Format: Noir Alley on TCM
Director: Felix E. Feist
I watched this film once before and did a brief write-up, so I won't belabor the points there. Instead, I'll dwell on how there's always multiple reasons to watch a movie, starting with "is it any good?" and "was the story worth it?" And, yes, and yes.
Watching Tomorrow is Another Day (1951) again, I found it seems to intersect at a lot of places in cinema and cinema history. It's not breaking ground, but it does feel like 1951 is a particular time and place in what we're talking about, and the aesthetics of how that story is done. And - it's helped along by the plot element of the basic set-up.
Steve Cochrane - who is becoming a personal fave - has just been released from prison after killing someone when he was still a teenager. Now in his early 30's, he doesn't really know anything about post-Depression America. Or how to function as an adult in society. He's basically a 15 year old kid in a grown-up's body wandering the streets of post-War America with no context for anything from a 1950's era car with power windows to how to get a job.
One of the curious aspects of watching movies from the 1920's - 1960's is getting used to the wardrobes, ideas and fashions of each era - and getting your head around what the 50's looked like compared to the 1930's, and that can all bleed together in hats and suits in black and white. But here it's a plot point to know the hat of 1951 is not the hat of 1935, and the cut of the suit is different (those of us who grew up in the 80's know our 1990's suit from our 2020 suit).
For us sitting in 2020, who are staring at the taxi dancer sequence with wonder - this movie may have the most straight-forward presentation of what was going on in these places that doesn't assume a lot of audience knowledge (as Cochrane's character tries to sort it out).
But the film also sits on the edge of the 1940's. The urban portions, where Cochrane heads to NYC, feel like any movie from 1944-1950 (and miles away from the NYC of Sweet Smell of Success in 1957). It's still dime-a-dance girls and tenement apartments. But the back third of the film where Cochrane and Ruth Roman join seasonal workers picking lettuce - feels almost pre-war. It's not the picture of post-war prosperity that we tend to think of, but which does show up in films like Border Incident and Thieves' Highway. The hand-to-mouth existence of anyone wasn't always shown - but here it's a reminder of the struggles of a lot of America that the movies never really sought to show once the war came along.
It's not the way anyone really intended you watch the film, but every once in a while the structure or story of a film of the era can be a window into the period in ways that weren't necessarily intended, but wtill jump out at a modern viewer.
I did like 95% of the movie again - but, man, that ending.