Make Way For Tomorrow
With the help of the Marx Brothers and other comedy greats, Leo McCarey made a lot of audiences laugh. He also made them swoon with romances like An Affair to Remember. But in time it may become clear that Make Way for Tomorrow, his depression-era drama about an aging couple who come to depend upon their difficult children, is his most important film.
The Criterion Collection’s exquisite restoration has a lot to do with the film’s appearance on this list. While Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece, Tokyo Story, has long been revered by film enthusiasts around the globe, Ozu himself spoke of the influence of Hollywood pictures on his vision and the influence of Make Way for Tomorrow is obvious.
What may surprise you is that McCarey’s film surpasses that Japanese masterpiece in complexity and nuance. It’s funny, romantic, political, beautiful to look at, discomforting, and ultimately profound. And where most filmmakers would have found a scapegoat among the bickering siblings who argue over what should be done with their father and mother, McCarey refuses to disgrace or idealize any of his characters.
Furthermore, the movie provides treasures rarely seen in American movies: an appealing romance about a couple married fifty years (played by Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi); a powerful reminder that independence can be corrosive to the conscience, especially when it comes to family relationships; and a moving exploration of the Fifth Commandment.
Make Way for Tomorrow should come with a caution: This film might complicate your relationship with your parents, or your children in the best possible way.
The DVD features a revealing interview with Peter Bogdanovich, who tells us that Orson Welles was a great admirer of McCarey’s movie. Asked if he’d seen the film, Welles, said, “My god! I watched it four times and cried my eyes out every time! That movie would make a stone cry!"