Monday, April 18, 2016

"And Now Tomorrow" (1944)

ACK!  It's been more than a month since I reviewed an Alan Ladd movie!  Must rectify that.

(Note that I didn't say it's been more than a month since I watched an Alan Ladd movie.  Perish the thought!)

Rich, sophisticated Emily Blair (Loretta Young) has been deaf ever since an illness struck her during her engagement party.  She's seen every famous doctor, every authority on deafness, and with no success.  So she returns home to her seemingly patient fiance (Barry Sullivan), her sister (Susan Hayward), and her Aunt Em (Beulah Bondi), resigned to living out her life in silence.

Also returning home to that same town is unconventional Dr. Merek Vance (Alan Ladd), who has recently had much success treating deafness with some serums he's created.  Obviously, the local doctor is going to convince him to try to treat Emily Blair.  Obviously, they're going to fall in love.

Obviously, this is the sort of movie that I don't really gravitate toward.  Wouldn't you think?  It's got all the earmarks of weepy, maudlin, predictable fluff.

I know what you're thinking.  "Oh, but it's got Alan Ladd in it!  That's why Hamlette likes this movie.  She's got it bad for that guy, and if he wasn't there, she wouldn't care."

Naturally, Alan Ladd is a big draw for me here.  He couldn't be more adorable in his little doctoring outfits if he tried.  But actually, I saw this movie years and years ago on AMC, back in the 1990s when AMC showed American Movie Classics like you'd expect it to.  I never saw the end, but I remembered the title, that it was about a deaf woman and a doctor, and that she walked down a beautiful curved stairway.  I really wanted to know if she ever got her hearing back.  But this is one of those movies that never got released to VHS, so I had no hope of seeing it again, unless I should stumble on it on AMC again one day.  

(Don't you love how the hem of her skirt exactly matches the stripe on the book?)

About ten years later, when I fell in love with Raymond Chandler's writing, I learned that he'd co-written the screenplay.  That got me all interested in finding it, but it wasn't available on DVD either.  So the movie just kept lurking in my memory until earlier this year, when I started falling in love with Alan Ladd, and discovered that HE was the doctor in the movie.  Then I simply had to see it again, so I started scouring the internet.  And, to my great good fortune, it was released a couple of weeks later to DVD.

Don't get me wrong -- this movie is weepy, maudlin, and predictable.  But it's also sassy and smart and actually rather inspirational in a "oh, get over yourself and your problems and get on with your life already" sort of way.  Both of the main characters have spent too much time feeling sorry for themselves -- Emily Blair because she lost her hearing, Merek Vance because he grew up poor.  From each other, they learn that their particular problems aren't holding them back, but their fixation on them is.

I've read that Alan Ladd and Loretta Young didn't care a great deal for each other after some friction on the set of the film China, which they made together a year or so earlier.  Some people think they have a lack of chemistry here, but I disagree.  Whether it's because they didn't like each other personally, or because that's how the characters behave in the book (which I haven't read yet, though it's wending its way to me in a box through the mail even now), or because the director told them to be this way, or because they both tend to play their parts a bit stand-offish, I don't know.  But both characters come across beautifully as people who are accustomed to keeping the world at arms' length.  Their first reaction to each other is antagonistic, despite finding each other attractive.  As if they find themselves desiring each other even though they would rather not.

That antagonism only slowly dissolves into a mutual respect.  Dr. Vance goes from looking down his nose at the uppity Miss Blair... still condescending, but trying to figure out what makes her tick... admitting to himself that he quite likes and respects her, actually.

Dr. Vance spends a lot of time watching the other characters.  Not in a creepy way, but he's always placing himself on the outside of groups so he can observe them.  It's a great way to highlight not only the fact that he's a scientist who studies humans, but that he constantly feels like an outsider.

Because he keeps his distance, he sees things that the others don't, like the fact that Emily's dear fiance Jeff has fallen in love with her sister while she's been away.  Vance gloms onto this the moment he sees them together, but Emily is blithely oblivious for most of the movie.  He also realized she was deaf just by watching her before he had any idea who she was.

I like the cash register placed between their reflections in the first scene.
It says, bold and clear, that a lot of money separates these two people.
So I very much approve of the character development in this film.  I also love the dialog, and I'm firmly convinced all my favorite lines were penned by Raymond Chandler and not his co-writer.  Vance gets almost all of them, snappers like, "Deafness isn't the only thing I'd like to cure you of, Miss Blair," which he says when she's not looking at his face, so she can't read his lips.  He makes me laugh a lot with moments like that, and he has several of them, where he tells her something tough or tactless but knows she can't hear him.

