There’s Always Tomorrow

Monday, June 16th, 2003 | Film

The PFA in Berkeley is currently running a Douglas Sirk festival. On father’s day, Emily and I saw a stellar film, There’s Always Tomorrow, which paired Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, 12 years after their fatal tryst in Double Indemnity (1944). This film was about a bored father and toy manufacturer, MacMurray, whose children and wife take him for granted, into whose life the enchanting former employee Stanwyck reappears, many years after fleeing with no notice to her boss, with whom she had fallen in love, unbeknownst to him. She’s now a successful dress designer, in town for a conference where she’s delivering a speech, and she comes back conveniently just as he’s falling apart. They spend a weekend together, quite accidentally, and quite innocently, at a sunny ranch where MacMurray is scheduled to have a business meeting, and where Stanwyck is delivering her speech, but MacMurray’s older son happens upon them and assumes his father’s having an affair. MacMurray does indeed fall in love, and later in the film, rushes over to Stanwyck’s hotel and tells her he loves her. Truly a woman’s film, but from the perspective of the husband, whose love for another woman is explained as being the fault of the ungrateful kids and the wife who’s too concerned with her duty to the rest of the family. Everything turns out fine, of course, with hubby and wife and kids reunited and secure in the comfort of the family structure, and Stanwyck on the plane to New York, tears on her cheek, leaving her true love, but with the knowledge that it was a love that could never come to be. The son also ritually passes into manhood with a more complete understanding of the complexity of love and duty. The film was filled with cliches, the entire dialogue for instance, and all the characters, but Sirk somehow convinces us of his world and draws us into it. The photography also evokes classic film noir motifs with harsh shadows in the oppressive house, followed by bright outdoor light for the liberating weekend with Stanwyck. Stanwyck is an inversion of the classic femme fatale, luring Fred MacMurray not away from his wife, but back to her. She, for instance, confronts the children strongly when they ask her to get out of town, asking them how they could blame their father for loving another woman when it’s THEIR fault!

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