Between Two Worlds (1944) – full review!
A remake of Outward Bound (1930) based on Sutton Vane’s play of the same name.
Directed by Edward A. Blatt with a screenplay by Daniel Fuchs (Love Me or Leave Me (1955)) this above average fantasy drama features an all star cast which includes John Garfield Paul Henreid Sydney Greenstreet Eleanor Parker Edmund Gwenn George Tobias George Coulouris Faye Emerson Sara Allgood Dennis King Isobel Elsom and Gilbert Emery. It’s about a number of people on a cruise ship that eventually discover it’s their transportation to another world e.g. Heaven or Hell.
Cynical foreign correspondent Tom Prior (Garfield) and his girlfriend “yet to make it” actress Maxine Russell (Faye Emerson) along with Merchant Marine Pete Musick (Tobias) Reverend Duke (King) Mrs. Midget (Allgood) and the wealthy Mr. & Mrs. Cliveden-Banks (Emery & Elsom) wait for the all clear in World War II ravaged London so that they can board their cruise ship for safe passage to America. Famous opportunistic wartime businessman Lingley (Coulouris) arrives at the terminal angry that there are no seats for his bodyguards to accompany him on the voyage. Failed pianist Henry Bergner (Henreid) is upset that he cannot get a ticket at all so he leaves to return to his apartment. Just as an air raid begins and the passengers are loaded into a bus Bergner’s wife Ann (Parker) rushes to its window calling Henry’s name. But he is not inside and as the bus pulls away Ann witnesses it being hit by a bomb. She returns home to find her distraught husband; he’d tried to leave her ashamed of his own failures so that she might find happiness without him. She discovers that he’s sealed the windows and extinguished the heater’s pilot light so that the room is filling with gas in order to commit suicide. He pleads with her to leave him but she refuses to go.
The Bergners find themselves walking on the deck of a fog shrouded cruise ship. It takes them a moment but they realize that they are dead when Ann sees the passengers from the bus through a window. The other passengers other than noticing the dearth of other passengers or any more than one crewman the bartender Scrubby (Gwenn) are blissfully unaware that they too are dead. Scrubby informs them that they are on their way to another world their afterlife. He then instructs the Bergners not to inform the other passengers of this fact either that it’s better if they find out in their own time that the Bergners know only because they died by their own hand(s). The sharp quick tongued Prior is the first to discover it but he too is asked by Scrubby and then Henry (who Scrubby had asked to help him) not to reveal it. Prior is only too happy to keep the secret and his primary joy seems to be derived from heckling Lingley who he’d written about and exposed through his writing in “the first world”. However eventually he can no longer resist the temptation and he delights in telling “his” secret theatrically.
Naturally each of the passengers has his or her own regrets about the lives they’ve led or where they were headed before they were killed. Unfortunately for actress Russell she was heading for her first big chance a USO tour of the United States after having made bad choices (e.g. with men) earlier in her career. The Reverend too was making his first big venture and trip outside of his village to spread the word of God. Merchant Marine Musick after surviving three torpedoed boats was returning home to see his child for the very first time. Lingley insists he has no regrets though he’d tried to seduce Russell and hire Henry as a bodyguard and attempts to buy his way out of this fate. Scrubby who provides a calming influence for everyone informs him that he cannot escape his destiny and keeps the ship firmly on schedule until the white suited Reverend Tim Thompson (Greenstreet) arrives.
Reverend Thompson who was known by Reverend Duke in the other world is the Examiner – judgment day has arrived for the ship’s passengers. Greenstreet like Gwenn plays his other worldly role to perfection. One by one the passengers are relegated to Heaven or Hell though those terms are never used. Instead an indication as to whether they will be going to a paradise or another “place” to account for their sins is strongly suggested. It is then learned that the arrogant class-conscious Mrs. Cliveden-Banks was cheating on her husband assuming all along that he didn’t know and therefore since she wasn’t hurting him it was alright. The Examiner and then Mr. Cliveden-Banks informs her otherwise. Everyone else after a their brief meeting exits on their way to where one would expect until it’s Prior’s turn.
*** SPOILERS ***
Prior is saved by Mrs. Midget who agrees to take care of him and be a good influence enabling him to begin again as the little boy with big dreams of his future. After he’s “left” it is revealed that Mrs. Midget was Prior’s birth mother unable to care for him she’d had to give him up for adoption such that he never had her mothering influence before but now will. Henry Bergner will have to stay with Scrubby also a suicide to serve future passengers on this ship or one of the many others. Scrubby urges Reverend Thompson to take Ann with him that she shouldn’t be made to stay because it was her love that led her to the fate that her husband had chosen. Henry pleads with Ann to leave but she will not go. So the happy ending almost anyone could see coming is delivered – the breaking glass Henry keeps hearing is shown to be the window of their apartment which let the gas escape as fresh air rushes in so that Henry awakes and revives Ann – and they live happily ever after … in London!