On Borrowed Time (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

On Borrowed Time (1939)

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Old Gramps (Lionel Barrymore) is not about to go gentle into that good night when Mr. Brink (Cedric Hardwicke), who sometimes travels under the name of the Grim Reaper, comes calling. Through a ruse, Gramps chases Brink up a tree in his garden, rendering the mysterious stranger helpless. As a result, no one dies throughout the world, and disease and misery runs rampant. Dispassionately, Mr. Brink decides to "reach" Gramps through his beloved grandson (Bobs Watson). He talks the boy into climbing the tree and then suffering a crippling fall. Realizing that the only way he can stem his grandson's pain is by surrendering to Mr. Brink, Gramps does so--and discovers that Crossing Over wasn't as painful as he thought. Together with his grandson, who has likewise expired, Gramps joyfully strolls into a most pastoral-looking Heaven. The final shots of Lionel Barrymore walking into Paradise under his own power represent a triumph of misdirection and special effects. In truth, the wheelchair-confined Barrymore was placed on a treadmill, and merely simulated his walking movements as a process screen enhanced the illusion; for long shots, a double was used. While Barrymore's performance naturally dominates On Borrowed Time, Cedric Hardwicke is equally effective in the role of Mr. Brink (his favorite role). A great early vignette finds a consumptive motorist (Hans Conried) offering Brink a lift; the latter waves the motorist on, politely saying "No, not yet." On Borrowed Time was based on the novel by Lawrence Edward Watkin and the popular Broadway play version by Paul Osborne.

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Cast

Lionel Barrymore
as Julian Northrup - Gramps
Una Merkel
as Marcia Giles
Beulah Bondi
as Nellie Northrup - Granny
Nat Pendleton
as Mr. Grimes
Henry Travers
as Dr. Evans
Grant Mitchell
as Mr. Pilbeam
Eily Malyon
as Demetria Riffle
James Burke
as Sheriff Burlingame
Charles Waldron
as Rev. Murdock
Ian Wolfe
as Charles Wentworth
Phillip Terry
as Bill Lowry
Truman Bradley
as James Northrup
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