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Saturday, June 12, 2010

IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944)


While fellow exiled-directors Jean Renoir & Max Ophuls struggled in WWII Hollywood, René Clair made a remarkably smooth transition. And if the passing years have reversed critical opinions on their American films (especially for Ophuls who batted out masterpieces wherever he landed), this gentle farce retains its charm & freshness. Set in the late 1800s (like Clair’s best film, THE ITALIAN STRAW HAT/’28), it’s the story of a young reporter who mysteriously receives a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper today. The obvious advantages of getting a really Early Edition help him find fame, fortune & tru-love. But what to do when your own obit shows up on tomorrow’s front page? Fight it? Go fatalistic? Dick Powell is a bit long in the tooth for a cub reporter, but he helps the much younger Linda Darnell loosen up. Clair downplays her statuesque quality simply by accentuating how much taller Powell is. Clever. Dudley Nichols interlocks his plot without making dumb choices (not so easy in a Hollywood farce) and Clair delights us (and no doubt himself) casting veteran comics in supporting roles (Jack Oakie, Edgar Kennedy, Sig Rumann, & Edward Brophy) somewhat like Preston Sturges, whose CHRISTMAS IN JULY/’40 (also starring Powell) has a similar light, airy & winning tone.

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