Cast & Crew
Having served eighteen years in prison for killing his father, Bill Clark is a free man, but finds the outside lonely and bewildering. After he is betrayed by a friendly man who turns out to be a newspaper reporter looking for a scoop, Bill heads for New York City to avoid the attention generated by a sensational article that identifies him as having been the state's youngest murderer at the age of thirteen. Bill makes a tentative friendship with a platinum blonde taxi dancer, Catherine, who shows him around the city, but her boyfriend, George Conover, finds them at her apartment and starts a fight. Bill is knocked out, then Catherine accidentally shoots George in self-defense, but later leads Bill to believe that he did the shooting. They flee the city after learning from a radio broadcast that George, a police detective, died from the wound. Forming an uneasy alliance, Bill and Catherine borrow her brother's car to get over the state line, then stow away in a truck hauling automobiles across country. At a motel, after checking in as "Mike and Nikki Lewis," they decide to marry using the assumed names. To assist with their disguise, Catherine dyes her hair back to brunette. Although mutual trust is slow to develop, their passion for each other grows. Finally, while waiting to hop a train, Bill tells Catherine how, at the age of thirteen, he passed out while defending his mother from one of his father's brutal beatings, and awakened to find him shot dead. Unable to express remorse for the death of his father, Bill's honest relief was mistaken as coldbloodedness by the jury, who passed a guilty verdict in spite of his youth. With no destination in mind, Bill and Catherine continue to work their way west, and hitch a ride with Henry and Stella Dawson and their young son Johnny, who are on their way to Salinas, California, to work in the lettuce fields. After being convinced to join them, Bill and Catherine set up in one of the cottages provided for the workers. Although they remain wary of the law, they find happiness in the hard work and community of laborers. When Bill is offered a welding job which will begin after the harvest season and Catherine learns that she is pregnant, they seem content. Then Johnny finds a picture of Bill in a pulp magazine article about murderers, which offers a sizable reward for his capture. Although the Dawsons are fond of Bill and Catherine, Henry considers turning in Bill until Stella convinces him that they do not want "that kind of money." Bill is unaware of the Dawsons' discovery, but perceives a change in the Dawsons' behavior toward him, and feeling distrustful, backs out of a fishing trip with Henry. Later, Bill's sense of paranoia increases when he sees police at the Dawsons' cottage, and even after Stella tells Catherine that Henry's car has collided with an oil truck, his wariness does not completely diminish. Upon learning that Henry needs expensive medical treatment in Los Angeles for burns suffered in the crash, Stella reluctantly alerts the police about Bill hoping to get the reward money. Meanwhile, Bill and Catherine panic watching more police activity outside the Dawsons' cottage, and Catherine finally tells him that it was she who shot George. Disbelieving, Bill plans to escape at all costs, and when the sheriff arrives at their door, Bill is armed with a scythe. To keep him from getting into more trouble, Catherine disables Bill by shooting him in the shoulder and Bill is taken into custody. Trying to protect each other, both Bill and Catherine confess to killing George, but after listening to their stories, the New York district attorney finally tells them that George made a statement before he died, claiming that Catherine shot him in self-defense. Although their disappearance looked at first suspicious to the police, he explains, they were not being pursued until the pulp magazine printed the "half-cocked" story and created a need to clear up the misunderstanding. With the case closed, Bill and Catherine are free to resume their new life together.
Charles H. Clarke
Alan Crosland Jr.
William L. Kuehl
Maurice De Packh
C. A. Riggs
Tomorrow is Another Day
Tomorrow Is Another Day is a low-key take on the situation starring Steve Cochran as Bill Clark, a 34-year-old man who leaves prison after serving more than half his life behind bars, and Ruth Roman as Cay, a hard-shell dame at a dime-a-dance joint mixed up with a corrupt cop. A bad bounce of fate sends both of them on the road, two strangers tossed together on the run from a murder rap as. The story could have easily slipped into the cliché of the innocent corrupted by the predatory femme fatale, but there's much more to both characters in this unassuming thriller directed by Felix Feist.
