I’ve been told that I have a heart of ice when it comes to films of a melancholy nature – that might be true, but I have to make an exception with Make Way for Tomorrow, for never has film filled me with such a state of sadness as this moving 1930’s melodrama.
Set in the Depression-era, Make Way for Tomorrow deals with an elderly couple forced to live apart when the bank forecloses on their home and none of their five children want to take them in. Under heavy make-up, character actors Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi portray the couple – they affectionately call each other ‘Pa’ and’ Ma’ – with grace and humility as they find themselves becoming an increasing burden on their children and to the modern society they now inhabit.
My heart sank as Ma vainly tried befriending her daughter-in-law’s bridge club only to be dragged to the cinema by a granddaughter in a bid to get her out of the way; and I pitied poor Pa as he vainly tried to secure work despite ill health and being out of touch with the times. But the film does stop short of becoming maudlin when the couple are reunited to enjoy one last day together at the grand hotel where they honeymooned five decades previously. Pa then leaves, totally unaware that Ma is going into a home.
Despite being made over 70 years ago, the themes of aging and lifelong love explored in this unsung Hollywood masterpiece are still pertinent today – especially so, as well live in a much more selfish society than the one that Ma and Pa were brought up in. This really is a must-see cautionary tale that will have you thinking, ‘Could this happen to me?’
Make Way for Tomorrow is now available on both DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Masters of Cinema series. The special features include a high-definition transfer of the film in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio; a 20-minute video, in which film-maker Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) discusses the film and director Leo McCarey’s career; optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired; a booklet featuring an essay on the film by writer Geoffrey O’Brien, and an excerpt from Josephine Lawrence’s source novel Years Are So Long.