Tomorrow's Children (1934)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Run Time - 55 min.  |  
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Heralded as the "most daring, sensational drama ever filmed," this exploitation-melodrama is actually a rather confused argument both for and against forced sterilization. Their children either in jail, physically handicapped, or "feeble-minded," Mr. and Mrs. Mason (Arthur Wanzer and Sarah Padden) are told by a welfare worker that the entire family must either accept sterilization or forfeit welfare checks. Included in the order of sterilization is eldest daughter Alice (Diane Sinclair), a seemingly healthy young girl who is engaged to Jim (Carlyle Moore Jr.). Instead of complying, Alice flees into the night, but is soon apprehended by the police. Alice's boyfriend pleads her case to sympathetic physician Dr. Brooks (Don Douglas), who agrees to testify on the girl's behalf in court. The judge, however, remains unmoved and Alice is taken away to be sterilized. Dr. Brooks, who agrees with some forced sterilizations, vehemently refuses to perform the operation on Alice. Meanwhile, Father O'Brien (Crane Wilbur) is pleading with Mrs. Mason to retract her consent on religious grounds. The drunken woman refuses, but does admit that Alice is not her natural daughter. With that startling bit of news, Dr. Brooks rushes to the hospital, arriving just in time to prevent Alice from going under the knife. Perhaps because the filmmakers never quite made it clear where they stood regarding forced sterilization, Tomorrow's Children was banned outright in many areas by the Catholic Legion of Decency, which was opposed to any kind of sterilization. Directed and co-written by Crane Wilbur, a silent screen leading man who had starred opposite Pearl White in the historic serial The Perils of Pauline (1914), Tomorrow's Children was produced and released on the States' Rights market by Bryan Foy. Leading lady Diane Sinclair, reportedly a mulatto hailing from Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana (Suriname), delivered a fine performance despite the film's obvious lack of budget and technical expertise. She would later star in Edgar Ulmer's warning against venereal disease, Damaged Lives (1937), and, later still, appear as a regular on bandleader Kay Kyser's television show. Rather incongruously, hayseed comedian Sterling Holloway provided comedy relief to the grim proceedings as a sleepy intern. All but forgotten, Tomorrow's Children was picked up by exploitation filmmaker David Friedman and re-released on videotape in 1994.

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Keywords

sterilization, court-battle, doctor, drunk, illegitimate-child, judge, welfare [govt. aid]