Retro Review: Come Next Spring by Patricia

Movie poster Come Next Spring

In spite of how elements of this movie’s storyline deal with the troubling subjects of alcoholism and abandonment of family, Come Next Spring is a generous story with a quiet but strong heart.   Like many of these older films, rather than relying on in-your-face action sequences and special effects, loud soundtracks, and romantic drama that glues a box-office-compatible couple to center stage, Come Next Spring turns on resonant dialogue and actual, honest questions about family and community relations.   No glamor kings and queens in this movie.   Its “just folks” actors provide it with a low-key, slow-moving charm.

The story is deceptively simple.   Recovering alcoholic Matt Ballot (Steve Cochran) returns to his Arkansas farm and the wife, Beth, and daughter, Annie, whom he abandoned twelve years earlier.   He’s more than a little interested to see what’s become of them since he left.   As he walks down the home stretch, he meets Annie.   Annie is a voiceless creature; she keeps company with animals but runs away from her father, who doesn’t recognize her.   When Matt reaches the old homestead, he’s surprised to discover not only that his stoical and resourceful wife Bess (played beautifully by Ann Sheridan) has held everything together quite well without him but also that he has a delightful son, Abraham (Richard Eyer), born after Matt ran out on the family.   Abraham doesn’t hold Matt’s abandonment against him; he’s just happy to learn he has a father. In spite of the shock Matt’s out-of-the-blue return gives her, Bess politely invites her wayward husband to stay for dinner, after which he spends the night in the €œspare room € with his son.   Abraham has a bed-wetting problem, but with his father home and sleeping in the same room, Abraham’s incontinence resolves itself.   Matt doesn’t blame his wife at all for her cool response to his sudden reappearance. A changed man now and a thoughtful one, he doesn’t want to cause his family further suffering and decides to leave again.   But the magnetism of family life and Matt’s natural charm and interest in the world around him conspire to keep him at the farm.   Several times he sets his cap and resolves to take to the road and spare his family the discomfort that his return rekindles, but as he heads off the property he stops to fix this or mend that.   Seeing his interest in helping, Bess hires him as a farmhand.   Literally, Matt begins working his way back into his family’s trust.

The town’s folks are less forgiving. In Matt’s absence, Beth has acquired a sort-of suitor, a rough, unpleasant man who finds Matt’s return a threat to his own plans.   Beside all that, the small, rural, hard-bitten Arkansas town where Matt’s family has been living and doing business is accustomed to thinking of Matt as a coward and an irredeemable alcoholic. Despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Matt went AWOL from home and community, the town and its residents have remained the same. They haven’t changed in all that time; how could Matt, who did his beautiful, hard-working wife and children such a terrible wrong, be any different now from how the they   remember him?   Townsfolk expect that he’ll do the same thing he did before–disappear suddenly, once again leaving them to their predicaments of poverty and stopped time. Matt takes their doubt, disdain, and baiting with patience, all the while making his way back into the town’s affairs and into his wife’s affections.

In one understated act after another, Matt assumes responsibility for his family and town’s well being.   He shakes up the borough and breaks the spell that has kept his old friends and enemies slumbering.   Slowly, old wounds begin to heal and painful secrets are revealed.   In a powerful act, Matt faces the truth about why his pretty daughter Annie (Sherry Jackson) can’t speak.   Ultimately, Matt’s unexpected return opens his wife’s heart, saves his mute daughter’s life, and brings new life to the backwoods town where he grew up.

Come Next Spring is a tender and intelligent drama about failure, redemption, and new possibilities.   Set in the 1920s, the movie’s rural backdrop and script paint a smart portrait of entwinements–broken and mended–between people and the land upon which they live.   Come Next Spring’s magic relies on no wizards, time-traveling warriors, or supernatural beings for its power, only the equally deep mystery of how a common man’s change of heart can spread like spring to break the grip of an intractable winter.   Veteran character actors Walter Brennan and Edgar Buchanan turn out respectable performances as Jeff Story and Mr. Canary, respectively–two, long-time residents of the town. Their voices lend a nice, folksy texture to the dialogue. Released in 1956, this early color film features Tony Bennett singing the title song.