Ex-con and social naïf Bill is a lamb in an urban culture of wolves ("I guess I'm the patsy this time," he mumbles, resigned to getting the short end of every situation) and Cay has been hardened by years of getting knocked around and making a living off her looks. Both are slow to trust, but once they start, it softens both of their shells and inspires both of them to tough out a hard life of manual labor rather than turn back to their previous lives. For a film in the bleak culture of noir, it's one of the more hopeful portraits of love among the damned.
Steve Cochran had brief success as a second-tier leading man in such films as Private Hell 36 (1954, opposite Ida Lupino) and Carnival Story (1954, in support of Anne Baxter) but more often played supporting roles, and he made something of a specialty of cold-blooded thugs in White Heat (1949) or Highway 301 (1950). Bill Clark is a departure for him, a sympathetic, vulnerable man who falls back on aggression and anger like a survival skill. The character went away on a murder rap as a hot-headed kid at the age of 16 and emerges as an adult in a culture he doesn't understand. His boyish face and dark good looks are perfect for the role and he plays Bill like a teenager in a man's body, emotionally immature, uncertain of how to act or behave, nervous and careful and feeling left out among the streetwise citizens.
Ruth Roman played the good girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) but she's better known playing tough, predatory characters in crime dramas (The Window, 1949) and westerns (The Far Country, 1954, Great Day in the Morning, 1956). That's how she makes her entrance in Tomorrow Is Another Day: stealing a prospective patsy from a fellow dancer. The naïve Bill is simply another mark to her, but as the film evolves from getaway thriller to road movie, she lets her human side show through. "I was going to be a dancer," she confesses in a moment of candor. "Started on my toes, ended up in my heels."
Director Felix Feist remains largely unknown even to most film buffs, but thanks to a handful of tough, lean, low-budget film noirs (notably The Devil Thumbs a Ride, 1947, and The Threat, 1949) and the cult science fiction film Donovan's Brain (1953), his reputation is slowly getting more respect. Though he worked almost entirely on the low-budget end of the business, Feist consistently created vivid, multi-faceted characters and found ways to turn limited sets into evocative spaces. In this film, as the couple flees New York, they take refuge in an automobile on a bulk carrier, hiding out of sight while the world goes past the car windows in a second-hand road trip. Even here, the romance of the road movie is a borrowed experience. Feist never considered himself an artist, according to the director's son. "I think he saw himself as a narrator, a story teller, and his job was to do the best he could with whatever he was given."
Like so many films of the era, the film rises to an emotional pitch of desperation unleashed and then abruptly takes a U-turn into a contrived dénouement that feels tacked on to satisfy Hollywood's demands for pro-law and order lip service and an uncomplicated happy ending. Feist, true to his nature, does his best with what he's given. After everything we've experienced, it's hard to take all the preachy speeches about trusting the system. Feist doesn't believe it anymore than we do, but he does believe in his characters.
Producer: Henry Blanke
Director: Felix Feist
Screenplay: Guy Endore (screenplay and story); Art Cohn (screenplay)
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Art Direction: Charles H. Clarke
Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof
Film Editing: Alan Crosland Jr.
Cast: Ruth Roman (Catherine 'Cay' Higgins), Steve Cochran (Bill Clark/Mike Lewis), Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Dawson), Ray Tealn (Mr. Dawson), Morris Ankrum (Hugh Wagner), John Kellogg (Dan Monroe), Lee Patrick (Janet Higgins), Hugh Sanders (Detective Lt. George Conover), Stuart Randall (Frank Higgins), Robert Hyatt (Johnny Dawson (as Bobby Hyatt)
by Sean Axmaker
"Felix Fiest," Jake Hinson, article in "Film Noir: The Directors." Limelight, 2012.
"Film Noir Guide," Michael F. Keaney. McFarland and Co., 2003.
"The Film Noir Encyclopedia," ed. Alain Silver, Elizabeth Ward, James Ursini, Robert Porfiro. Overlook Duckworthy, 2010.
