Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 22, 2021)
For a twist on stories that warp time, we go to 1944’s It Happened Tomorrow. In this tale, we go to an unnamed big city circa the late 19th century.
Larry Stevens (Dick Powell) works as a reporter for the Evening News. An ambitious sort, he seeks any advantage to push ahead in his chosen profession.
Larry appears to get his wish when mysterious Pop Benson (John Philliber) gives him the ability to learn the news a day in advance. While this allows Larry to scoop his competitors, it comes with an ominous twist when one of the “early headlines” tells of his own death.
Two factors let us know Larry won’t die. For one, Tomorrow offers a mix of comedy and fantasy, so it doesn’t seem like the kind of film that would kill off its protagonist.
In addition, Tomorrow opens with a vision of elderly Larry as he alludes to his wild past. Since we see old Larry in the movie’s first five minutes, we understand he’ll survive.
That prologue becomes a pointless diversion, but not a fatal flaw. While Tomorrow never quite lives up to the promise of its premise, it still becomes a pretty enjoyable mix of suspense, fantasy, comedy and romance.
Tomorrow fares best when it stays whimsical, though that may come from the lack of tension related to Larry’s fate. I don’t want to obsess over my dislike for the prologue, but I do feel our foreknowledge of the fact Larry won’t die robs the climax of some drama.
Yeah, I know I said that a movie of this sort from the 1940s almost certainly wouldn’t kill off the lead. Nonetheless, it’d be nice to go into the finale with some question about Larry’s survival.
Getting past that, Tomorrow does mostly charm, even if it doesn’t live up to the cleverness of its basic concept. The idea of a reporter who knows tomorrow’s news today seems delightful, and the film occasionally mines this idea for fun.
However, it can get bogged down in extraneous elements, and I admit that Larry’s romance with stage performer Sylvia Smith (Linda Darnell) feels predictable and tedious. The fact Darnell looked stunning helps make these scenes go down more painlessly, but they feel contrived, as if the filmmakers figured they needed to shoehorn in “something for the ladies in the audience”, even if it didn’t do much for the plot.
Still, these moments don’t become a major problem, and the charm of the actors helps. All involved offer likable performances that add life to their roles.
Nothing about Tomorrow ever rubs against greatness, but it musters enough cleverness and energy to become a good movie, at least. It provides a brisk little tale that works most of the time.