One of the unsung classic tragedies of American cinema, Make Way for Tomorrow is far less well known than director Leo McCarey’s other film from the same year, The Awful Truth. When McCarey won best director for that film, he famously accepted by saying “Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture!” A sly joke, but he was right.
The film is about family and communication, subjects relevant to just about everyone but which tend to be underexplored in cinema as they relate to the elderly. Barkley (Victor Moore) and Lucy (Beulah Bondi), faced with depression-era job loss and lacking income, find themselves with nowhere to go and call their adult children for help. One child agrees to house the two for the long-term, initially, but asks for three months to convince her husband. In the meantime, two other children agree to each take one; Lucy moves to New York with her son and his family while Bart moves three hundred miles away with a daughter. Soon enough, tensions emerge as the parents prove difficult for their ever-busy children. All the while, the child who had agreed to house the two indefinitely tries, half-heartedly, to convince her husband to no avail and soon gives up. It’s easy to see how Make Way for Tomorrow was an inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story, the greatest film ever made about family. Continue reading