Tomorrow is Another Day
Noir City 2008 Report, Part 4: Two Edward G. Robinson Films & TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY
Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) boasts one of noir's most evocative titles, and the first half of the film lives up to that poetic, dreamy promise. A woman (Gail Russell) appears to be afraid of the stars in the night as she runs to a train overpass and prepares to throw herself off. Saved at the last moment by her boyfriend (John Lund), the two return to a restaurant where Edward G. Robinson awaits them. How did Robinson know to send him to the train station, Lund asks? And Robinson tells them his story, revealed in flashback... He was a fake "mentalist" who toured around with his partners Jerome Cowan and Virginia Bruce putting on his act, until he started having actual visions which turned out to be true. Sometimes they were premonitions of which horse would win a race; sometimes they were of individuals' deaths and other disturbing things. Robinson found he had no control over this power. It struck randomly. He skipped out of town, leaving Bruce and Cowan to marry even though Robinson and Bruce had been involved. By leaving, Robinson hoped to prevent her death, which he foresaw. It didn't work. Russell is Bruce and Cowan's now-adult daughter, and Robinson has made it his mission to make sure that nothing will happen to her, now that a tragedy has also befallen her father Cowan.
This is all captivating stuff (more so on screen than on paper), delivered in flashbacks with Robinson's great voice describing the events and his feelings. The only problem is that halfway through the movie, when the flashbacks end and we continue in the present, there's a huge shift in tone and momentum. All the characters hole up in a mansion to wait and see if Robinson's premonition of Russell's death at 11pm on a certain night will take place. Robinson becomes under suspicion as a murderer and the movie loses his subjective presence - a big mistake. Instead, William Demarest dominates this portion as a cop, and his broad-comedy screen persona takes over, too. It's really disappointing, and the movie deteriorates into hokum.
Even Robinson thought so - literally. In his memoir All My Yesterdays, he devoted a mere eight words to the film, calling it "unadulterated hokum that I did for the money."
But there's still that mesmerizing first half! What stays in one's mind is how the story is actually about fate and doom - staples of film noir. Robinson is held captive by these mighty forces, and we are made to feel it strongly. The very night and stars are established to be ominous, a danger, which is about as pessimistic as you can get in a noir; as soon as it turns to night throughout this film, we automatically feel uneasy. Pretty amazing. Victor Young's beautiful score also does much to accentuate the mysteriousness of the story.
One of the pleasures of film noir (if "pleasure" is the right word!) is discovering how fatalism and doom can express themselves in so very many ways. In these movies, it's usually via an urban crime story in which we are aligned with a poor sap who gets sucked into a scheme which can only end one way, but there are many exceptions and variations out there, and one of them is The Red House (1947), a strange, dark story shot in the farm country of northern California. The movie's feeling of "noir" stems from a menacingly photographed rural landscape and, on a thematic level, Edward G. Robinson's psychological entrapment by his disturbing personal past.
At first we see the landscape as sunny and bucolic, and a teen romance story is set in motion involving Rory Calhoun, Lon McCallister, Allene Roberts, and a quite stunning 20-year-old Julie London (in one of her earliest screen appearances). McCallister goes to Roberts' farm after school to help around her parents' property, but we quickly discover that those parents (Edward G. Robinson and Judith Anderson) are in fact brother and sister, and Roberts is their foster daughter. The weirdness of that situation points to something ominous in their past. When McCallister declares he will take a shortcut home by walking through the "Ox Head woods," Robinson goes into a conniption, warning the boy not to go that way and to beware "the screams in the night" that he will hear there. Just as suddenly, a ferocious windstorm picks up, and the entire landscape is one very scary place. McCallister goes through the woods anyway, in a bravura sequence in which the darkness, wind, gnarled trees and wonderfully eerie Miklos Rozsa music all combine to create a feeling of intense dread and deep fear that everyone has felt at one time or another in their childhood.
Robinson will go to any length to keep people from trespassing in the Ox Head woods and venturing near the decrepit, old red house that can be found within. Why the woods and the red house are off limits and so scary is a question that the rest of the movie takes its time in revealing. (Too much time, to be honest.) Suffice it to say that old family demons arise after being hidden away for many years, and that Robinson's kindly father-like character turns out to mask something very sinister.
