Monday, September 20, 2010

Sobbing uncontrollably during Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

A couple of months ago - I add a bunch of Criterion Collection DVDs to my Netflix queue. Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)  is one of them. It gets buried at the bottom of a very long list. I forget about it.

Somewhat recently - TCM shows Make Way for Tomorrow. My mom watches it all the way through holding her bladder because she doesn't want to miss a single moment. When it ends, she's left confused but doesn't think about it since she is already running to the bathroom for relief.

The next day  - My mom calls me. This is a bilingual recreation of our conversation.

Mom - Raquelle yo vie una pelicula muy buena en el canal 213. Era tan bueno que yo aguantaba la pee-pee para no dejar de verlo. Pero no entendie el final. Yo quiero que tu me ayudas. / Raquelle I saw a very good movie on channel 213 (my mom's name for TCM). It was so good that I held my pee so I wouldn't stop watching it. But I couldn't understand the ending. I want you to help me.

Me - Come se llamaba?/What was it called? (This is a loaded question, usually my mom can't answer this and it's followed by a "What was it about?" "Who was in it?" which causes my mother to get very flustered indeed).

Mom - Yo lo escribi! Make. Way. For. Tomorrow./ I wrote it down. " "

Me - Esta bien. Voy a verlo para ayudarte entender el final./ Ok. I'll watch it to help you understand the ending.

I went to Netflix to see if the film was on DVD and was pleasantly surprised that it was and I had already put it on my queue. I moved it to the top of the list.

Now this isn't the first time my mother has asked me for help figuring out the ending of a film. If the ending has any kind of twist, she gets confused. When I explain the twist to her, then everything makes sense. She had some difficulty with the ending of The Woman in the Window (1944). In that case, she didn't want to believe the ending so she told herself that she misunderstood it. We watched that one together so we followed up the film with a good discussion about the plot. There have been a few movies in which I Googled the film to find out the twist and reported back to her, instead of watching them. In this case, since the film was already of interest to me, I decided to see it for myself.

Sunday evening  - Carlos and I just had dinner and we are deciding what movie to watch. I bring up the conversation with my mom and that she needed help understanding the movie. So in pops the DVD into the player and the film starts.

About 30 minutes into the film I start to cry.

The crying gets worse.

Carlos grabs me some tissues.

The crying turns into sobbing.

We have to fast forward through some parts of the film because I just can't take it.

Carlos begs me to stop the movie since it's clearly bothering me but I refuse because I want to help my mother understand the ending.

At the point in the film where the main couple is recreating their honeymoon, I already have a box of tissues, I am hugging a big blanket and I am sobbing uncontrollably.

The film mercifully ends.

Immediately after the film:

I call my mom and I ask her why in the name of all that is good would she make me watch this movie. The words come out of my mouth in between sobs. I explained the ending to her (again she just second-guessed herself, she understood it all along). She profusely apologized for making me watch the film. It's not her fault. She didn't know how it would affect me. Carlos isn't too happy that I suffered so much during the film. He put the DVD into the Netflix sleeve and sealed it up before I even had a chance to watch the DVD extras.

Plot (with some bias and some spoilers): Barkley (Victor Moore) and Lucy Cooper (Beulah Bondi) have been married for 50 years. They have five ungrateful children who are now grown and have lives of their own (not that their lives are any good anyway those idiots). The Coopers are about to be kicked out of their home and have nowhere to go. The ungrateful children split them up and take care of them bregrudgingly. One particularly evil daughter hates taking care of her father, that bitch, and wants to send him to her sister in California. This means the couple, still head-over-heels in love with each other, may be separated permanently because who knows if they will live to see each other again. Those heartless, selfish good-for-nothings separate their parents because at their old age they are an incovenience to them. Those same parents who gave birth to them, raised them, fed them, clothed them and sent them out into the world. And what do the parents get? Jack SHIT. Those ungrateful children should be lined up and shot.

Yes it's a sad film but what reason did I have to sob uncontrollably like I did? I'm talking heaving sobs complete with lots and lots of mucus.

First of all, thoughts of death follow me around. I've been known to have panic attacks about it. Thinking about impending death is not a good thing for me. Second of all, I just moved in with my beau Carlos. Thinking about what it would be like to be separated at an old age and to have death parts us makes me very very sad. Third of all, my 30th birthday is just right around the corner. I'm growing up. I'm getting older. And it scares me very much.

I recommend this film to all of those younger classic film fans who think they are so special because they are young. I think they need to be knocked off the pedestal they put themselves on.

And even though I clearly had a difficult time watching this, I think it's also a film everyone should see. It makes you appreciate life and the special people in it. And because of that, Make Way for Tomorrow is a classic.


  1. Arghh, those idiots children!! They are more evil than any villain in any film :( It's such a good movie! The scene I remember the most is when the old woman gets a call from her husband during the stupid bridge session of her daughter in law. Heartbreaking!

    I had no idea you understood Spanish.

  2. Clara - Si yo hablo espanol. :-) I'm so glad you agree with me. Those grown-up children were evil and selfish. Grrr!!! They made me so mad I wanted to smack each and every one of them.

