Jerry Day (Gary Cooper) and Toni Carstairs (Carole Lombard) are globe-trotting thieves, traveling the world together and falling in love.
The two are just leaving Shanghai when Jerry gets word from his hometown and there’s trouble regarding his daughter, Penny (Shirley Temple). Jerry’s wife passed away, and he left Penny with her family. Now they want permanent custody.
Jerry considers taking the money offered by his in-laws and cutting ties with Penny, but this disgusts Toni, who decides she’ll head to Paris alone while Jerry decides what type of father the wants to be: the absentee, or the struggling single dad.
After spending an afternoon with Penny, Jerry finds his perspective changed, and decides to try to go straight, so he can raise his daughter. But can he resist the allure of thievery and crime?
Now and Forever was directed by Henry Hathaway. The film was written by Vincent Lawrence and Sylvia Thalberg from a story by Jack Kirkland and Melville Baker.
Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper are an attractive, adventurous couple who skip from country to country, swindling and having parties. Cooper makes for a smart and confident schemer, but also a less-than-likable one at times, given he’s basically willing to sell his own child for $75,000!
It’s clear from the beginning, though, that Jerry’s heart will change by the film’s end. His heart actually changes quite quickly once he spends time with Penny, and chooses to father her rather than take the money and run. The early scenes of their reunion are some of the film’s most enjoyable.
But then, the question becomes: how will he, a crook, take care of this young girl? Not only is he lacking in legitimate job prospects, but he knows absolutely nothing about parenting! He doesn’t have it all together, but he does try his best to be a good father, through all of his shortcomings.
There is plenty of drama and conflict to be mined from this situation, but Now and Forever doesn’t really take full advantage of it. The film can be slow and is at times dull, taking some odd turns in order to resolve the plot.
It is interesting, though, to watch Jerry in his attempts to do the right thing (which often fail, leaving him scrambling). While the film on the whole didn’t totally grab me, I did come to care about the outcome for Jerry and Penny.
I enjoyed Now and Forever as a Cooper fan, and for seeing Temple and Lombard’s only film together. It isn’t a great film, but worth a single watch.