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On Borrowed Time

On Borrowed Time(1939)

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  • Emotional but Questionable

    • Lyn
    • 12/13/16

    It's hard not to cry at the end, but I still feel profoundly uneasy with the plot. A boy whose parents are conveniently killed (nary a tear shed) inherits money and lives with his grandparents. He and his grandpa share a great bond. The boy wants to be a doctor like his (unmourned for) father and collects frogs, lizards, and other specimens for the 'natural history museum' he creates in his bedroom's bookcase. Grandpa teaches him to question authority--fishing on Sunday morning instead of church, etc. Evil, repressive Aunt Demetria wants custody of the boy only for his money. When death comes for grandpa (in the form of Mr. Brink) grandpa traps him up a tree in order to live and protect the boy from Demetria. Death lures the boy into a painful and crippling accident. Grandpa agrees to die only if the boy can die also.Whew! Yes, heaven's nice. Farmland, sheep, grandma calling, family dog barking, etc. BUT, Couldn't Grandpa have just hired a lawyer and given custody of the boy to the nice, young couple who are standing right there? Isn't Grandpa a selfish what-its for denying the boy the chance to grow up and be the doctor he seems qualified to be? At the end, doesn't Demetria just end up with the money she wanted and no kid (which she didn't want)? And where in heaven and earth did those parents end up?

  • Old Masters in On Borrowed Time

    • William Bergmann
    • 1/17/15

    What a wonderful film. Bobby Watson was exceptional. How did they manage to find so many kids in those times that could really act, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Jackie Cooper are among the obvious ones, but Watson was in their league. Barrymore was at his best.

  • Questions about the screenplay

    • Andrew A. Oakley
    • 1/17/15

    I admit that I had to wipe away tears at the conclusion of ON BORROWED TIME after I saw it for the first time (this morning), but a couple of aspects of the film left me feeling uneasy: (1) A young, successful couple, with a pre-teen son at home, die in an automobile accident in the film's exposition, but there is a minimal amount of mourning. Gramps (Lionel Barrymore) is in top spirits (forgive the pun) immediately after the deaths of his son and daughter-in-law, and the grandson, Pud (Bobs Watson), seems to forget that his parents are gone. I give credit to Granny (Beulah Bondi) for shedding a token tear when she briefly remembers her son one-third of the way into the film. When Gramps and young Bobs enter post-earthly-life paradise in the denouement, the audience hears Granny calling to meet them, but, again, no mention is made of the parents. Pud doesn't ask about his mother and father; he only wants guarantees that he can stay with Gramps for all of eternity. Gramps doesn't look around for his son and daughter-in-law. It's as if the parents never existed, or maybe they didn't get accepted into the after-life. Thus, when viewers say they love this film's emphasis on old-fashioned family values... I'm not so sure. I usually picture parents as part of the family, at least in American society when ON BORROWED TIME was released in 1939. (2) The audience is shown nonstop that Aunt Demetria (Eily Malyon) is a conniving, money-grubbing, poor excuse for a human being. Thus, we don't need her absolutely bizarre boast, toward the end of her on-screen appearance, that she plans to enroll Pud in an all-girls boarding school once Gramps is tossed into the insane asylum; Demetria might be a repugnant personality, but this outrageous comment doesn't fit even her hardened character. Otherwise, ON BORROWED TIME was emotionally moving, and I plan to purchase it from TCM.

  • On Borrowered Time

    • Lea
    • 12/14/13

    I loved this movie every since I was a child, my mother loved TCM and she watced it all the the time. I even made my husband watch it, I cry ever time.

  • On Borrow Time; always a tear jerker

    • Criss
    • 7/30/13

    I have watched this film many times and I still tear up at the end. Such a great story of love and dedication to family. Its a must watch for TCM lovers.

  • a beautiful trip to fantasyland

    • hermann
    • 11/24/12

    While viewing this film this morning, I was thinking pretty much what James Higgins already stated -- "as only MGM could do." It has been the fashion with some film buffs to disparage MGM for its sentimental leanings, but they knew what they were doing. To be able to present a sentimental fable this effectively is quite an achievement. Even most hard-boiled realists (I am one, by the way) will be moved by this picture. Kudos to all involved, especially the actors, though I want to note also that the screenplay is rather wonderful too, not as predictable as you expect.

