Sog.: dal romanzo Years Are So Long di Josephine Lawrence e dalla pièce omonima di Helen e Nolan Leary. Scen.: Viña Delmar. F.: William C. Mellor. M.: LeRoy Stone. Scgf.: Hans Dreier, Bernard Herzbrun. Mus.: Boris Morros. Int.: Victor Moore (Barkeley Cooper), Beulah Bondi (Lucy Cooper), Fay Bainter (Anita Cooper), Thomas Mitchell (George Cooper), Maurice Moscovitch (Max Rubens), Minna Gombell (Nellie Chase), Porter Hall (Harvey Chase) Prod.: Paramount Pictures · 35 mm. D.: 91’. Bn.
Accepting his Oscar for directing The Awful Truth, McCarey famously told the members of the Academy, “Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture”. McCarey was, of course, referring to his other film of 1937, Make Way for Tomorrow, a film that had failed so resoundingly at the box office that Paramount declined to renew his contract. If, today, the film is acknowledged as one of McCarey’s greatest achievements, one is still hard pressed to choose between it and The Awful Truth – here are two equally profound, equally personal and equally revolutionary films on the same subject (the sanctity of marriage, considered in the full religious sense of the term), shot with the same deep sense of improvisatory freedom, yet situated on entirely different emotional levels.
Where The Awful Truth explodes with the joy of love tested and proved triumphant, Make Way for Tomorrow is, in the words of Jacques Lourcelles, “the masterpiece of the cinema of cruelty, surpassing, in the almost unbearable intensity of its closing sequences, the best work of the greatest specialists of the genre (including, for example, Buñuel)”. The story of an elderly couple, played by Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, whose lifetime of sacrifice for their children (and each other) results in their final, brutal separation, the film imagines the utter, systematic failure of the network of relationships that binds together McCarey’s universe – a network that begins with the romantic couple, extends through family, friends and community, pointing upward to the glory of democratic government, and finally to the splendor of a benevolent, if frustratingly distant, God above all. With Make Way for Tomorrow, McCarey dares to ask himself the question that every great artist must confront: what if his most deeply held beliefs are wrong? For McCarey, the most supremely social of filmmakers, here is the most awful truth: the knowledge that man is born alone, and that alone he will die.