Michael O’Brien (Charles Winninger), Allan Chadwick (C. Aubrey Smith), and George Melton (Harry Carey) are business partners who are very wealthy but also very lonely. As they prepare to spend yet another Christmas Eve with only their housekeeper (Maria Ouspenskaya) for company, Michael gets a bright idea: each man will toss a wallet out of the window, and the person who returns each wallet will be invited to eat a holiday meal with them.
With each wallet containing just ten bucks and a business card, George is willing to bet they’ll never be seen again. If Michael is wrong and the wallets aren’t returned, he’ll have to buy dinner for his two friends. After all, who would return a wallet when they could just pocket the cash and toss the rest?
But George is proven wrong when James Houston (Richard Carlson), a Texan celebrating his first Christmas away from home, and Jean Lawrence (Jean Parker), a children’s clinic worker, show up with the wallets they find.
This little experiment does more than make two new friends for the three engineers: it also brings Jean and James together, with the two soon falling in love.
A. Edward Sutherland directs 1940’s Beyond Tomorrow. The script was written by Adele Comandini (who also wrote Christmas in Connecticut), from an original story by herself and Mildred Cram.
*THE REVIEW FROM HERE ON WILL CONTAIN MILD SPOILERS*
Beyond Tomorrow is an unconventional Christmas film, blending traditional holiday messages such as kindness and altruism with a bit of ghostliness.
I didn’t want to include it in the synopsis, so as not to spoil those who like to go into films blind, but Michael, George, and Allan are all killed in a plane crash about a third of the way into the film. This is no simple Christmas love story, but a tale of three ghosts who keep an eye out for their new friends, the lovebirds Jean and Jimmy, from beyond the grave!
The film opens with a very appropriate quote from Benjamin Franklin: “I believe… that the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life, respecting its conduct in this.”
Beyond Tomorrow is a film that takes a few crazy, dramatic turns (which I won’t spoil, since I’ve already spoiled the first big one). But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of sentimental, sweet, and down-right adorable (if slightly corny) scenes, particularly near the film’s beginning, that will thaw even the coldest heart.
The film is not wholly successful. There is a subplot with Jimmy becoming a famous singer that doesn’t serve as a very exciting conflict for the central couple and their recently-deceased pals, though it does lead to a couple of emotionally-effective moments. There is a positively nutty twist resulting from this subplot in the final ten minutes or so, which wraps up in a saccharine conclusion.
Though the story is a bit odd and has its flaws, Beyond Tomorrow is, for the most part, an engrossing film with nice performances and a not-too-preachy moralistic message. It makes for nice viewing at this time of year. The score: 3/5