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Till the End of Time (1946) – full review!

Till the End of Time (1946) – full review!

Directed by Edward Dmytryk based on a Niven Busch (In Old Chicago (1937)) novel with a screenplay by Allen Rivkin this returning World War II veteran drama was released nearly 4 months before Samuel Goldwyn’s star studded The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Oscar winner. Though this RKO film doesn’t have any real star power besides Robert Mitchum and perhaps Dorothy McGuire it deals with the subject matter very well. The result is a movie that delivers a credible picture of the infrequently represented World War II veteran which given the plethora of negative films about the Vietnam veteran released since the late 70’s provides a refreshing point of view.

Friends Cliff Harper (Guy Madison) and William Tabeshaw (Mitchum) are discharged from the Marines shortly after the war has ended. Tabeshaw has a plate in his head from combat. Cliff returns home to find his parents aren’t there. He meets his “new” next door neighbor a spunky teenager Helen Ingersoll (Jean Porter); the Ingersolls moved in some years ago but Cliff had been gone for the duration. After realizing his old clothes no longer fit him and after waiting for a while for his folks Cliff decides to go out. He leaves a note and then walks till he finds a new soda shop which turns out to be owned by a friend and former football teammate of his named Scruffy (Harry von Zell). Another former friend Pinky (Loren Tindall) who was in the Navy is sitting at a table with a pretty blonde who turns out to be Pat Ruscomb (McGuire). Cliff and Pat instantly make eyes at one another and end up on the dance floor before they decide to leave going straight to her apartment. After some phony chit chat they begin to kiss on her couch before Cliff notices a photograph of another soldier on her table. He learns that Pat is a war widow of many years and decides that it’s too “crowded” in the room for further lovemaking. So he leaves though he promises to return when it’s less “crowded” (or he gets more comfortable with the idea).

Cliff returns home where he is reunited with his father (Tom Tully) and mother (Ruth Nelson). They host a coming home party for him that night. Cliff is clearly uncomfortable talking about his experience and his mother doesn’t seem to want him to anyway. His father understands since he and his friends all of whom are playing cards are veterans themselves of the first World War. Helen briefly joins the party with her beau Tommy (Johnny Sands) in tow. It’s clear that she’s more interested in men like Cliff then boys like Pinky. Cliff goes to bed early and falls into a rut not feeling like doing much of anything besides sleeping or hanging out. His parents grow concerned when his buddy Tabeshaw shows up. His mother is particularly alarmed at the conversation particularly the language she hears between the two former Marines. Cliff goes with Tabeshaw to visit a buddy he’d met in the hospital named Perry (Bill Williams) who’d lost his legs in the war and is resisting using his prosthetics with crutches because it hurts to use them. Sergeant Gunny Waltrous (veteran character actor William Gargan) and Perry’s mother (Selena Royale) encourage the two Marines to please visit Perry as often as they can; his defeatist attitude seems to need them. Later Cliff and Tabeshaw visit Scruffy’s joint where Helen who’d driven them there while standing up Tommy updates Cliff on the newest hippest dance steps. Pat witnesses the energetic “couple” and compliments Cliff on his dancing but declines his invitation to join them because she’s waiting for her date who turns out to be an officer in the service.

Cliff struggles with his feelings for Pat. That night he waits outside her apartment until she returns home from her date. He sees her kissing him passionately if briefly and later calls her a tramp before he leaves angry and jealous. He returns later wakes her up and apologizes for his immaturity. The officer was someone in her husband’s unit. It’s becomes clear that Pat’s living a fantasy of her husband returning home whereas Cliff’s problem is the fact that he’s unwilling to make plans or even get a job. Pat encourages him to do so and makes arrangements for him to inspect radios at her place of employment. Cliff’s frustration causes him to yell at his supervisor and storm off. Tabeshaw who had left with $2000 in his pocket to start a ranch returns penniless; Cliff finds him standing in his parent’s garage. The two go out to a bar to have a drink hatch their own idea of a ranch that employs no one but veterans. They call Perry to come join them. After much thought and a heart-to-heart with his mother Percy meets them at the bar where the three eventually find themselves in a fight with some bigots. Gunny is able to bail them out. The film ends in an upbeat way that must have been meant to give hope to the veterans (in the audience) it targeted.

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