If you would like a DVD of Come Next Spring, please leave a comment below.   It’s a nice movie, very family-friendly.   After you leave a comment, I’ll contact you to make shipping arrangements.   Also, if you receive a copy of Come Next Spring, please consider participating in the promotion and preservation of historic movies by returning to this post and leaving a mini-review in the comments. WIZ’s Retro Reviews get pretty high search rankings, and that means something.   I don’t know what it means, but it means … yeah, something.


Patricia founded Wilderness Interface Zone in 2009.   She has published a novel, The Pictograph Murders (Signature Books 2004) as well as essays and poetry.   Some of her poetry appears in the recently released Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-First Century Mormon Poets (Peculiar Pages Press 2011) as well as in its cultural predecessor, Harvest (Signature Books 1989).   Currently, she lives in the Four Corners region of the Southwest with her husband, three children, two cats, and a variety of seasonal and permanent wild residents. She enjoys writing Retro Reviews.


11 thoughts on “Retro Review: Come Next Spring by Patricia”

  1. Until a nice uncle bestowed a black-and-white TV, I missed out on some of the early television series, which are being revived by stations like Me.TV and THIS. I completely missed out on most “historic movies” until my middle age; I now eagerly watch Turner Classic Movies later in the evening while completing charting at my “day job.” I look at a movie such as COME NEXT SPRING as a enticing tome to be opened and savored, popcorn or not. As Patricia illustrates by her review, it is a film made for entertainment and for lesson. Eyes will open on and off the screen. Walter Brennan, a favorite of mine, can temper the seriousness of a story and make palatable the mythic substance and journeys made. (“No Brag, just Fact!”) COME NEXT SPRING is another old favorite I have yet to meet. It sounds like “a keeper,” which could become another “old friend”: I do consider not only literature, like THE GRAPES OF WRATH, but also cinema as having various personae created for readers’/viewers’ exterior and inward existence. I know from personal experience in the 1970’s that the study of cinema became a legitimate curriculum in the Liberal Arts college as part of American Studies. Patricia’s essay has me reveling in both universal themes and regionalism of small town America in the 1920’s. (Also, thinking of Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN and Sherwood Anderson’s WINESBURG, OHIO, Then, the times of Prohibition draw nigh in COME NEXT SPRING, it may hold true once viewed. This will have me tuning in to late night THE UNTOUCHABLES and to Ken Burn’s recent PROHIBITION series for comparisons. What I have said here, I humbly offer as my validation of Patricia wonderfully detailed review and encourage others to venture not backwards, but in reverse, (takes more skill) to early black-and-white and color films. Finally, nature lovers, maybe kindred to John Muir, gather at this website for yet another offering of Spring, for renewal and healing of the human spirit.


  2. A lot of surprisingly honest, realistic films were made in the fifties. The one that opened my eyes to this fact was The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. My memory of the movie focuses on the couple’s dealing with the husband’s war-theater infidelity, a conflict the script and actors handle very deftly.


  3. Hi Bill A! Good to see you here again. I’ll contact you via email to request your shipping address. Please look for my email to arrive in the next couple of days.

    You, too, Mary Erickson & Mark P. Keep on the watch-out for emails to arrive requesting shipping info.

    Thanks to all three of you (and to others, observing quietly) for reading this post.


  4. Patricia,
    I read this last week and my first reaction was how much I enjoy being reminded that movies can be about something besides blowing things up (which sounds like a cheap shot at movies like 2012), then I got to the end,

    “Also, if you receive a copy of Come Next Spring, please consider participating in the promotion and preservation of historic movies by returning to this post and leaving a mini-review in the comments. WIZ’s Retro Reviews get pretty high search rankings, and that means something. I don’t know what it means, but it means €¦ yeah, something.”

    and, I know what it means, kind of. I just started working for a company that creates websites designed to be found by search engines. The rankings are important for businesses because people are more likely to click on the first page of links in search results, that is, the more highly-ranked pages.

    I work with search terms, so I wonder what kind of search terms people are using, that is, which kind of search terms pull a page up with high rankings. I did a little experiment.

    The top-ranked site for “retro review”
    Retro Review – Today’s Magazine for Yesterday’s Computers

    If I use “karamesines” alone it brings up a lot of pages about some racecar driver.