  3. I love your movie discussion with your mother. I miss being able to do that. Only in my case, she was explaining things I didn't understand to me.

    This is such a good film, strange that it is not more well known. It seems to have been kept under wraps. I'd like to blog about it, but I would have a difficult time being objective. You're right, it raises strong emotions.

  4. Jacqueline - My mother comes from a Spanish-speaking country so a lot of her confusion (which really stems from her lack of self confidence in her own understanding) comes from the fact that she's not a native English speaker. I can see why this film was kept under wraps. Who wants to deal with this kind of thing? Very few people. It's easier just to sweep it under the rug and not think about it. But think about it we must. I hope you do a post about it. It's okay not to be objective. These blogs represent us don't they?

  5. Oh gosh, that sounds like me! I quite literally cry at everything! And I mean 'everything'! I'll have to check this movie out. Because I'm weird and like to torment myself. ;-D

  6. Oh, this was such a wonderful, beautiful film! I wept my way through it too. *grin* I also threw something at the TV at one point, because those kids were AWFUL.


    I've known about it for a year or so (because of some different books and such), but it sounds FAR too hard to watch! I HATE DEPRESSING MOVIES!

    Great review though! :-)

  8. Niamhy - I didn't even cry during Titanic and that really happened! For some reason, I couldn't hold back.

    Avalon - Ha! What did you throw?

    Millie - You need to watch this film. NEED. It's difficult but somethings in life are difficult. I worry about your generation and I think this is something the NEED to see. So please watch it.

  9. Raquelle: A wadded-up paper towel. It was the least damaging thing. =D

  10. Quite the contrary on Millie, I love depressing movies. ;)

    I agree with you on my generation; everyone just thinks its all lollipops and rainbows when its clearly not. This is definitely going on my netflix queue!

  11. It sounds like I will definitely have to see Make Way for Tomorrow! And, Quelle, you would be proud of me. I could halfway read your conversation with your mom in Spanish without reading the English translation!

  12. Splendid review! I haven't heard of this film before. There are so many lost treasures out there. Make Way For Tomorrow really sounds like a film I have to see. I love tragic films. I always cry when I see E.T. don't ask me why but it's my prime sobber.

  13. That's so weird-I didn't cry at Titanic either! I just didn't find it sad at all! It was just a bit too much melodramatic!

  14. Darn, I had wanted to tape this on TCM when it was on and I missed it... my mom saw it and said I should watch it (I do like depressing movies, for some reason, and she knows it.)

    I'm also plagued by thoughts of death, and scared silly about it. I go through spurts where I can't even sleep because I think about it too much, it's just so unsettling (definitely my biggest fear.) As much as I enjoy depressing movies, any that really concentrate on mortality (like Last Holiday. Serious depression ensued.) turn me inside out.

    Another Beulah Bondi film that has this same kind of feel is On Borrowed Time. I watched the whole movie through blurry eyes. I'm getting sad just thinking about it!! :(

  15. Raquelle, this was definitely a five-hankie movie (that's how my Mom would describe it). It depicts things that people don't like to think about, or have done and are ashamed. Wonderful movie. Have you seen "Of Human Hearts" with a young James Stewart and Beulah Bondie? He plays a thoughtless son and Bondi is a self-sacrificing mother who loves her baby no matter what. Wow, this one will do you in, too. Some of you guys mentioned Titanic. Did you mean the recent one done by James Cameron? It didn't make me cry either, but the one made in the 50's with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb was just wonderful, and I went through many tissue with that one! Thanks for a well-written and thought-provoking article, Raquelle.

  16. Love your blog, and great review :) Have a good rest of the weekend.

  17. I just wrote a review of "Make Way for Tomorrow" myself. In defense of the children, I will say that over the years, my three sisters and I have been responsible for our mom, who is now 97, and because of her personality and our spouses and small houses and $$$, and the years going on and on and on, it has not been easy. Everybody can't be a saint, I guess.

    I liked your review.

  18. Really enjoyable review. This is what makes the medium of film so wonderful.

  19. Sorry to come so late to the discussion. A friend introduced me to this picture last year and I had the same reaction as you. It is so ineluctably sad. I believe it was Orson Welles who said "it would make a stone cry." No wonder that such an incredible film has been forgotten - who is going to recommend that a friend watch the saddest movie ever made? It makes Umberto D. look like The Band Wagon. Even so, the love between those characters is disarmingly beautiful. Gut-wrenching, spritual, moving, and achingly real.

  20. There have been 3 movies I can remember which which made me sob uncontrollably literally - and still do every single time without fail.

    1) An Affair To Remember (Cary Grant).

    2)Schindlers List ('I could have done more' part).

    3. Wuthering Heights (Lawrence Olivier version - best in my opinion).

    I will watch 'Make Way For Tomorrow' and no doubt the same will happen.

  21. The 4th movie which has me sobbing uncontrollably is Limelight with Charlie Chaplin. The music and the ending make it unavoidable.


Leave me a comment! If it is a long one, make sure you save a draft of it elsewhere just in case Google gobbles it up and spits it out.

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook