Only Yesterday

  • 1933
  • 1 HR 48 MIN
  • NR
  • Drama

Although the title is drawn from Allen's retrospective commentary of the period between 1918 and 1933, this has nothing to do with that scholarly work. It was a brilliant debut for Sullavan and she transcended the material. It was also the debut of Jimmy Butler, an excellent child actor who would only do a couple of other films before passing away at an...read more

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Although the title is drawn from Allen's retrospective commentary of the period between 1918 and 1933, this has nothing to do with that scholarly work. It was a brilliant debut for Sullavan and she transcended the material. It was also the debut of Jimmy Butler, an excellent child actor

who would only do a couple of other films before passing away at an early age. Basically a BACK STREET-type film (it even had Boles in the male lead, the same man who had starred with Irene Dunne in that movie the year before), ONLY YESTERDAY was a very successful draw for Depression audiences and

established Sullavan as a star in her first movie. It's 1929 and the stock market is crashing. Boles is a broker who has lost everything and is about to take his own life, a fate that many of his compatriots shared in those dark days. He raises a revolver for that purpose, then notices a letter

he'd missed reading. He lays the gun down and opens the missive to find that it's from Sullavan, recounting their experiences together. Flashback to 1917 where Boles, a handsome young officer, is training in Virginia for The War To End All Wars and meets Sullavan at a festive ball. They are

instantly attracted to each other, have one night of love, and he is sent to fight in France soon afterward. Boles is seen to be a decent chap, not a rakehell, a man who would understand what happened to Sullavan if he had only known. She becomes pregnant, travels north to New York to stay with

her aunt, Burke (in a wonderful turn as one of moviedom's first liberated women), and has a baby boy. The war comes to a halt on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 and the lads come home to have their traditional parade down Fifth Avenue. Sullavan goes to the parade and looks for Boles

among the happy warriors and, miracle of miracles, she finds him. But her hopes are shattered when he doesn't recognize her. (This is a huge credibility gap in the story as anyone as sympathetically portrayed as Boles would have recalled someone as sweet and attractive as Sullavan, unless he was

suffering from "shell-shock" which was a regularly used gimmick of convenience in many films.) Sullavan backs off without telling him of his parenthood. When she reads that he has married Hume, she erases any thoughts of getting back together and concentrates on her own life as a mother and

businessperson. She makes a few bucks in her work and sends son Butler to military school. Ten years go by in a trice and Boles and Sullavan meet again at a New Year's Eve function. Her love life has presumably been empty for a decade and when they get together that night, it's right back to bed

for the duo, although Boles still doesn't know that she's the same Virginia reeler he met in 1917. As far as Boles is concerned, it was a lovely way to spend an evening, nothing more. She leaves in the morning without having revealed what the audience knows. Flash forward and we discover that she

has a weak ticker and is on the brink of departing and just wanted Boles to know he had an offspring. He discards his thoughts of suicide and quickly goes to her home, to discover that she's already given up the ghost. The last scene is particularly touching as Boles meets Butler for the first

time and tells him that he now has a father. Except for the large lapse of memory that Boles has, this is a pretty good movie. It was remade in 1948 with Joan Fontaine in the lead. The title was changed for that to LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Although the title is drawn from Allen's retrospective commentary of the period between 1918 and 1933, this has nothing to do with that scholarly work. It was a brilliant debut for Sullavan and she transcended the material. It was also the debut of Jimmy B… (more)

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