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On Borrowed Time

On Borrowed Time title card

Year - 1939
Studio - Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Stars - Lionel Barrymore, Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi, Una Merkel, Bobs Watson, Nat Pendleton, Henry Travers, Grant Mitchell, Eily Malyon
Director - Harold S. Bucquet
Writing Credits - Alice D.G. Miller, Frank O'Neill, Paul Osborn (play), Lawrence Edward Watkin (novel), Claudine West


"Pud" (Bobs Watson) and his wheelchair-confined "Gramps", Julian Northrup (Lionel Barrymore), are inseparable buddies. They pal around all day long, and joke irreverently, much to the consternation of the grandmother, Nellie (Beulah Bondi). When Pud's parents are killed in a car accident, he is left to the care of the elderly couple.

When Pud's conniving aunt Demetria (Eily Malyon) learns that Pud is the beneficiary of a $55,000 life insurance policy, she schemes to adopt him and take him away from the grandparents.

In the front yard, Pub climbs the old apple tree and Gramps jokes that he cannot come down and he says so. Pud discovers that it is true, he indeed cannot extricate himself from the tree until Gramps says that he is free.

On Borrowed Time poster

Grandma Nellie lies, exhausted, in her bed and a dapper "Mr. Brink" (Cedric Hardwicke) appears in her room. He tells her that it is time for her to come with him. She seems to understand, takes his hand, and she dies.

With the grandmother now gone, Demetria is more determined than ever to remove Pud from the home for her own gain. To show the authorities a better side, Gramps decides to take Pud to Sunday church services. But, as he waits for Pud in front of the house, Mr. Brink appears to take the grandfather as well. Gramps tells Mr. Brink that he will go, but requests that Mr. Brink get him one of his beloved apples from the tree. As Brink climbs the old tree, Gramps pronounces that he cannot descend. Mr. Brinks realizes his predicament, but is philosophical, even cordial about it.

Demetria brings the grandfather's doctor, Dr. James Evans, (Henry Travers) and lawyer (Grant Mitchell) to the house to convince them that the old man is an unfit guardian. They are convinced when they witness him talking to Mr. Brink in the tree, who they can neither see nor hear. They return with a burly attendant from an asylum to remove Gramps by force. He tries, unsuccessfully, to convince them that Death, in the form of Mr. Brink, is now incapacitated in the tree and that no one will die as long as he is there. Gramps grabs a handgun from a drawer and shoots the asylum attendant.

Later, in the hospital, he revives and is perfectly healthy. Dr. Evans, amazed, does his own experiments with the apple tree and becomes convinced of the truth. He realizes that Gramps must allow Mr. Brink to come down or people all over the world will suffer for eternity without the relief of death. He returns with the sheriff to forcibly remove Gramps, in the hope that he will relent when faced with losing Pud.

But the despondent Pud runs off, and the others are unable to locate him. Pud comes out of hiding near the tree, and Mr. Brink tricks him into climbing onto the fence surrounding the tree. Pud loses his balance and falls, severely injuring his spine, with the prognosis of never walking again.

Gramps, in his wheelchair, takes the injured Pud to the yard and announces to Mr. Brink that he is free to descend from the tree. Mr. Brink puts his hand on Pud, who stands on his own and is seemingly healed. Then Mr. Brink takes Gramps' hand, who stands on his own as well. He and Pud walk off into an idyllic eternity, with the voice of Granny calling to them as they walk together.

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