Film of the Month

To-Morrow We Live (1936)

A financier advertises for people who are tired of life. He gathers twelve of the applicants and suggests they meet the following evening to kill themselves - but first they get one day to do what they want, knowing there's no need to worry about the consequences.

Manning Haynes hasn't gone down in British film history as one of the greats. He provided some of the few bright spots in the industry's mid-20s slump and kept going as the industry rose in the late 20s but his career stalled in the disruption of the early sound era and he was soon in Quota hell. Many of his films are now lost, and those that survive are hard to find, but on the evidence of To-Morrow We Live, that's a pity.

Okay, it's a hokey premise with an unpromising structure: twelve applicants, twelve little stories. Mercifully a handful of them decide the 50 that's also on offer to make their last day special is enough to clear their debts or start a business and so they drop out of the tale immediately. That still leaves seven tales to cram into the 72 minutes running time.

After the first couple of tales it's clear that one by one they're all going to sort their lives out then phone up and decline to attend the second, final session. This means there's a predictability to the tales, but perhaps that's the point. In the depths of the Depression there was surely an audience out there that craved some reassurance that things can get better no matter how dreadful they seem at the time.

The tales themselves are a varied lot, nicely told and well-acted. The actors are a mix of well-known faces and relative unknowns and Haynes gets good performances out of them all. Jessica Black as a battered wife turning the tables on her abusive husband is a stand-out. She seems so familiar it comes as a shock to realise she didn't corner the market in downtrodden cockney chars, and that this is her only film. Her tale illustrates how overly-neat some of these stories are: tying your husband up while he's asleep and beating the crap out of him might work in this sort of film but is unlikely to produce the desired result in the real world.

To-Morrow We Live didn't seem to bother the critics much nor I suspect did it find a massive, receptive audience, but it's worth a look for the solid professionalism of the cast and as a reminder that Manning Haynes could have been one of the greats had the breaks gone his way. 

Script: Manning Haynes

Director: Manning Haynes

Players: Godfrey Tearle, Haidee Wright, Renee Gadd, Sebastian Shaw, Eliot Makeham, Thea Holme, George Carney, Rosalind Atkinson, Jessica Black, Fred Withers, Cyril Raymond, Alfred Wellesley, Hugh Ardale, Juliet Mansell, Judith Nelmes, R.W. Steele

To-Morrow We Live at Amazon UK