When I think of director Rene Clair I think of movies that are highly fantastical, with a special magical realism to them that feels purely of the Golden Era. You probably know my favorite Veronica Lake feature, I Married a Witch (1942) is directed by Clair. It Happened Tomorrow was Clair’s follow-up to that film — he had filmed a segment of an anthology in-between — and holds a similar sense of fantasy as that film. It feels far more high-concept than I Married a Witch, but if you’re seeking more of Clair’s work with A-list actors who had broad comic appeal this fits the bill.
Dick Powell plays Larry Stevens, a reporter who ends up receiving copies of the next day’s paper that let him know about news-worthy events before they happen. But as Larry starts to know things in advance it threatens to land him in jail or, worse, dead.
I put aside my general antipathy for Dick Powell aside for this movie which is fairly adorable if not possessing the same amount of supernatural fantasy as I Married a Witch. Maybe because that feature holds a Halloween connection, but It Happened Tomorrow just lacks the impact of what I expected a Rene Clair feature to be. Or maybe it was just Dick Powell.
Okay, I won’t mock Powell too much. What Clair’s feature does is turn in a rather sweet and simple story about letting things happen as they happen. Powell’s Larry is determined to know the news ahead of time and utilizes it to become a big star reporter. Unfortunately, knowing about the news ahead of time makes the police suspect he’s complicit in the crime he’s written about. The comedy of errors builds to it’s eventual conclusion — Larry learns that he’s going to die — but all’s well that ends well.
Powell is actually solid in the film, playing Larry with just the right amount of smarm. He’s played characters like this before, so he understands what to go for. I felt the worst for Linda Darnell, who is utterly gorgeous in her turn-of-the-century costumes but is ultimately left to be “the girl” of this feature.
It Happened Tomorrow probably won’t become a staple in your classic film watch, but it’s another stellar example of why Clair is so beloved. His blend of the fantastical with the classic film world works so beautifully, especially when he has actors who can work with the material. The Blu-Ray from Cohen Media is beautiful and a great way to introduce you to this film.
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.