The after war picture most remember (with good reason), is, of course: THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). R.K.O studios TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) was released two months previous to MGM’S picture, both oddly enough in Mexico with the USA premiere not happening till 1947.
TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) was directed by Canadian born (Grand Forks British Columbia) Edward Dmytrk from a novel, They Dream of Home, by Niven Busch with screenplay by Allen Rivken. This picture tells the story of three servicemen, all marines: Cliff Harper (Guy Madison), William Tabeshaw (Robert Mitchum) and Perry Kincheloe (Bill Williams), adjusting to civilian life. Kincheloe is a former boxer who has lost both legs and is living with his mother; shades of Homer Parrish from the bigger budgeted THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1947). Tabeshaw is a rough and tumble, cynical cowboy who wants to get into the ranching business, yet some how keeps getting distracted. Cliff Harper is literally the All American boy who plays football and lives with his parents.
These three people connect with others as their lives grow, the most prominent being Pat Ruscomb (Dorothy Maguire) and Helen Ingersoll (Jean Porter). Maguire plays Pat Ruscomb, a widow who is looking for something in life and finds it in the chance meeting with Cliff Harper. There is a potential liaison when Cliff drops the all American smile and ends up back at her place after they both agree on the dance floor to a quick exit. Cliff can’t go through with things when he sees a picture of her deceased husband as there would be “too many in the room.”
The opposite end of the spectrum is Helen Ingersoll, the next door neighbor teenager who desperately wants to appear grown up. She admits she has ‘lots of ideas’ when asked by Cliff about her crushes. Her current steady boyfriend Tommy (Johnny Sands) is of her own age. She refers to him as being ‘such a child’ when he shows up shirtless for a beach date. Helen is double dating, going skating with Cliff and another military buddy Pinky (Loren Tindall) and his girl. Interesting ice skating sequence follows with some strong skating by Jean Porter and Dorothy Maguire. Porter looks on camera like she did her own skating while Maguire is mostly in long shot suggesting a double was used. Later both Cliff and Pat comfort a fellow soldier who has the ‘shakes’ at the snack bar and is afraid to go home to his family. Pat shows a tenderness by revealing her life to the soldier and what she did to confront problems.
Tableshaw returns to the the city, broken after having discovered Las Vegas and the fun one can have there. Having lost all his service pay (his ranch down payment) he asks Cliff for a twenty buck loan so he can start again. He plans to float around from town to town without a care in the world. He arrives just in time to help Kincheloe who has lost all desire to wear his artificial legs – after all, what good is a “fighter without legs?”
How these people resolve their lives is what fills in the film. Maguire steals the picture with her broodingly sad then tough as nails widow Pat Ruscomb. She moves through scenes with a vulnerability that grows harder as the picture progresses, much the same as Sylvia Hunter in A SUMMER PLACE (1954). She does her level best with the weak link in the cast which is Guy Madison as Cliff Fletcher.
Guy Madison was either playing on his looks to carry him or given some poor direction. The picture could have been considered his big break to establish him in the eyes of the public as a star for R.K.O. His dialogue delivery appears stilted and unconvincing when he changes from all smiles to tough guy. To be fair, perhaps it was his experience level at the time he did this as his lack of dancing skill is shown in an energetic sequence with Jean Porter. Porter literally is the dance as Madison’s body position looks basically locked in a pattern while she burns it up around him.
Robert Mitchum was still in his ‘soldier period,’ just on the cusp of stardom as he would move into film noir roles playing Phillip Marlowe or variations of in OUT OF THE PAST (1947), CROSSFIRE (1947) and what I think is one of his most overlooked roles: that of Frank Jessup in malevolent ANGEL FACE (1952).
Bill Williams does his best with limited screen time as the boxer Kitcheloe. Willams offers strong moments with his mother, played by Selene Royle in their home. Both are overjoyed when her son decides to begin his life again with his artificial legs.
Underlying themes of not letting people grow up surface in Cliff ‘s parents, played by Ruth Nelson and Tom Tully. They both sneak into his room at night in a misguided show of love as his mother tucks his leg back under the covers. They creep out smiling and happy he is back with them, not understanding he is no longer a child. Fletcher is frustrated at their reaction to him and kicks out the foot again from the covers while sobbing himself to sleep.
TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) addresses the aspect of racism in the military, rarely shown in We fought the good fight” movies. In a sequence with Fletcher, Kicheloe and Tableshaw playing pinball in a bar: they gesture to a black soldier who is there to continue the game. They address him with the universal greeting of ‘buddy’ to which he smiles and continues the game. They are approached by a group of men who invite them to join their Veterans Organization. When questioned about it further by Tableshaw they are told that memberships is restricted as ”No Catholics, Jews or Negroes” are allowed. This remark is overheard by the black solder whom they let play their pinball game. The look on his face is complete destruction as his eyes slowly grow moist as the camera lingers on him and follows as he shuffles out of shot. Tableshaw does not take kindly to that remark and in fact spits in the face of the person who said it, causing a fight. Director Edward Dmtryk was unafraid to show prejudice and was later black listed as one of the “Hollywood Ten” who refused to testify during the infamous McCarthy era.
TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) suffers from pacing at times and the mentioned weak casting of Guy Madison. It shows different aspects of post war america, some not so pretty moments of frustration and intolerance. See if you can catch a glimpse of Ellen Corby, who went on to become famous as Grandma Walton on the THE WALTONS TV series. Blake Edwards, who later produced THE PINK PANTHER and many others has an uncredited role as Hal. TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) is a worthy look at a different side of post war America though the Hollywood lens.
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