  • On Borrowed Time

    • Mary Beach
    • 10/13/12

    This Movie is a timeless classic. Filmed when people enjoyed honest sentiment and had decent values.I remember my mother telling me it was her favorite movie and describing the story--but I had never seen this movie until recently. I intend to make this movie part of my collection of honest heatwarming films.

  • Very interesting movie about life and death.

    • Fran Pate
    • 10/12/12

    I'm not a big fantasy movie fan, but I do love Lionel Barrymore and will watch him in anything. Pud, the little boy was a surprisingly good little actor to be so young. I have to admit I shed a few tears during the scenes with Pud and his grandfather, it was so sad to think of his grandfather leaving Pud with his aunt. I never thought a movie ending with almost all the major characters dying would be so uplifting. It would be nice if death could be like that in real life. I would watch this movie again.

  • Loved this movie since I was a child

    • Debbie
    • 10/12/12

    For me, this one is a simple, lovely little fantasy about life and death, and love. The relationship between the Grandfather and small grandson is just so touching. I love it. The final scene is one of my all-time favorite scenes ever. Love it. Always makes me cry.

  • Heartwarming, Inspiring, Uplifting

    • The Catman
    • 10/11/12

    I first saw this gem of an MGM film in 1974 when one of our local TV stations showed classic MGM movies every night of the week at 11:30 PM. I was 17 then, and knew that the movie was based on a stage play of the same name, which in turn was based on a best selling novel. The novel hit bookstores in 1937, the play hit Broadway in 1938 and MGM released the movie in 1939. At 17, I had aspirations of becoming an actor and wanted desperately to play the role of Mr. Brink, but in a more compassionate and human way than Sir Cedric Hardwicke played him in the movie. After all, Mr. Brink is Death personified, and if Death can't reassure people that it's perfectly fine for them to go with him to their heavenly reward, they won't want to leave this earthly plain. To get to the heart of this post, I was extremely lucky when a local community theatre decided to give the play a chance on their stage, and I was cast in my dream role as Mr. Brink, 37 years after I first watched the movie. Thankfully, the director saw Mr. Brink as I did, and that's how I played him. The 1939 movie boasts a FINE cast who portray their memorable characters in a truly wonderful way! With Lionel Barrymore as Gramps, Beulah Bondi as Granny, Bob Watson as Pud, Una Merkel as Marcia, Sir Cedric as Mr. Brink and Eily Malyon as Aunt Demetria, you can't go wrong. And the remainder of the cast are familiar faces to those of us who adore classic movies: Henry Travers, Grant Mitchell, Nat Pendleton, Phillip Terry, Ian Wolfe and even Hans Conried!! This movie is available on DVD so you have NO excuse not to watch it! You'll be on the verge of tears and want to share this movie with everyone you know and love. Next on TCM October 12, 2012, at noon Eastern.


    • Michael Steven
    • 9/27/12

    My Dad,used to say that this was one of his favorite movies.When I finally saw it in the late 80's,I was bowled over.It doesn't need to be made into something it isn't!In other words................STOP LOOKING BETWEEN THE LINES,& ENJOY IT FOR WHAT IT IS.It was intended to being a comedy of sorts.It was a MAJOR success on Broadway.What I've found is,you can't help watching this film,& not have to think about some of the things that are being mentioned.Like............LIFE,the necessity for DEATH,& WHAT WOULD LIFE BE LIKE WITHOUT DEATH.INTERESTING STUFF.Lionel Barrymore,Sir Cedric Hardwicke,Bobs Watson........they are the ones who make this film an absolute pleasure to view.Love it,or HATE IT................NEXT TIME THIS FILM SHOWS UP ON TCM,DON'T MISS IT.

