Directed by A. Edward Sutherland; produced by Lee Garmes
Three bachelors (Charles Winninger, C. Aubrey Smith, Harry Carey), whose Christmas dinner guests cancel at the last minute, decide to invite a pair of strangers to fill the empty chairs. Their fortuitous choices fall upon a couple of young people (Richard Carlson, Jean Lawrence). The latter fall in love, watched over by their benefactors, who don’t even let death halt their protection.
This is an odd film, as may be deduced even by the slim synopsis given above. Supernatural, though not quite a ghost story, it is also partly a romantic drama. The two elements don’t really mesh well, and run almost parallel until the last few minutes. The story was undoubtedly plotted, but moves along so gently that it may as well have been made up as it goes. What happens to the couple, the tribulations they go through, is rather clichéd, and may have been even by the time it was made. That is one of the problems with Beyond Tomorrow: it seems rather naïve – not necessarily a bad thing – and out of place, even in 1940. Its story could have come straight from a silent-era movie, when filmed story-telling was novel.
The characters aren’t deeply portrayed. The three old men are more interesting than the two young people, but we are told very little about them. They are engineers in a partnership obviously of long-standing, but how such diverse characters (an Irish American, a former British Indian Army officer, and a hard-bitten mid-westerner) came to meet and form a friendship, we don’t know. Carey was involved in a scandal years before but of what nature, we aren’t told; what occurs to him during the movie suggests that he had a more nefarious part in it than is otherwise implied. Smith’s character is, I think, the most unusual, as he is a man who has lost his son (an air force officer killed in the Great War) but holds no bitterness; his memories are wistful but happy. Such a personality is rare in movies. Their housekeeper (Maria Ouspenskaya) is a former Russian aristocrat; another strange addition.
The two lovers are little more than sketches. The man is named Houston, and is from Texas. He sings and eventually secures a career using that talent – though not as a singing cowboy. The woman is a sweet girl who entertains children at an orphanage. The actress looked a great deal like another Jean – Jean Arthur – but, based on this performance, did not have her talent.
There is no suspense to the story, despite some of the events, and the uncertainty as to what will happen to the trio of gentlemen once they are killed and return as spirits.
Beyond Tomorrow is mildly entertaining and somewhat interesting, but probably won’t hold the attention of most viewers, even for its 84 minutes. Future western character actor Hank Worden can be glimpsed briefly in the hospital scene.