Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Borrowed Time(1939).

On Borrowed Time(1939). The film is based on a novel by Lawrence Edward Watkin. Cast: Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Barrymore plays Julian Northrup, a wheelchair user (Barrymore had broken his hip twice and was now using a wheelchair, though he continued to act), who, with his wife Nellie, played by Bondi, are raising their orphaned grandson, Pud.

The story begins when, Death, who comes in the form of Mr. Brink, hitches a ride with Dr. James Northrup and his wife, causing a tragic car accident. They leave behind a young son Pud in the care of his grandparents, Julian Northrup and Nellie. Pud's aunt, Demetria Riffle, an old maid, pretends to care about the boy, but really only wants his inheritance. Gramps, knows exactly what she is up to.

When Mr. Brink comes for Gramps, he tricks him into the apple tree. Mr. Brink is not able to come down from the tree, because only Gramps has the power to free him. After their pet cocker spaniel dies after touching the tree, Gramps has a fence built round the tree to protect others.

Dr. Evans, soon believes that Death is trapped up in the apple tree, when several of his cases of certain death do not happen. Evans tries to disprove Gramps's story, but nothing dies, except a mouse that touches the apple tree. Evans begs Gramps to let Brink down. Saying that a world without death would cause people with incurable diseases, to suffer. Gramps, thinks about his own old age, but still cannot let Brink out of the apple tree.

The next day, Evans comes with papers to commit Gramps and turn Pud over to Demetria, convincing Gramps to let Brink out of the tree. After he breaks the news to Pud about his decision to go with Brink, Pud cries that saying he wants to go with Mr. Brink, too. Heartbroken, when Gramps tells him he can't come, Pud runs away. Gramps, pretends that Mr. Brink has said that Demetria and the sheriff are due to die soon. Marcia Giles, Gramps's housekeeper, also pretends that she heard it too, frightening Demetria and the sheriff into leaving. While Marcia and Gramps are looking for Pud. Mr. Brink calls him a "baby calf." Pud trying to climb the tree falls to the ground and is paralyzed. Will Gramps now call Mr. Brink from the tree?

This is a wonderful, magical, movie, with some very heartbreaking scenes. A movie you will not soon forget. One of my favorite Lionel Barrymore performances.


Beulah Bondi (May 3, 1889 – January 11, 1981). She made her Broadway debut in Kenneth S. Webb's "One of the Family" at the 49th Street Theatre on December 21, 1925.

She next performed in, Maxwell Anderson's "Saturday's Children" in 1926. It was Bondi's performance in Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Street Scene," which opened at the Playhouse Theatre on January 10, 1929, that brought Bondi to the movies at the age of 43.

Her debut movie role was as "Emma Jones" in Elmer Rice's Street Scene (1931), which starred Sylvia Sidney, and in which Bondi reprised her stage role, followed by "Mrs. Davidson" in Rain (1932), which starred Joan Crawford and Walter Huston.

She was one of the first five women to be nominated for an Academy Award in the newly-created category of "Best Supporting Actress" for her work in The Gorgeous Hussy, although she lost the award to Gale Sondergaard.

Two years later, she was nominated again for Of Human Hearts, and lost again, but her reputation as a character actress kept her working. She would most often be seen in the role of the mother of the star of the film for the rest of her career, with the exception of Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) as the abandoned Depression-era 'Ma' Cooper.

She often played mature roles in her early film career even though she was only in her early 40's. Bondi played James Stewart’s mother in four films: It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts and Vivacious Lady.


  1. Dawn,
    This was a great read on a very sweet film. I agree that it is heartbreaking. You can't help but tear up! I'm a big fan of Lionel and especially Lionel in this type of role too.

    I enjoyed your mini bio on Beaulah. Another great actress.
    I hope On Borrowed Time airs again soon as I'd like to see it again.

  2. Dawn, I've never seen this one. Your opening pic makes me think I don't want to--how depressing. Your plot description makes it sound interesting.

  3. Dawn,I could not get over this film the first time i saw it,so when TCM reran it I had to burn a DVD .

    Kim you really need to add this to your 1000 film list, trust me on this.

  4. Page, This really is a wonderful little film.. I'm glad that you were able to see it.

    Kim, it is a very emotional film. A 5 Kleenex alert.. :I

    Paul 2, This film had a couple of surprises for me. I really do not want to say too much more, as I do not want to spoil it for others, who have not yet seen the film.

  5. Dawn, I have never heard of this film, but your write-up has me very interested in seeing it. It sounds like a very touching film. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention.

    Hope you're having a great week!!

  6. Hey Patti, I hope you are having a wonderful vacation..


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