Sunday, April 12, 2015


In 1890, Larry Stevens (Dick Powell) is a rookie newspaper man on the verge of getting promoted from obituaries to full-fledged city reporter. When he whimsically expresses the wish that he could read tomorrow's papers so he could get a head start on getting scoops, old-timer Pops Benson tells him that he would find he really didn't want that power. Late that night, as Larry passes by the newspaper office, Pops appears out of the darkness and gives Larry what he wanted: tomorrow's newspaper. The next morning as he reads a story about an unseasonable spring snowfall, it starts to snow. When he reads about a robbery at an opera house that afternoon, he takes off to be there when it happens—and it does—but he winds up becoming a suspect himself. Larry keeps getting midnight deliveries of tomorrow's paper from Pops, and though they do help him in his career, they are decidedly mixed blessings to him personally. Finally, he reads a story that stops him in his tracks: he’s going to be shot dead at the St. George Hotel. Can he use this knowledge to change the future, or is fate inescapable?

This fantasy has the mix of creepiness and whimsy that Twilight Zone episodes often had. It's generally very light in tone, with just enough slightly dark unease around the corners to make things interesting. The main narrative is told as an extended flashback from fifty years later, so there is little suspense about Powell's fate at the hotel, but the story holds your interest anyway. The cast, however, feels a little second-string. This film came out when Powell was in his difficult years, casting-wise; he was no longer a wholesome juvenile but hadn't found his adult niche yet. He would do so later in 1944 when his noir detective film MURDER MY SWEET was a hit, but here, Powell, at the age of 40, seems a little too experienced to be playing a naïve junior reporter. Linda Darnell is his bland romantic interest, a phony mind reader, who ultimately plays only a small part in the plot. Jack Oakie is fine as Darnell's uncle, a cohort in the mind reading act. Some good supporting actors (George Chandler, Sig Ruman, Edward Brophy) are mostly wasted in nondescript roles. The director, René Clair, made some fine films in France in the early 30s but his Hollywood output was less distinguished. If you don’t ask too much from this film, you’ll enjoy it. [TCM]

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