Welles went on to exclaim that he usually always hated character actor Victor Moore -- “a professional Irishman” -- and never especially liked character actress Beulah Bondi, but that in this extraordinary movie they were both absolutely wonderful, and he would credit director-writer McCarey (1898-1969) for their brilliant turns here.
Indeed, McCarey was famous for drawing out fresh, seemingly improvised, always surprising and unusual characterizations from his actors. The very same release year as this lovely, heartbreaking film, which, as Orson also noted, “Nobody ever saw!”, McCarey scored a huge critical and popular hit with perhaps the definitive screwball romantic comedy The Awful Truth (starring Irene Dunne at her scintillating best and Cary Grant in his first real Cary Grant performance) and the Oscars voted McCarey best director for his work on it. Accepting the award, Leo thanked the Academy members, then added, “But you gave it to me for the wrong picture.”
The idea for Make Way for Tomorrow sprang from McCarey’s reaction to the death of his father. “We were real good friends,” Leo told me. “I admired him so much.” The scripts for both Make Way for Tomorrow and The Awful Truth were written by McCarey with Viña Delmar, whose Cosmopolitan short story about old people first prompted the director to contact her. “Old age is a subject audiences hate,” Welles used to give as one reason why this very special, guileless, and uncompromising film was never popular. But it perfectly exemplifies the comment Jean Renoir once made about Leo: “McCarey understands people,” he said, then added, “perhaps better than anyone else in Hollywood.” See this movie with folks you care about (and have plenty of Kleenex available).