I’LL CRY TOMORROW contains one of Susan Hayward’s best performances as singer Lillian Roth (1910–1980). Once dubbed “Broadway’s Youngest Star,” Roth suffered through failed marriages, alcoholism, homelessness, and a suicide attempt. With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, Roth bounced back in 1953 with a television appearance on This Is Your Life, detailing the sordid moments in her life and her triumphant return, and a bestselling 1954 memoir, which gives the movie its title.
Hayward did her own singing (much to Roth’s dismay) and she does a bang-up job with songs such as “Sing You Sinners,” “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along,” and “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe.” The film’s gritty semi-documentary style of filmmaking and Daniel Mann’s no-nonsense direction match Roth’s story fierce determination and descent into alcoholic oblivion, all of it backed by Alex North‘s brassy, bluesy score.
Blaring out from the main titles, muted, swinging trumpets support a searing string melody used intermittently throughout the film for Lillian’s battle with the bottle. A childlike waltz lazily dances through the film, representing Roth’s emotional immaturity.
Lillian’s first drinking montage is a memorable one. Hayward’s voiceover narration is underscored by North’s muted trumpet, slurring strings and gurgling bass clarinets. Homeless, Lillian passes out drunk in front of a Chinese grocery to the full orchestra blaring the main theme, while trumpets and piano hammer away at Lillian’s condition. In its final incarnation, the main theme triumphantly accompanies Lillian as she walks to the stage for her TV appearance.
Even with this score’s musical overtones (which most Academy voters can’t distinguish from an original score), North’s score to THE ROSE TATTOO copped the Oscar nomination that year. I’LL CRY TOMORROW is not always an easy listen, perfectly matching the difficult “life” portrayed onscreen. Still, it’s a solid effort by North.