DVD of the Week: Make Way For Tomorrow

When Leo McCarey won the Oscar for Best Director for The Awful Truth in 1938, he reportedly accepted it with the comment, “Thank you very much, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture.” The “right picture” that McCarey was referring to is this 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.

Pa and Ma (Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi) lean in for the kiss, then modesty prevails

Make Way For Tomorrow (Criterion) is McCarey’s most personal picture and his most moving drama, the rare Hollywood film to confront issues of aging head on. McCarey captures the shame of failure (they can’t tell their kids about losing the home until it’s too late), the frustration of losing independence, and the fragility of growing old with compassion and humor, while at the same the acknowledging the difficulties of their grown children, who are married with lives and careers (and in one case a family) of their own, trying to accommodate them. The most supportive son, George (Thomas Mitchell), moves mother into a bedroom with his teenage daughter (which doesn’t sit too well with her) and Ma drives the family crazy as she bemoans her state while insisting that no one worry about her, and fumbles every attempt to lend a hand by upending their routine and even, inadvertently, helps push her granddaughter into a situation that ends in terrible scandal.

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