From the Juilliard School of Dance, Drama, and Music: Creating Bolero: Creating Bolero Juilliard In normal times, Juilliard’s halls are buzzing with collaborations: string quartets, jazz ensembles, and singers rehearsing in practice rooms on the fourth floor; dancers creating new choreography on the third floor; HP students embellishing bass lines together in Room 554, the …
May 04 2020
Jan 01 2009
On Borrowed Time is a 1939 film about the role death plays in life, and how we cannot live without it. Set in a more innocent time in small-town America, the film stars Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi and Cedric Hardwicke.
Lionel Barrymore plays Julian Northrup, a wheelchair-bound man, who with his wife Nellie, played by Beulah Bondi, are raising their orphaned grandson, Pud. Another central character is Gramps’s beloved old apple tree. By making a wish, Gramps has made the tree able to hold anyone who climbs.
One day the fedora-wearing Mr. Brink (the personification of death, played by Cedric Hardwicke), who has recently taken Pud’s parents in an auto wreck, comes for Gramps. Not knowing who he’s talking to, a crotchety old Gramps orders Death off the property. Later, Mr. Brink takes Nellie, and then returns again for Gramps. Now realizing who Mr. Brink is and determined not to die, Gramps tricks Death up into the old apple tree where he must remain until Gramps lets him down. While stuck in the tree, he can’t take Gramps or anyone else, for that matter.
Meanwhile, Pud’s aunt (his mother’s sister), has designs on Pud and especially the money left him by his parents, and Gramps spends much time fighting off her efforts. Gramps is also fighting efforts to have him committed to the insane asylum for claiming that Death is trapped in his apple tree. He proves that no one can die until he allows Death down from the tree by shooting the man who has come to take him to the asylum – the man lives, when he should have died.
Gramps’s doctor is now a believer, but he tries to convince Gramps to let Death down so people who are suffering can find release. Gramps refuses – he has to remain alive to take care of Pud and keep the wicked aunt away from him. But Mr. Brink manages to coax Pud to climb the fence Gramps had built around the tree to protect people from Death – any person or animal who touches the tree dies. Pud balances on the top of the fence and then falls, crippling himself for life. Distraught, Gramps takes the boy out to the tree and begs Death to take them both, which he does – and both Gramps and Pud find they can walk again.
The final scene has them joyfully walking together up a beautiful country lane, listening to Grandma calling to them from beyond a brilliant light.
As a child, I saw this movie on TV sometime during the late 50s; and I have never forgotten it.