Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
Skippy Homeier was all of thirteen years when he stunned Broadway audiences with his electrifying performance as Emil Bruckner, a Hitler youth transplanted into the midwestern American home of his uncle, Professor Michael Frame (Ralph Bellamy), where he soon launches a verbal assault on his Jewish aunt-to-be, Leona Richards (Shirley Booth). Independent producer Lester Cowan rushed "Tomorrow the World" into production the following year with Homeier re-creating his original role, but Bellamy & Booth were replaced by March and Field for the movie. As the screenplay makes clear, the little Nazi has been conditioned by the circumstances of his life into rejecting the values of his late parents, including his American mother Mary. His German father Karl, a Nobel prize-winning opponent of National Socialism, died in a concentration camp, and the child was then raised to believe he was the son of a traitor.
Uncle Michael believes that love and kindness will work wonders on the little Nazi in his home, but quickly learns that the damage done to his nephew may be irreparable. A series of incidents with the neighborhood children and Emil's potentially fatal fight with his cousin Patricia (Carroll, replacing nine-year-old Joyce Van Patten) almost make Michael and Leona give up on the boy, just as he is beginning to learn how to feel. The theme of "Tomorrow the World" was both provocative and tricky. How do you persuasively show this kid's transformation into a human being capable of living peacefully with other human beings? Fine acting by the three leads and by Agnes Moorehead (replacing Dorothy Sands as Aunt Jessie, Michael's unmarried sister) certainly helped. One-time actor Leslie Fenton, whose forte as a director lay in action pictures (mysteries, westerns) ventilated the script's philosophical concerns with a sharp sense of what it feels like to be a kid in an unfamiliar environment. And, despite his age, Homeier had already had plenty of practice: he began his acting career at age six in live radio dramas. As veteran radio actress Moorehead once said, "You had to work to make the audience visualize you and that isn't easy to do. Many stage actors fall by the wayside because of their inability to make an audience 'see.'" Homeier made audiences see, alright, and luckily his early work has been preserved in this rarely-revived (and therefore ideal!) candidate for home video release. Based on the play by James Gow and Armand D'Usseau.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 5/9/01
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