A Somber Shirley Temple Film — ‘Now And Forever’ Reviewed

The trick with Shirley Temple movies is while her characters usually have to face a lot of adversity, they tend to demonstrate an amazing ability to persevere and not be disheartened by their circumstances. In that sense, Temple’s character, Pennie, is made of the same, unflappable stuff. Having lost her mother at a young age, Pennie lives with her uncle (George Webb), a strict disciplinarian who doesn’t believe in children having fun. Enter Pennie’s biological father, Jerry (Gary Cooper), who intends to give up custody of Pennie for a large sum of cash, but ends up taking Pennie to Paris with him instead.

Henry Hathaway‘s Now and Forever is not your usual Shirley Temple vehicle. For one thing, the film is centered around Cooper’s Jerry, not Pennie, and Jerry is fairly despicable. There are some thieves who rob from the rich and give to the poor, or at least have a code about not stealing from ordinary people. Jerry is not that kind of swindler and proves that almost immediately when the film begins. Unable to cover his hotel bill, Jerry poses as an auditor and uses the money he’s able to poach off the other guests (who think they’re paying their own bills) to pay off his. It’s a lousy move, and one which Jerry never shows any remorse for, and because it happens so early in the movie, you’re basically stuck with a character who’s going to keep being a jerk.

Without Temple, the film would be a dark and humorless affair. Even with her, it’s not much better — and that’s despite having a cast which, on paper, would seem like a dream. The movie’s one musical number is interrupted so Pennie’s voice can be heard in the background, but her dance is off camera. That isn’t to say the film is badly acted. While Carole Lombard is best known for her screwball comedies, she’s also a very gifted dramatic actress and manages to give a character who could be very one note — she keeps reverting back on her decision to leave Jerry — more depth by having her also be self-aware about the unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

When the film leans into its darkness it starts to improve, but as film historian Lee Gambin explains in his commentary with costume historian Elissa Rose, the original ending was altered and instead of seeing that darkness through to the end, the film backtracks.

Also from the commentary: Gambin reveals how Temple was made to cry in one scene. Rose breakdowns some of the outfits and provides some background on fashion designer Travis Banton, who often worked for Paramount. Rose also suggests that “Honor Bright” would be a much better title for the film than Now and Forever, and I couldn’t agree more. “Honor bright” is what Pennie makes people say to prove they’re telling the truth, and honesty has a much bigger role in this movie than permanence does.

Now and Forever is available on Blu-Ray now from Kino Lorber.

The trick with Shirley Temple movies is while her characters usually have to face a lot of adversity, they tendCOMICONRead More

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: