RKO Radio Pictures' Beyond Tomorrow was released in 1940. The movie stars Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Winninger as three dead businessmen who return as ghosts to aid a struggling young couple (Richard Carlson, Jean Parker) during the holiday season. Here are 21 Beyond Christmas super movie trivia items and interesting facts...
1. Beyond Tomorrow was written for the screen by Adele Comandini and Mildred Cram, with Comandini also serving as associate producer. Comandini had also co-authored (with Lionel Hauser) another holiday film classic Christmas in Connecticut (1945).
2. A. Edward Sutherland (1895-1973) directed Beyond Tomorrow. Sutherland was a formeractor, married five times, the nephew of actor Thomas Meighan, a lifelong friend of Hollywood legend W.C. Fields and a member of the original Keystone Kops.
3. Frank Tours created Beyond Tomorrow's playful music score. His uncredited composition "Louisiana Lady" is performed a cappella by Richard Carlson, who plays James Houston.
4. Other songs featured in Beyond Tomorrow are "It’s Raining Dreams,” “Home, Sweet Home,” Stephen Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” “Jingle Bells,” “Red River Valley” and “Good King Wenceslas.”
5. Edwina (no last name given), director A. Edward Sutherland's future fifth and final wife whom he married in 1944, designed the gowns for Beyond Tomorrow.
6. Maria Ouspenskaya plays Madame Tanya. She is best known for her role as the old Gypsy woman Maleva in The Wolf Man (1941) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).
7. The three businessmen in the film played by Harry Carey (George Melton), C. Aubrey Smith (Major Allan “Chad” Chadwick) and Charles Winninger (Michael O’Brien) are the founding partners of Chadwick, Melton & O’Brien, Engineers, located at Radio Center, New York City.
8. There's no mistaking Beyond Tomorrow as a holiday picture, as the film opens with ringing church bells, falling snow and the white streets of New York City.
9. A Benjamin Franklin quote is given prominence at the beginning of the film: “I believe…that the soul of man is immortal and will be treated in another life, respecting its conduct in this.”
10. Nell Craig plays Suzie, the engineering firm's stenographer.
11. As a lark on Christmas Eve, the three businessmen take out their wallets and leave a $10 bill along with their business card in each. They then toss them out into the snow, hoping that someone will return at least one of the billfolds and have dinner with them. Michael O'Brien has wagered the price of a dinner that some honest soul will turn up with one of the wallets by 7 PM that evening. Although the deadline passes, a tall, lanky cowboy named James Houston eventually shows up at the door with Michael's wallet intact. Also showing up with Allan Chadwick's wallet is Jean Lawrence, played by Jean Parker. Jean and Jimmy later wed.
12. Texan James Houston is in New York City performing with the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. He's trying to earn enough money to return to the Lone Star State.
13. Jean Lawrence is originally from New Hampshire. She works as a kindergarten teacher at the Wayne Children's Foundation Clinic.
14. An urgent telegram leads to the death of the three businessmen. It reads: “Tests For New Structural Alloy Pittsburgh Metal Works Beginning Two PM Today. Suggest You Fly Here. Meade.” The trio depart New York's East Tilford Airport via private plane. The New York Recorder reports the subsequent tragedy in its headline: "Plane Lost In Mountain Storm."
15. Michael O'Brien had left James and Jean a number of valuable bonds. A reporter for the Daily Press writes a human interest story titled “N.Y. Engineer Leaves Bonds For Young Friends, Gifted Texan’s Voice Wins Legacy.”
16. In death, the three businessmen return to Earth as rejuvenated ghosts. Major Chadwick no longer needs his glasses, George’s bad back is a thing of the past and Michael’s foot problems have disappeared. Their physical deaths, they marvel, are not what they expected. It’s as if they had merely stepped into another room.
17. James "Jimmy" Houston becomes a singing star. Variety and other periodicals chart his success:“Houston Signed By Hubert,” “Lucky Houston Teamed with Terry” and “Lucky Houston: Young Texan Given Plum of the Year in Musical Comedy.”
18. Helen Vinson plays Arlene Terry, a Broadway star who's been performing since age 17. Arlene and Jimmy are later attacked by Arlene's jealous, gun-wielding ex-husband at the rustic Pinewood Inn. Arlene dies of her wounds but Jimmy, thanks to divine assistance, pulls through after doctors had given him only a 1 in 1,000 chance of surviving.
19. Beyond Tomorrow debuted on May 10, 1940, but the movie didn't make it to New York City until its opening at the Palace Theater on September 26, 1940. Reported Bosley Crowther of The New York Times (9/27/40): “We’ve never had any particular grudge against ghosts, but we’re rapidly developing one…“Take Beyond Tomorrow…For its first half it is a latter-day Christmas carol, told with a gamin tenderness and warming as a hot toddy. But when its three elderly good Samaritans return from a plane crash as celluloid chimeras, its mystical peregrinations are more preposterous than moving."
20. Beyond Tomorrow was later retitled Beyond Christmas and is available on DVD (Legend Films, 2008). Many of the principal cast members are now deceased, including Harry Carey (1878-1947), C. Aubrey Smith (1863-1948), Charles Winninger (1884-1969), Maria Ouspenskaya (1876-1949), Richard Carlson (1912-1977), Jean Parker (1915-2005), Alex Melesh (1890-1949), Helen Vinson (1907-1999) and Rod La Rocque (1898-1969).
21. Beyond Tomorrow and It's a Wonderful Life (1946) bear a number of similarities:
- *In Beyond Tomorrow Richard Carlson and Jean Parker play the troubled married couple. In It’s a Wonderful Life James Stewart and Donna Reed ably fill those roles.
- *The “bad” girl in Beyond Tomorrow is the lonely, divorced singer Arlene Terry (Helen Vinson). In It’s a Wonderful Life it’s Bedford Falls’ man-hungry Violet Bick (Gloria Grahame).
- *Police officers have minor roles in both films. There’s NYPD mounted patrolman Johnson (J. Anthony Hughes) and his grizzled police sergeant (Robert Homans) in Beyond Tomorrow and police officer Bert (Ward Bond) in It’s a Wonderful Life.
- *Divine intervention figures prominently in both pictures. Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Winninger play the ghostly guardian angels in Beyond Tomorrow while Henry Travers fills the same role as Clarence Oddbody in It’s a Wonderful Life.
- *Both movies make ample use of newspaper headlines and telegrams in relating their stories. Eerie, ghostly music also figures prominently in both, along with the occasional display of heavenly might and thunder.
- *Both James Houston (Richard Carlson) in Beyond Tomorrow and George Bailey (James Stewart) in It’s a Wonderful Life are given a second chance at life via divine intervention.
“Sometimes we have to go to the darkness alone, before we can see the light.” - Charles Winninger as Michael O'Brien
- *Beyond Tomorrow (RKO Radio Pictures, 1940)
- *The New York Times
- *The Internet Movie Database
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.