  • On Borrowed Time (1939)

    • Mr. Blandings
    • 9/21/12

    At it's best this movie is sappy and mawkish; at it's worst, utterly dismal. There's also a subversive undercurrent of spite and nastiness to it that I find unpleasant and offensive. Hence, I don't recommend it. For a film with a similar set-up, however, but done superbly well, I recommend checking out 1934's "Death Takes a Holiday" instead.

  • Simple and Good

    • David R
    • 8/20/12

    It is hard to make a bad movie when you have Barrymore, Hardwicke, Una Merckel, Nat Pendleton, and etc in the cast. It is one of the great movies from 1939 and one that I will add to my collection.

  • Theological implications

    • Looking for angels
    • 1/1/11

    1939 was an awesome year for films, and this movie has it all--great acting and a great message. With some theological perspective, this film is taken to another level beyond human sentiment and morality. No one should miss the theological parallels. The apple tree could be an allusion to the Tree of Knowledge in the Book of Genesis, eating from which was forbidden by God. The Biblical penalty for disobedience was death. Gramps may have just represented a person with faith, or could even have been an allegory of God by times. Gramps tried to protect people from sure death, and then the ending offers God's hope and assurance, while the specifics of salvation for all those people coming behind them certainly could not be revealed in 2 hours of a Hollywood film. Mr. Brinks could merely have been representing the "letting go" of a natural death, or he could also have been personifying evil when, like the serpent (Satan), he tempted Pud to come closer to his sure death. Love and goodness conquered evil since the schemes of Pud's aunt did not materialize. Pud did make a bad choice after being deceived by Mr. Brink, but was clearly protected and given mercy. While entering heaven Gramps and Pud receive new bodies just as we are told in scripture will be our fate in communion with God in eternity. The love and devotion of Gramps and Pud to each other results in their avoidance of any separation from each other, just as God promises those people of faith that His love will never allow us to be separated from Him in eternity. Profound and relevant film. Wish we could see more like it! Such "subtle" evangelizing would be tough to put in today's films.

  • On Borrowed Time

    • Marlene
    • 5/27/10

    Fascinating story. Gets one to thinking! They don't make movies or stories like this anymore. That's why I only watch TCM and don' waste my hard earned money at the cinema anymore.

  • On Borrowed Time (1939)

    • James Higgins
    • 3/26/10

    What a fascinating storyline, as only MGM could do it. The cast is fabulous. Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi and Una Merkel all excel. Cedric Hardwicke is very memorable. The writing is excellent, so imaginative and different. Quite unforgettable.

  • So final, so good!

    • Jim
    • 7/27/09

    Back in the early 1960's when I was in second grade, our school was treated to a stage play on which this brilliant, and mostly unheralded film, is based. It was my first experience with a live performance, and I was hooked, appearing in dozens of stage dramas, comedies & musicals throughout my pre-college years. But the day of this play, our class was ushered out of the school hall before we got the chance to see the end of the performance, so I NEVER knew the ending of this story until I caught this classic film for the first time on TCM! I'm so very grateful that there is a Turner Classic Movie channel to present such fine screen gems like 'On Borrowed Time' and I am personally relieved and thrilled to have an ending to a private mystery of my early childhood finally cleared up!

  • If you're new to this film...(helpful spoilers)

    • Jarrod McDonald
    • 7/25/09

    I just watched it for the first time today. Surprised I hadn't come across it yet. I read some of the other reviewers' comments. I am going to somewhat agree with Chris P....I also thought that Una Merkel's character and her fiance should've gotten custody of Pud (that would've been the correct happy ending...then we could've seen Pud later join his relatives in the after-life). The way the story plays now, it is as if Gramps commits suicide and also kills Pud at the end. If you use common sense, you will realize early in the story that Pud is going to die, because he hears AND sees death, while the other characters who aren't yet about to die, don't. Okay, now on to a more positive comment. I do like the story, because it attempts to look at mortality in a creative way...and I think if you've ever had a special bond with your grandparents, then the heartwarming relationship between a boy and his Gramps will mean something to you. I'd like to find a copy of the stage play upon which this film was based. The film does tend to be a bit limited to the house and backyard, and it doesn't really pick up till after the grandmother dies and everyone thinks Gramps is crazy. The scene where Gramps shoots the man who's trying to take him to the asylum is great, and I did like the scene where he looks out at the tree and hopes that the man didn't die, or he has a devil of a problem.