The Red House is atmospheric and superbly scored but also a bit too static, even with all the psychological turmoil going on. Perhaps it's the teen romance subplot, which isn't all that interesting. Or perhaps it's the directing of Delmer Daves, whom I've personally always found to be a stronger writer than director. (He does both here, having adapted the film from a novel.) I kept wishing that Jacques Tourneur had directed this picture, or that Val Lewton had produced it. Imagine what they could have done with this spooky material! A good film might have become great.
The cast features popular young actor Lon McCallister, who had quite a career going at this point, but Rory Calhoun makes a bigger impression. When he's in the frame, he really commands it. One final note about The Red House: it was made as an independent film, released by United Artists, which is why it's in the public domain and remains so hard to see in a good-quality print. (Here it was screened in a 16mm print loaned by UCLA.) Robinson and producer Sol Lesser, a former chief of RKO, set up a production company and then managed to raise the financing and a distribution deal on the strength of the talent involved. In his memoir, Robinson wrote simply, "It was a moody piece, got moody notices, but I think it made a few bucks."
Tomorrow is Another Day
A last-minute replacement for Sunday's promised show of The Clay Pigeon (1949) was Tomorrow is Another Day (1951), directed by Felix Feist. (Pigeon's print didn't show up.) The program notes describe the picture as being like "Gun Crazy scripted by Steinbeck," and there's something to that characterization.
Steve Cochran stars as a man released from jail after 18 years; since he was just 13 when he was sent in, he finds that the world has moved on without him, and he's lonely and vulnerable. Early scenes of Cochran poking around town, bewildered by a modern car's gadgets, ordering three pieces of different pies at once in a diner, and the like, are compelling. After being duped by a local reporter who wanted to secretly get a story of the freed murderer's first day out of prison, Cochran leaves town because he knows no one will hire him, and finds his way to New York, where he's never been before. He gets involved with taxi dancer Ruth Roman, and before we know it, there's a tussle in Roman's room involving a police officer, who is shot and later dies; Roman and Cochran go on the run, believing themselves hunted by the police, and they wind up in California to start a new life as farm workers.
It's a strange plot direction but allows for some beautifully scripted and played scenes with a fellow family of workers headed by Ray Teal and Lurene Tuttle, which is where the Steinbeck comparison comes in; through these scenes, we get a glimpse of Americana through the eyes of minimum-wage workers trying to make it honestly and provide for their families. Teal and Tuttle's struggle over their temptation to turn Cochran over to the police when they discover he is a fugitive is a sequence at once utterly believable and purely American. It's wonderfully acted by both, too.
Even though Tomorrow turns into a lovers-on-the-run movie (and a pretty good one at that, with one or two very suspenseful set pieces) its most penetrating "noir" feeling comes from the early scenes of Cochran unable to find work or a footing in life. The world is seen as a big, strange, unrelenting place, with no room for this man who only wants a fair shake. Adding to the unsettling, hopeless feeling is the fact that Cochran is like a boy in a man's body as a result of having grown up in prison. He has limited skills and no clue how to talk to or behave with women. It's a fascinating notion, but the movie is only able to hint at his virginal state so far, due to production code requirements.
by Jeremy Arnold
Noir City 2008 Report, Part 4: Two Edward G. Robinson Films & TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY
The working title of this film was Spring Kill. According to August 1949 Hollywood Reporter and December 1950 Los Angeles Times news items, the film is based on a novel of the same name by Guy Endore; however, further information about the novel was not found. A December 1951 Los Angeles Times news item states that Burt Lancaster was originally announced as the male lead. February 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items add Michael McHale and Lora Dunne to the cast, but their appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location at the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA, according to February 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items.
Several scenes were shot at locations along Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, according to Warner Bros. publicity material and a February 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item. Locations in El Centro, CA, were also considered, according to a December Hollywood Reporter news item, but it has not been determined that shooting actually took place there. Warner Bros. publicity material states that Steve Cochran fractured his leg filming the fight scene with Hugh Sanders during the first week of production, and after a short hospital stay, wore a cast for two weeks. The Variety review stated that final scenes were reshot after the film's preview.