George Cleveland

It Happened Tomorrow (1944, René Clair)

At first blush—with the way too obvious exception of Jack Oakie—It Happened Tomorrow seemingly has all the parts needed for success. Seemingly. Dick Powell’s an affable lead; only the role requires no heavy-lifting, which is problematic considering he spends much of the film in one mortal danger or another. Linda Darnell’s an appealing love interest; only she gets less than squat to do in the film. Director Clair does really well with some of the sequences; only other ones he doesn’t. Powell and Darnell are at least consistent—he’s consistently affable and his role consistently requires very little, she’s consistently appealing and she consistently gets treated like scenery. Sometimes inanimate scenery. Clair’s frustratingly back and forth.

Tomorrow has some really saccharine bookends, which Clair and co-screenwriter Dudley Nichols sort of bungle. It goes on way too long, it’s never as cute as Clair seems to think, and it’s just there to manipulate audience expectation. The film then settles into the flashback setting—the late nineteenth century (as embodied by studio backlot) newspaperman Powell has just gotten his big promotion to reporter. He’s written his requisite 500 obituaries, it’s time for the front page. Only he’s nervous about it (and completely blotto); kindly newspaper archivist John Philliber talks fancifully about how if only Powell had tomorrow’s paper, he’d know what he was going to do. Powell doesn’t think much of it and goes out for more drinking, ending up at Oakie and Darnell’s magic show.

It’s love at first sight for Powell and Darnell (well, Powell anyway). Oakie’s her protective uncle, who starts the film with a bad Italian accent, which later disappears without any comment because apparently he’s not actually Italian. It never gets mentioned but it’s also not like you could tell if Oakie was doing a bad sincere Italian accent or a bad insincere one. His performance is abysmal. It must have played different in 1944 because Clair lets him crowd everyone out of his scenes with these protracted deliveries. They never amount to anything. The main plot is Powell and the future newspapers Philliber (who’s not good) ends up giving him, but the ostensible main subplot about Powell and Darnell becomes Powell and Oakie. Once Darnell gets some potential, the film dumps her back into the set dressing category.

At least guys aren’t just ogling her then.

Everyone’s ignoring her. I’m not even sure she’s in some of the shots she’s supposedly in. At one point she doesn’t get to participate in Powell trying to get rich quick because nineteenth century sexism but it’s a movie about magical newspapers so why can’t Clair and Nichols let her into the betting room?

Because there’s not enough room. Because Oakie’s already pushing Powell out.

The first half or so Tomorrow is okay build-up; the second half is constant disappointment.

Edward Brophy has a small part as the betting guy and you wish you could hug him. The film doesn’t have very many wholly successful performances, big parts or small. For example, Edgar Kennedy ought to be great as the police inspector who knows something’s up with Powell and his fortuneteller reporting-style, but it’s—again—a lousy part.

There are a couple great moments in the film. Powell and Darnell’s first date, where they get distracted by their chemistry. And when Darnell’s got to wear one of Powell’s suits. There’s some promise in that scene. Shame Darnell gets downgraded right after it.

The scene where she protests she won’t be treated like anyone’s property then somehow gets treated even worse is foreboding, but even it doesn’t foretell the excessive use of Oakie in the second half.



Directed by René Clair; screenplay by Helene Fraenkel, Dudley Nichols, and Clair, based on a play by Lord Dunsany and a story by Hugh Wedlock Jr. and Howard Snyder; directors of photography, Eugen Schüfftan and Archie Stout; edited by Fred Pressburger; music by Robert Stolz; produced by Arnold Pressburger; released by United Artists.

Starring Dick Powell (Lawrence Stevens), Linda Darnell (Sylvia), Jack Oakie (Cigolini), Edgar Kennedy (Inspector Mulrooney), John Philliber (Pop Benson), and George Cleveland (Mr. Gordon).

This post is part of the Made in 1944 Blogathon hosted by Robin of Pop Culture Reverie.

Revolt of the Zombies (1936, Victor Halperin)

What an unmitigated disaster.

It takes a lot for me to open with such a statement–well, maybe not, but certainly for a film I finished watching, even if it only does run sixty-two minutes.

But Revolt of the Zombies might be one of the worst things ever and really shouldn’t be. Okay, worst things ever is an overstatement, but it really should have been better.

It opens as a war film, set during the first World War, with zombies–the brainwashed kind, not the flesh-eating–being used as a weapon. Interesting idea, kind of groundbreaking for 1936. But then the film rushes off to Cambodia, where a bunch of Europeans take time off from the war to try and destroy the secret of zombies, so no other power can use it.

Then the film turns into this turgid soap opera with Dorothy Stone playing a scheming harpy who seduces and gets engaged to Dean Jagger in hopes of getting his best friend, Robert Noland, interested in her.

Once she does, Jagger loses it and starts turning everyone into a zombie in order to win her.

Or some such nonsense. It’s really hurried and almost impossible to follow… with some of the terrible acting–Jagger and Stone are particularly atrocious–to complement the terrible script.

There’s some nice rear screen footage of Angkor, but the film’s dreadfully cheap. There’s zero filmmaking ingenuity here–Halperin’s direction seems almost embarrassed.

It might’ve had a chance if they’d stayed in France.



Directed by Victor Halperin; written by Victor Halperin, Howard Higgin and Rollo Lloyd; director of photography, Jockey Arthur Feindel and Arthur Martinelli; edited by Douglass Biggs; produced by Edward Halperin; produced by Academy Pictures Distributing Corporation.

Starring Dorothy Stone (Claire Duval), Dean Jagger (Armand Louque), Roy D’Arcy (Col. Mazovia), Robert Noland (Clifford Grayson), George Cleveland (Gen. Duval), E. Alyn Warren (Dr. Trevissant), Carl Stockdale (Ignacio MacDonald), William Crowell (Priest Tsiang), Teru Shimada (Buna) and Adolph Milar (Gen. von Schelling).

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