  • Greatest movie of all time

    • Dave
    • 7/22/09

    If you don't like this one you have no heart, Just joking. But seriously, it is my favorite movie ever and I would recomend it to any and everyone. It can't be compared to the thinking of today, it must be savored in the time that it was made. A time when war and the possibility of death of someone you loved was on everyones mind and morality was more common. The humor and the sadness is excellently performed.

  • On Borrowed Time DVD Finally Available

    • Steven Rosenfeld
    • 4/6/09

    Warner Bros. has just released an official dvd of On Borrowed Time. You can purchase it on their Warner Bros. Shop web site.

  • Very Touching

    • muriel
    • 3/23/09

    Lionel Barrymore is so good in this! It's hard to believe this film wasn't nominated for any awards, but it was released in that magic year of 1939. I assume the part really resonated with Barrymore because he suffered the loss of two daughters in infancy. He was very heartbroken over it. Perhaps that's also why he was especially good in this one. The entire cast is excellent.

  • Forever my Favorite Movie.

    • j.pugh
    • 1/6/09

    I first saw this movie when I was very young, and having been raised by my Granny, it holds a special significance for me. I cannot watch it (and even struggle when giving a synopsis) without crying my heart out. It is so sad that many young people have never seen this movie or even heard of it. No one but Lionel Barrymore could have played Gramps! Please release this on DVD to be shared throughout the generations. Truly a classic.

  • loved this sweet old flick

    • Lori
    • 7/26/08

    My sister e-mailed me saying that she had watched this movie about an old man, a little boy and an apple tree, and how much she had liked it. I responded that I, too, had seen it, and was sucked in by the premise immediately. I loved the relationship between Pud and his grandfather, and loved the performances by these two actors. We both agreed that it was a memorable movie and not like anything we had seen for awhile. It was sweet and sentimental. We liked the idea of a peaceful death personified by Mr. Brink. Two thumbs up times two.

  • An all-time classic

    • Jim
    • 7/16/08

    I normally don't like movies that make me cry, but as a 47-year-old man I'll fess up to weeping like a baby by the end of this movie. There's the fantasy element of the grandpa in the movie (Lionel Barrymore) trapping Death in a tree and refusing to let him down. To say anymore would be to spoil it, but the ending, even with sadness, is full of joy. I cannot wait for this to be released.

  • great old classic

    • sheila richardson
    • 7/5/08

    fantastic old classic need to be on dvd.

  • Tender-hearted movie.

    • Cynthia
    • 7/5/08

    Just finished watching this movie. I've watched it over the years, and it NEVER fails to make me sentimental and causes me to shed lots of tears! You would think by the time a woman is in her 50s it you would outgrow that! Tender, heartwarming story of love and devotion between grandfather and grandson. So sweet.

  • Great old family movie!

    • Joe
    • 3/13/08

    Great movie ..... needs to be put on dvd

  • What a great movie!

    • Ann Gebhart
    • 1/27/08

    I saw this movie in the late 50's when I was a child. I remember laughing and crying at the same time. On Borrowed Time was made in 1939 along with The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind and many other great classics. On Borrowed Time is by far better than all the movies of that year! Please put this movie on DVD for all to enjoy.

  • Great Movie

    • Barbara Fulwise
    • 1/22/08

    This movie is one of my all time favorites. The first time I saw it I fell in love with it. My friends and I have discussed this movie often over the years. I would love to see it released on DVD one day soon.

  • "On Borrowed Time"

    • Sherry Lincoln
    • 1/1/08

    This is one of the best classic movies I have had the opportunity to watch. My husband and I was dating when we first saw this movie. We have been married for 24 years now and I have told this story to our four sons and now I have found this movie. Please put this movie on DVD it is better than "It's A Wonderful Life"Thank YouSherry

  • One of the Best!

