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DVDs. “Make Way for Tomorrow,” Shaw and More

The Auteurs Daily

Make Way for Tomorrow

"There are few American films as subtle, moving and bursting with human truth as Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), and few that have been as unjustly forgotten." So begins one of Dave Kehr's best pieces for the New York Times in a while, and that's saying something. "McCarey seriously contemplates for the first time the undoing of a couple, and the prospect brings out something new in him and rare in American movies: an acknowledgment that disappointment and failure are not only possible, but also make up the better part of human experience."

Make Way for Tomorrow is a "devastatingly moving story of an aged couple (Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi) who lose their home to the depression and their dignity and independence when their children separate them between their households," writes Sean Axmaker.

"The movie is not a melodramatic tearjerker," writes Roger Ebert. "It's so tough it might not be filmable today, when even Alzheimer's stories have happy endings." McCarey "made his name with laughter and uplift. He was the first to pair Laurel and Hardy, he directed the best Marx Brothers' movie (Duck Soup), he made those films our priest sent us to see, Going My Way and Bells of St Mary's. In the same year as Make Way for Tomorrow, he made Cary Grant a star in The Awful Truth. When McCarey won the Best Director Oscar for the latter, Peter Bogdanovich tells us, he stood up and said, 'You gave it to me for the wrong picture.'"

"Orson Welles reportedly said of the film, 'It would make a stone cry,' and, indeed, the tears that come are more than earned," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant. "As Make Way for Tomorrow proceeds, a heavy sense of the inevitable descends... and it is here that McCarey's masterful mise en scène recalls the spare profundity of a Japanese landscape print — no surprise that the film is the ostensible inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story."

Gary Tooze is more than happy with Criterion's package: "My favorite DVD of this early year. Our highest recommendation!" More from Tom Becker (DVD Verdict) and Jamie S Rich (Criterion Confessions).

"It's by now common knowledge that writers cannot be trusted with their own work," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant, "not even — or perhaps especially — highly celebrated ones, but by the 30s Shaw had already been awarded a Nobel prize, and with screenwriting still in its skittish infancy it seemed both logical and preferable to recruit the Irishman to helm scenario and dialog on his own films. Yet to watch Anthony Asquith's sleeper hit Pygmalion — [producer Gabriel] Pascal's first essay at big-screen Shaw and Criterion spine number 85 — as well as the three films collected in Eclipse Series 20, George Bernard Shaw on Film, is to in many ways observe paramount cinematic clumsiness, the work of a chained band of monstrous filmic talent buttressing a collection of incurably stagey ideas." Still, the package is "essential viewing for the dramatist's fans, and anyone interested in tracing the rough-trod path to the phenomenon of My Fair Lady." More from Christopher Kulik (DVD Verdict).

John McElwee on the Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 3: " There's revolution simmering in these seventy-minute kettles. If people had taken films more seriously then, they might have wondered what anarchy Warners was fermenting."

DVD roundups: Sean Axmaker, Brad Brevet, Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).

Updates: Michael Atkinson for IFC on Steve McQueen's Hunger and Joe Swanberg's Alexander the Last.

The New Yorker's Richard Brody writes and talks about Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us.

Updates, 2/25: "The revolution in Make Way for Tomorrow comes in three waves." Tag Gallagher illustrates in Criterion's Current.

"Whereas Ozu's film adopts a distance through a story and tone more responsive to and at ease with the flow of the world—the parents vacation to see their children, we travel around a lot, see difference houses and cities, and the children's treatment of their parents almost seems impersonal, symptomatic of society at the time—it is hard to believe McCarey's earlier picture was produced by a studio in 1937." Daniel Kasman here in The Notebook: "Make Way for Tomorrow is much harsher, more detailed, has a more minute focus. Fault, a nebulous judgment in Ozu's avoidance of psychology, rears its head in the American version."

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