Before standardizing the topography of noir with Murder My Sweet, Edward Dmytryk made the nervy little “coming home from the war” film Til the End of Time. A lower budgeted cousin to William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, Dmytryk’s film walks and whispers where Wyler’s marches and sings. I love Lives same as anyone else, but if you can find your way around the deceptively soapy title, Til The End of Time is rich in pleasure. Not the least of those pleasures is a charismatic young man in only his second film, Guy Madison, and his chemistry with his older love interest, Dorothy McGuire.
Based on the novel by Niven Bush (The Furies), Til The End of Time follows three vets home to their same small town where they meet up, dance, talk, have flashbacks, fall in love, etc., but don’t think Sinatra-style Michener stuff, think Emeric and Pressburger style whisper stuff, even with Robert Mitchum, all funny and tragic and larger than life as a soldier dealing with a plate in his head, but the film’s best moments are the quiet ones – Guy Madison’s parents, failing to see he’s no longer confined by their old world mores and wondering when he’s going to stop sleeping in his old bed and get a job and/or obey his old curfew; and Dorothy McGuire, remarkably sexual and free (perhaps since she’s a war widow, the censors gave her some breathing room). One of my favorite scenes is a small one: McGuire and Madison comforting a shaky stranger at the bar, in low whispers, like a symphony of supportiveness.
And I say this as a the sort of straight man who generally regards “hunks” with disdain, Guy Madison is GORGEOUS! Good lord… he earns straight guy respect by being nice and sweet while reliable, cool, level-headed and not a self-absorbed preening prick (which the WB mistakes for “sincerity”) – but when he lies out in the backyard sun with his shirt off? Notions like gay and straight evaporate as dew on the flowers in mom’s garden. And even though like many hunks he can’t act, he’s got enough natural charm it never seems to bother him. And it’s very cool to prefer the older, sexually experienced widow in favor of strapping gal next door Jean Porter (who would later marry Dmytryk). How modern of him! In sum, whatever your religious affiliation, don’t miss the misleadingly named Til the End of Time when it airs on TCM tomorrow at 11:15 AM EST (Weds, Oct. 29)