Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Dick Powell and Linda Darnell in “It Happened Tomorrow”

It Happened Tomorrow (1944) is an American fantasy film directed by Rene Clair, starring Dick Powell, Linda Darnell, and Jack Oakie. This was Clair’s fourth of five films he made in Hollywood.

Lawrence Stevens (Powell) writes obituaries for the local paper but he dreams of writing important, hard news stories. An old newspaperman named Pop Bensen (John Philliber) gives Stevens a newspaper with tomorrow’s news. This unusual event allows Stevens to write stories, scooping the other reporters and newspapers. Along the way, he meets Oscar Smith (Oakie) and Sylvia Smith (Darnell) an uncle and niece clairvoyant act.

At first, knowing future events is exciting and helps move Stevens along in his career. But as time goes by, he discovers knowing the future isn’t what’s cracked up to be.

Dick Powell and Linda Darnell

Rene Clair (1898 - 1981) was a French film director and writer. He directed silent films in his native France but was lured to Hollywood where he directed five films. His first American film was The Flame of New Orleans (1941) starring Marlene Dietrich. The film was not a success and it would be a year before he made another American film. His most popular American film was And Then There Were None (1945) based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name. After World War II, Clair returned to France where he was considered one of that country’s best film directors.

Dick Powell (1904 - 1963) was an American actor, singer, producer, and director. He began his movie career in musicals and comedies but eventually toughened up his image in the mid-1940s where he became a popular star of films noir. He was the first actor to portray Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944). After appearing in his last film, Susan Slept Here, Powell started directing. In the 1950s he was one of the founders of Four Star Television along with Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino. Some popular films starring Powell include 42nd Street (1933), A Midsummer's Night Dream (1935), Christmas in July (1940), Pitfall (1948), and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).

Linda Darnell (1923 – 1965) was an American film actress. She signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox at age 15 and became a star almost overnight. She was immediately cast opposite Tyrone Power in Day-Time Wife (1939). She made two films with Power in 1940: Brigham Young and The Mark of Zorro. In 1941, she was again paired with Power in Blood and Sand, which also starred an up-and-coming Rita Hayworth. Darnell’s most famous role was that of Amber St. Clair in Forever Amber (1946), which turned out the be the biggest hit of the year. The role of Amber was the most sought-after female role since the casting of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Other important films she starred in include Unfaithfully Yours (1948), A Letter to Three Wives (1949), and No Way Out (1950). She died tragically at age 41 in a fire while visiting friends in Glenview, Illinois.

Jack Oakie (1903 - 1978) was an American film actor who also appeared on the stage and radio. He is probably most famous for portraying Napaloni in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940). Oakie began his film career during the silent era but had no problem when sound was introduced. After fulfilling his seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures in 1934, Oakie decided to freelance, not being attached to any one studio. He was very successful as a freelancer appearing in popular films like The Call of the Wild (1935), The Toast of New York (1937), Tin Pan Alley (1940), Hello Frisco, Hello (1943), Thieves Highway (1949), and Around the World in 80 Days (1959).

It Happened Tomorrow trivia

  • Frank Capra owned the rights to the film but sold them to producer Arnold Pressburger when he entered the U.S. Army during World War II.
  • Jack Oakie reworked his dialogue throughout the film which didn’t bother director Clair at all.
  • Cary Grant was originally considered for the role of Lawrence Stevens.
  • The opera singer alluded to in the film is most likely Nellie Melba; Peach Melba and Melba toast are named for her.
  • Inspiration for the television show Early Edition.

To watch the film on YouTube, click the link below.

Why watch this film?

  • It features Dick Powell in a non-singing role before he turned “touch guy” as Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet the same year.
  • We have another fantasy film from Clair, two years after I Married a Witch (1942).
  • The film features the popular and busy character actors working in Hollywood Jack Oakie and Edgar Kennedy.
  • Linda Darnell has a fairly good role as Sylvia Smith on loan out from her home studio, 20th Century-Fox.

To join the discussion on Monday, November 1, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will get an invitation and link to the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you think this lighthearted film has a serious message? If so, what is it?
  2. What did you think of Dick Powell’s performance in the lead? Do you think his casting was a good choice?
  3. How do you think this film compares to Clair’s I Married a Witch?
  4. Did you have a favorite character and/or scene from the movie?
  5. Did you have a problem with Oakie’s portrayal as “The Great Gigolini”

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