There’s Always Tomorrow: Sirk’s Melodrama, Starring Stanwyck and MacMurray

Directed by Douglas Sirk at the height of his Hollywood career, There’s Always Tomorrow is a romantic melodrama, well-acted by the members of its triangle, Barbara Stanwyck as the older glamorous lover, Fred MacMurray as the husband, and Joan Bennett as his wife.

Based on a novel by Ursula Parrott, scripted by Bernard C. Schoenfeld, Sirk’s version was a remake of a 1934 melodrama, directed by Edward Sloman and starring Frank Morgan, Binnie Barnes, and Lois Wilson as the wife.

McMurray plays toy manufacturer Clifford Groves, entrapped in a routine and stale marriage to Marion (Joan Bennett), with whom he has raised three children, Vinnie (William Reynolds), Ellen (Gigi Perreau) and Frankie (Judy Nugent).   Things change when out of the blue former co-worker Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), now a fashion designer, shows up unexpectedly.

When Frankie injures her ankle, Marion decides to stay home and attend to her needs.  But she urges Cliff to go alone to their long-planned vacation.  He reluctantly agrees, scheduling a business appointment at the location, to give him a justifiable reason for going.  Upon arrival, though, the meeting falls through.

Once again, he meets Norma, a lonely divorcee, who is vacationing at the same resort. Their companionship– riding horses, dancing–is spotted by Vinnie, who has also taken a drive to Palm Valley with his girlfriend Ann (Pat Crowley), along with his friend Bob (Race Gentry) and Bob’s girlfriend Ruth (Myrna Hansen).  Norma is invited to dinner, during which Vinnie and Ellen display hostility towards her and refuse to speak to their father, while Ann chastises Vinnie for his immature behavior.

Meanwhile, Cliff, frustrated and sleepless, gets up and leaves the bedroom to call Norma, asking her to meet him the next day, just as Vinnie comes in and overhears his father’s conversation. Cliff, no longer able to repress his desire, goes to Norma and declares his love for her, but she asks him time to think about it.

Vinnie and Ellen wind up pleading with her not to break up their parents’ marriage.  In the next to last scene, Norma tells Cliff that he would always regret abandoning his family.  The last images depict Cliff looking longingly out his window as Norma’s plane flies overhead, while Norma, seated alone, has tears in her eyes.

Initially, Sirk’s conclusion was even darker:  The ending he shot shows Cliff’ toy-robot Rex marching on a table top, indicating a deeper connection between his character and Rex. The original scenario had Rex reaching the edge of the desk and toppling to the ground. After crashing to the floor, the robot struggles through some final kicks before the credits rolled.

Sirk’s biographer, Michael Stern, quotes the director as saying: “In tragedy the life always ends. By being dead, the hero is at the same time rescued from life’s troubles.  In melodrama, he lives on, in an unhappy happy-end.”

The melodic song, “Blue Moon,” provides an ironic commentary on the melodrama’s persona and events.

This b/w movie lacks the stylish touches of Sirk’s other melodramas of the same era, such as “Written on the Wind” and “Imitation of Life.”

Cast

Barbara Stanwyck as Norma

Fred MacMurray as Clifford Groves

Joan Bennett as Marion Groves

William Reynolds as Vinnie

Pat Crowley as Ann

Gigi Perreau as Ellen

Jane Darwell as Mrs. Rogers

Race Gentry as Bob

Myrna Hansen as Ruth

Judy Nugent as Frankie

Paul Smith as Bellboy

Helen Kleeb as Miss Walker

Credits:

Directed by Douglas Sirk
Produced by Ross Hunter
Screenplay by Bernard C. Schoenfeld, based on the novel There’s Always Tomorrow

Music by Herman Stein, Heinz Roemheld
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Edited by William Morgan
Production company: Universal Pictures
Distributed by Universal International
Release date: January 20, 1956 (NYC); January 25, 1956 (LA)
Running time: 84 minutes