. He closed out the 1930’s by reuniting with Irene Dunne (his leading lady of 1932’s Back Street and Magnificent Obsession) for a third collaboration with When Tomorrow Comes. Kino has licensed the movie for its US home video debut.

When Tomorrow Comes (1939)
Released: 11 Aug 1939
Rated: Passed
Runtime: 90 min
Director: John M. Stahl
Genre: Drama, Romance
Cast: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Barbara O'Neil
Writer(s): James M. Cain, Dwight Taylor, Herbert J. Biberman
Plot: A concert pianist unhappily married to a mentally ill woman falls in love with a waitress.
IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 08/23/2022
MSRP: $29.99

The Production: 4/5

When famous concert pianist Philip Andre Chagal (Charles Boyer) stops in a New York restaurant for a bite to eat, he comes across struggling waitress Helen Lawrence (Irene Dunne) and is immediately attracted to her. The two fall in love and come even closer when – on a date in Long Island – the two are trapped by a hurricane and take shelter in a church until the storm subsides. However, their newfound love is shaken when Helen learns a surprising secret about Philip, and it forces her to make a painful decision between whether or not to end this whirlwind romance.

On the surface, When Tomorrow Comes – adapted from a short story by, of all people, James M. Cain! – does seem to resemble your typical 1930’s melodrama, but there’s more going on here than meets the eye. When it starts, there’s elements of working-class strife drama in the first act before adding elements of romance and disaster in the second act before finally reaching melodrama territory in the third and final act. Despite the shifts in tone throughout, director John M. Stahl maintains a steady hand from start to finish, keeping an air of spontaneity to the proceedings. Pulling this all together is the solid work of the cast in front of the camera as well as the crew behind it; regular Universal collaborators of the era Milton Carruth (film editor), Vera West (costume designer), Frank Skinner (composer, who went uncredited here) Russell Gausman (set decorator) and Jack Otterson (art director) all contributed solid work as usual here, but it was sound supervisor Bernard B. Brown who won the film’s lone Oscar for Sound Recording (all the more remarkable considering it was pitted against Gone with the Wind in the same category). While it fell under the shadow of more known Love Affair that same year (featuring the same two leading stars here), When Tomorrow Comes is worth revisiting for the remarkable mix of genres contained within that makes it more than just a straightforward melodrama.

After achieving Hollywood stardom in Algiers (1938) – the remake of Julien Duvivier’s Pepe le Moko (1937) – Charles Boyer affirmed his status as romantic leading man with his performance here (as well as Love Affair, which this film was often compared to upon first release); shortly after this movie’s release – while back in his native France making a movie – Boyer enlisted in the French Army shortly after the outbreak of WWII before being discharged to continue his move career (the French government felt he would be of more service to them as an actor). Also reunited with Boyer here from Love Affair (for which she earned her fourth Oscar nomination for Best Actress), Irene Dunne also reaffirmed why she was one of the top actresses of the decade with a solid turn as Helen; after earning her last Oscar nod for I Remember Mama (1948), she retired in the 1950’s to devote her time to philanthropy and even served as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the married wife of Philip, Barbara O’Neil’s performance is crucial to the final act of the movie, a year after this movie, she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the Duchess de Praslin in the cinematic adaptation of Rachel Field’s All This, and Heaven Too. Rounding out the cast here are Onslow Stevens as the other man in Helen’s life, Nydia Westman and Nella Walker as Helen’s fellow waitresses, Fritz Feld as Nicholas, uncredited appearances by Harry C. Bradley as the priest of the church Philip and Helen stay in during the hurricane, Milton Parsons as the church’s organist, Tom Dugan as a bum, Wate Boteler as the policeman on the pier, Frank Darien as the caretaker of the boathouse, James Flavin as a member of the Coast Guard on a Long Island road, Claire Du Brey, Mary Field, Florence Lake, Helen MacKellar and Mary Treen as another group of waitresses, Milburn Stone as the head busboy, Frank Winslow as an accordion player and Charles Sherlock as the Chagal chauffeur, just to name a few.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new 2K master created for this release. Film grain, gray scale and fine details appear to be faithfully represented with minimal cases of scratches, fading, tears and dirt present. This release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and music score (composed by an uncredited Frank Skinner) are all faithfully presented with minimal cases of distortion, fluttering, crackling, popping or hissing present. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by author/film historian Lee Gambin & costume historian Elissa Rose – Recorded for this release, Gambin and Rose talk about the film’s background, connections between this film and other melodramas of the 1930’s as well as the costumes of the film.

Bonus KLSC Trailers – Back Street (1941), Now and Forever, Desire, The Gilded Lady, The Good Fairy & Love Before Breakfast

Overall: 4/5

Universal’s biggest moneymaker of 1939 at the box office, When Tomorrow Comes showcases the talents of both Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne while also playing with the elements of melodrama in fine fashion. Kino once again demonstrates why they’re among the best boutique labels in the business, with a solid HD transfer and an engaging and insightful commentary track as a special feature. Very highly recommended.

Amazon.com: When Tomorrow Comes: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Barbara O’Neil, Onslow Stevens, Nella Walker, Nydia Westman, Fritz Feld, Eddie Acuff, John M. Stahl: Movies & TV

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

Post Disclaimer

Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.

Share this post:

View thread (5 replies)


Apr 30, 2003
Real Name
Boyer's intercontinental 'charm' was always lost on me. I think he fared better when playing the torture soul in Garden of Allah, or the outright villain in MGM's glamorous remake of Gaslight!


Supporting Actor
Jan 14, 2010
Pasadena, Ca.
Real Name
my copy is arriving today, boy that was quick! the artwork on this case is soo good, i already made a spot on my bookshelf to display it!


Supporting Actor
Jan 14, 2010
Pasadena, Ca.
Real Name
Most Popular