‘Tomorrow is Another Day’ on TCM

The fugitive couple on the run is a classic film noir trope, a situation steeped in romance and desperation and dreams and doom, from Fritz Lang’s tormented lovers in the proto-noir You Only Live Once (1937) to the innocence trampled in They Live by Night (1948) to the l’amour fou detonated in Gun Crazy (1950).

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 cliche 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 naif 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.

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Plays on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, January 17

Classic: ‘Private Hell 36’

Ida Lupino gets top billing in Private Hell 36 (Olive), and for good reason. In addition to starring in this low-budget film noir as a nightclub singer drafted into the police search for a counterfeiter, she so-wrote the script and co-produced through her company The Filmmakers, with partner Collier Young. The story revolves around the loyalties and temptations in a police partnership between the impulsive, younger cop Steve Cochran and family man Howard Duff, stretched thin on his salary. Temptation comes when Cochran pockets a portion of the recovered counterfeit stash after the crook is killed in a high-speed car chase and Duff’s conscience eats away as he keeps quiet and accepts his share (to come when they sell the phony bills in Mexico). The title refers to the address of their stash house.

Lupino had directed her share of films as well, many of them exploring similar moral quandaries, but she passed directorial reigns over to Don Siegel, who at the time was making his name with a series of tight, stylish little low-budget pictures. This is more about tension than action, with plenty of surveillance and scenes of police procedural detail, but he opens with a quiet street scene of a realist crime drama with an ominous sense of anticipation that explodes in a crime scene shoot-out and bookends it with a gut-punch of an ambush that ricochets with some dynamic twists. In between, greed and guilt divide the once devoted partners. Dean Jagger and Dorothy Malone co-star.

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