    “Come Next Spring” will bring up several pages about the movie, but not WIZ. The table below shows what happens when I combined these three search terms in different ways in different search engines.

    karamesines retro review: WIZ comes 1st and 2nd.
    “come next spring” karamesines: WIZ comes 1st of 1

    “come next spring” retro review: WIZ is 1st, 2nd, 3rd
    karamesines retro review: WIZ has 1st 4– 1,2,4 for Saul, 3 for Patricia

    “come next spring” karamesines: WIZ has 1st of 1
    “come next spring” retro review: WIZ is 1st
    “retro review wiz”: 1st and 2nd
    karamesines retro review 1 & 2

    “retro review wiz” 1st and 2nd
    “come next spring” karamesines 1st of 1
    “come next spring” retro review 1st and 4th
    karamesines retro review 1 & 2

    “come next spring” retro review 1st and 5th
    “retro review wiz” 1st and 2nd
    “come next spring” karamesines 1 of 1
    Karamesines retro review 1 & 2


  5. I bumped my mouse and it sent this before I had finished the formatting, but it should give some idea, though I don’t know what search terms people are actually using.


  6. Hi Harow 🙂

    I use pretty generic search terms. For example: The Charge at Feather River review (no quotation marks). On Google, it comes in at #1 of 324,000. I haven’t looked far afield of Google.

    South of Pago Pago review. On Google, #2 of 70,600,000.

    The Jungle Princess review. On Google, #1 of 8,380,000.

    Typhoon review. On this one, you have to type in one of the stars’ names because there’s a popular restaurant named Typhoon that takes all the top spots if you just type in that word. I chose: Typhoon review Robert Preston. On Google, #1 of 75,700.

    The Charge at Feather River. On Google, #1 of 324,000.

    I don’t post my retro reviews using my last name. And I really don’t know what all this means, if anything. Except that if people type in the names of the above movies and the word “review,” WIZ slips in there pretty high, at least on Google.

    The race car driver is Chris Karamesines, sometimes called “The Greek,” sometimes called “The Golden Greek.” He’s my husband’s uncle.


  7. Thanks, Patricia. I enjoyed this film. I watched it with my mother over at her house and I’ve been waiting to post something till I could watch it at home and compare. My impression is that this may be one of those films suffering from studio neglect, not in very good condition, like a lot of films, but it may also be that I don’t know quite how to adjust my mother’s new 21″ HDTV. I’ve noticed that a lot of old films don’t look really good in HD–they look washed out–but my son says that’s just because whoever owns the TV doesn’t know how to adjust the color. (I still haven’t watched it at home. I may post another comment when I have.)

    I <a href=”” title=”pinned this movie”, though Pinterest only allows 500 characters, so I didn’t get to say everything I wanted. I like the way the film uses Bess’s growing attraction to her husband as a symbol of her growing forgiveness.

    There’s a lovely scene where Matt comes in the back door and Bess is in the galvanized steel bathtub in the middle of the kitchen floor. She gives the obligatory scream and he backs out the door, then she gives a little smile. Later their son, Abraham, asks why they don’t sleep in the same bed like all the other kids’ parents, and Matt says that could be arranged. Bess shoos him away, but you can tell she’s pleased.

    The scene is a nice evocation of a child right at the edge–or just coming toward the edge–of glimpsing the mystery of married love, the things hidden both by the child’s inexperience and the parents’ silence on the matter.

    Indeed, silence pervades the film, both as a fact of the daughter, Annie’s, life and because the film explores what silence can accomplish–what can be done without words–and what can’t. The ending, where Annie finds her voice, is moving and nicely anticipates the ending of The Miracle Worker, where Helen Keller finds her voice.


  8. Come Next Spring is indeed one of those old films that suffered corporate abandonment and neglect. The version we sent you is the best that we could find. Back those days, Hollywood had a way of using and losing actors’ works or of allowing films to moulder once they’d had their runs and made their money. For instance, several of “It” girl Clara Bow’s (think Betty Boop) movies, which were very popular in their time (including internationally), were allowed to decay into a shameful state. Half of them no longer exist. That’s a lot of work Clara did that production studios failed to protect and preserve.

    I’m glad you liked the film. It’s one of my favorites of the old movies I’ve watched, second only to South of Pago Pago.


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