    • mary R
    • 11/13/07

    Love this movie. One of my favs of Barrymore. Needs to be on DVD. Can't wait to see it again.

  • "on Borrowed Time"

    • San Juanita
    • 9/30/07

    This is one of my all time favorite classic movies of all time.Defintely a tear jerker.And the chemistry between gramps and pud.I wish It would come on again so I can at least record it .

  • Great, Great Movie!

    • Bob W
    • 9/21/07

    One of my all time favorites. Will definitely bring a tear to your eyes. This really needs to be available on DVD! With all of the crap coming out now, you would think a classic like this would get a deluxe DVD release. Keep voting for it.

  • Great Classic

    • Kay
    • 5/2/07

    Please release this great classic on DVD. This new generation will love this movie. It has a great life lesson.Thanks,Kay

  • My young children need to see this movie on dvd

    • Nolie
    • 3/21/07

    I am 35 and grew up watching movies like this.I have a 4 & 2 year olds that I watch only old movies with.I haven't seen this movie since I was 13.I desperately want to purchase this movie for myself and them.It is movies like this that have shaped the way I see things in life.PLEASE RELEASE THIS MOVIE TO HOME VIDEO!

  • Love, Innocents, Purity

    • Cathy
    • 1/30/07

    This is a great movie. My grandchildren love watching old movies with me. Movies like this teach valuable lessons to the young. Simplicity of lifestyle, faith and proof that love conquers the generation gap. Respect for the aged, integrity, and unconditional love given for a grandchild.The only war here is as it's always been,fighting the devil.

  • How sad!

    • Robert
    • 1/25/07

    How sad that this classic movie is not available in VHS or DVD formats, when thousands of lesser films are. This is a wonderful movie for family viewing, a moral tale simply and eloquently told with a stellar cast.

  • matters of the heart

    • senise
    • 11/23/06

    yes its sad,yes its corny in ways and yes it can be a tear jerker.but it is a play which keeps you interested with only a tree,a few characters and lots of heart felt emotions.which is a very difficult task to do.i thought well done,it did not make me cry but think of what i have and where i live and to take every little bit of happiness you can get and hold on to it.chris p,you do not get it.dont be cynical and hate,lifes to short,take the good moments,watch in a different way.try it-happy holidays.p.s. what are your feelings about its a wonderful life? ha ha


    • CPLLSA
    • 11/19/06


  • Maudlin and Morbid

    • Chris P.
    • 11/19/06

    Why so many good reviews for this movie? It's not touching, it's laughable. Bobs Watson is the most annoying child actor I've ever seen. And yet I felt sorry for him, basically being killed by his dear old Gramps. I kept yelling at the screen, "let Una Merkel & her fiance take care of the kid!" But no, Gramps has to try to cheat death & only ends up dragging the kid into the afterlife with him. Great. First his parents die, then Grandma, then Gramps & the kid. Every freakin' member of this family kicks the bucket in an absurdly short span of time. I didn't cry, I laughed & rolled my eyes. What's the moral of the story? Be stupid and join your relatives in heaven? I hope I don't spend eternity with MINE. Guess I'm going to hell now for mocking this ridiculous film.

  • One to have

    • pammie
    • 10/18/06

    I first saw this Classic when I was around 24 years old, that was 20 years ago I just saw it recently , It touch me the same way it did 20 years ago, like I was seeing it for the first time . This is what classic mean you can watch it over and over .ty

  • on borrowed time

    • julie manell
    • 10/16/06

    taped it a long time ago,loaned it to friends made everyone cry.iwant 10 copies

  • On Borrowed Time should be on DVD

    • 7/20/06

    Great story line. I have this on VCRbut would love to get the DVD.

  • Hilariously Funny! Love The Story Line!

    • Debbie Crawford
    • 3/21/06

    Great acting by the late great Barrymore, any movie he plays in is good, I love his acting and his voice. Bobs wats, Beulah Bondi, and the rest of the acting crew were great too. I love the story line, to hold death at bay thats a good one but, you see what can happen when Death can't do his job.This movie should be on DVD

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