Tomorrow's Children

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Tomorrow's Children
Release Poster "Tomorrow's Childern".jpeg
Directed byCrane Wilbur
Produced byBryan Foy (producer)
Written byWallace Thurman (story)
Wallace Thurman and
Crane Wilbur
StarringDiane Sinclair
Donald Douglas
John Preston
Carlyle More Jr.
Sterling Holloway
W. Messenger Bellis
Sarah Padden
CinematographyWilliam C. Thompson
Color processBlack and White
Release date
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited States

Tomorrow's Children, also known as The Unborn in the United Kingdom, is a 1934 American film directed by Crane Wilbur. The film partially criticizes the eugenic policies in practice in the United States during those times. The film was widely deemed "immoral," and "tending to incite crime".[1]


The film follows the nature vs. nurture story of Alice Mason, played by (Diane Sinclair), who wants nothing more than to settle down with her fiancé Jim and raise a family. This goal crumbles when her parents are forced to undergo sterilization or lose their welfare checks. Alice represents the only real beneficial family member; her aging parents are lazy alcoholics and her siblings have physical and mental disabilities, or criminal ties. But she is told that she too must be sterilized: as their family's corrupt bloodline must end.

Alice's parents grudgingly accept the court order, but she flees the house. Unfortunately, the police soon catch her. Her fiancé Jim makes a bold case to Dr. Brooks, who testifies on Alice's behalf, but it doesn't change the court's decision. Meanwhile, another ally of Alice and Jim, Father O'Brien (played by director Crane Wilbur), begs Mrs. Mason to reconsider the sterilization decision. She refuses, desperate to keep receiving welfare, but she becomes so drunk that she reveals that Alice was a foundling the Masons took in, so she actually isn't of their blood. Father O'Brien races to stop the procedure with the new information. Dr. Brooks is ultimately able to stop the procedure in time.



The film was the sound film directorial debut of Crane Wilbur. The film industry revolves around certain formulas and general rules for what was okay to talk about. Some producers tested and pushed the limits of society to promote new ideas, however, those who create these hard pressing issues are not members of the Association of Motion Picture Producers. Instead of being backed by this organization, the Foy Productions was forced to present the film to state censorship boards located in New York, Ohio, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.

The film received a lot of negative attention for its prominent themes of genetic alcoholism, deformed offspring, and sterilization. The film was only approved in Pennsylvania and Ohio.[2] Since Tomorrow’s Children deliberately ignored the standard rules of the industry, of leaving these controversial topics alone, the film was denied its license and there was a lot of effort devoted to the delaying of its production. The Producers’ Association was responsible for most of the obstacles in the film’s course.[3]

The original decision to ban the film came from Censor Irwin Esmond and Dr. Frank Graves in the State Education department. The Applelate Division of the Supreme Court backed Esmond and Graves with 3 votes in favor of the ban and 2 against it. Years later in 1938, Foy Productions urged the US appeals court to revisit “Tomorrow’s Children”, especially in New York. Frederick Crane, of the appeals court, screened the film along with 6 others to decide its future in the empire state.[4]

Influence and controversy[edit]

The film has a very prominent theme of sterilization, or the loss of the ability to reproduce that eliminates the chance of parentage and future offspring. In the early 20th century, the US was flooded with ideals revolving around eugenics.

In 1927, the United States declared that it is in favor of these eugenic processes. Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote, “...society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” This quote would be later used against the U.S. during the Nazi Nuremberg trials. Because the film is a reflection on the evils of society, it went against the status quo and took a stand. Criticizing sterilization and eugenic activities also meant criticizing the standard thought in American culture.

On August 19, 1934, barely a month after Tomorrow’s Children was released, Adolf Hitler, a known eugenics lobbyist, was the recognized sole-leader of Germany for over 1 1/2 years then. As Hitler began his conquest through Germany, the forced sterilization of the bloodlines of different races and religions of people occurred. Hitler’s ideals revolved around humanity becoming its purest by removing the parts he deemed unworthy. Although Hitler began his eugenic practices in 1936, Foy and Wilbur were able to relate the same message through the sterilization of Diane Sinclair's family in the film. Possible references to Hitler's regime in the film include a flag bearing what looks like the Nazi symbol in the background during a conversation between the two doctors. Foy Productions appealed its denied license in 1938 while the Nazi Aryan movement was still gaining power, thus resulting in the film's extremely unfit theme.[5][6]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Motion Picture Herald, November 1938, Quigley Publishing Co., Print.
  2. ^ Photoplay, July 1938, Chicago, Macfadden Publications, Inc., Print.
  3. ^ The New Movie Magazine, July 1934, Tower Magazines, inc., Print.
  4. ^ The Film Daily, April 1938, Wid's Films and Film Folk, inc. Print.
  5. ^ The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics, Edwin Black, History News Network, September 2003, Web.
  6. ^ The Film Daily, April 1938, Wid's Films and Film Folk, inc. Print.