With spring, a young man's fancy turns to love - and so I sought out a romance to watch. Of course, being me, I chose a nontraditional sort of romance, one involving ghostly matchmakers. Since my own love life (or lack thereof) would seem to require some sort of supernatural intervention itself, Beyond Tomorrow seemed like a perfect choice. This 1940 classic is actually a Christmas movie, truth be told, but there's no harm in watching it whenever you like. After all, a failure to keep Christmas in your heart throughout the entire year leaves you vulnerable to nocturnal visits from the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
Beyond Tomorrow tells a simple but touching story. It all starts with three older gentlemen who share the same house and work together running an engineering firm. Chad (C. Aubrey Smith) and Michael (Charles Winninger) are all business, working late on Christmas Eve, while George (Harry Carey) enjoys Christmas as a jolly Irishman should. When he learns that his invited guests are unable to join him and his friends for Christmas Eve dinner, George forestalls the two old fogeys' idea of heading out to the club by inviting two strangers for dinner. Each of the men sticks ten dollars and his card in a new wallet, pitches it out onto the snowy sidewalk, and waits to see if fate (and an honest heart or two) will bring any good deed doers to their door. Two out of three ain't bad, as a young Texan (Richard Carlson) and a charming young teacher (Jean Parker) end up joining them for dinner. The two young folks quickly fall in love, spending many a happy hour in the company of their three unassuming benefactors over the following few weeks. Even as they make plans for a lifetime together, however, they lose their three good friends in an airplane crash. And so it is that Chad, Michael, and George return home in ghostly form. And it's a good thing they do, as the young lovers soon face some rocky times, as new-found success as a singer and the attentions of another fashionable young lady turn the young Texan's head.
I'm a little surprised this film isn't more widely known, as it really does tell a wonderful story. The love story itself actually pales in comparison to the lives (and deaths) of the three older gentlemen. George's two friends gradually lose their crusty edges by the time their personal calls from heaven come, but it is the warm-hearted George (who, even as a ghost, cares more about the young lovers' happiness than his own eternal rest) that really steals the show and makes this such a should-be Christmas classic. A powerful performance by the wonderful Maria Ouspenskaya adds further emotion to a truly heart-warming story.