Actress Patty Duke, who died on March 29 at the age of 69, is best known for her Oscar-winning role in “The Miracle Worker” and her dual role in the 1960s sitcom “The Patty Duke Show.” She also starred in one of the few Hollywood productions about the Japanese American experience during World War II.
“If Tomorrow Comes,” a made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC on Dec. 7 1971, was an updated version of “Romeo and Juliet” set in a small California town. Eileen Phillips (Duke) and David Tayanaka (Frank Michael Liu) fall in love and secretly get married just before news of Pearl Harbor breaks.
Complications arise when her brother Harlan (Michael McGreevey) kills David’s cousin Tadashi (Mako) in a fight, and David seeks revenge. Meanwhile, David’s father (Bennett Ohta) is among the first Issei to be rounded up.
Knowing that her virulently anti-Japanese father (James Whitmore) will never accept the marriage, Eileen fakes her own death, intending to run off with David. But David, believing that she is really dead, kills himself.
The cast also included Anne Baxter, Pat Hingle and Beulah Quo. The film was written by Lew Hunter and directed by George McCowan. (Curiously, the cover of the VHS showed Duke, Whitmore and Baxter, but none of the Asian cast members, thus making it unclear what the movie was about.)
According to Densho, protests from the Asian American community resulted in the network dropping the original title, “My Husband, the Enemy.” Although the film was sympathetic to Japanese Americans, critics in the community were unhappy with various elements, such as the depiction of Japanese culture.
Unlike the 1976 made-for-TV movie “Farewell to Manzanar,” which has been widely distributed to California schools and libraries in order to educate the public about the wartime incarceration, “If Tomorrow Comes” has rarely been shown.