And yes, I'm nutty about Alan Ladd.  I love his work here, starting out bitter and antagonistic and then slowly relaxing.  By the end, he's actually happy!  He is!  I'm so thrilled!  A happy ending to an Alan Ladd movie!  Yay!

This is my 9th movie reviewed for the Period Drama Challenge.  Which means it's time to talk costumes.  They're by Edith Head, so of course they are enchanting.  Like Emily's dress for her engagement party during a flashback, which is so frothy I expect it to float away with her:

You can see why I remembered that staircase, can't you?

Emily favors round hats.  I don't care for the first one, but I rather like the second.

She also wears a lot of poofy and impractical things, I'm sure to highlight her wealthy, spoiled upbringing.  I mean, look at those sleeves!  There's a war on, lady!  Aren't you supposed to be rationing fabrics or something?  You could make a whole 'nother shirt from those sleeves.

Sister Janice gets much less fussy outfits, very pert and fashionable, like her.

I really love her in this white evening dress.

I couldn't get a good shot of how swishy it is, but this gives you a bit of an idea.

And look at that intricate back and sleeves for the bodice!  Yowza.

The men wear a variety of nice suits, and you saw above the doctor-y outfit Vance gets.  We also get one delicious scene where he's in suspenders.  I adore suspenders.

Is this movie family-friendly?  Yes, it is!  No innuendo, no cussing, no violence.  A little kissing, and of course that plotline of Jeff cheating on his fiancee, so I suppose some people might object to that.  But really, such a clean and sweet movie.  I showed it to my mom a couple weeks ago, and she quite liked it.

And, because I took all these delicious screencaps of Alan Ladd and can't bear not to include at least a few of them, here's a small sampling.

(This is from the very beginning, when he asks for
"Coffee -- hot, strong, and made this year."
Is that a Raymond Chandler line or what?)

All right, you get the idea, so I'll lay off now :-)


  1. He is raaaaaaaaaaaaawther good looking, no?

    (Sorry about that. ;-) )

    No, really, he is quite handsome. And Emily is very pretty, too. I love her engagement-party dress.

    1. Jessica, yes, raaahther. I think, anyway. Especially when he was in his 30s, like here.

      I need to see more of Loretta Young. She was quite cool in this.

  2. Oohhh....I'm not too keen on black-and-white films, but this one's got me hooked! :) And those costumes!!!! Goodness, they're gorgeous! :D That staircase looks so dreamy... :-)

    1. Oh, and also wanted to let you know that you've been tagged :) If you're interested, you can check it out here:

    2. Blessing Counter, oh my, really? Well, I hope you don't let that stop you from investigating some good old movies -- there are times when I infinitely prefer things in black-and-white, but I'm weird, I know.

      Thanks for the tag! I'll check it out after breakfast :-)

  3. I suspect that I've been missing out by not watching Alan Ladd films, but literally I think the only one I've ever seen is Shane, and I was waaaay too young to appreciate or like it.

    And like you, this one doesn't much sound like a movie I'd like, but you gave it an endearing tone and I like snappy dialogue on films so I may have to see if the library has it. At least it's on DVD! Yay!

    1. Heh heh, you and me both, Carissa! Until February, the only thing I really knew Alan Ladd for was Shane. I'd seen this many moons ago, but didn't know who he was at the time, and I'd seen This Gun for Hire once, and... I just thought of him as the guy who played Shane. Like I once thought of Dana Andrews as the guy in State Fair with Dick Tracy hair.

      And now, well... um... er... I own 13 Alan Ladd films. I haven't watched them all yet because of pesky life getting in the way, but come next month I'm going on a binge.

      Full disclosure: the DVD is terrible. I could barely tolerate it on my parents' big new HD TV set. It's okay on my old CRT hulking beastie of a TV, but on my computer, it's awful too, so not great for digital viewing, I guess. I actually bought a grey-market copy before the official one was released, and it has a better picture. Isn't that awful???

  4. I love old black and white movies, and this one sounds good. I've always enjoyed watching Loretta Young. She's such a lady.

    1. Jennifer, she really does have that ladylike thing down pat. It's a sweet movie.

  5. Eek, this looks so cute! I've never heard of it and I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for it.
    That white evening dress is DIVINE. Just the sort of dress I'd love to wear. :)

    1. Natalie, it's pretty obscure, so I'm not surprised you've never heard of it.


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