The Young in Heart (1938)
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The film deals with the money-grabbing exploits of a family of con artists comprising father Roland Young, mother Billie Burke, and their two offsprings - Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. - which, basically, hinges on Young passing himself off as a distinguished veteran of the British campaign in India (actually he and his wife were stage actors and he had played such a military role in Canada: its characteristics have stuck all these many years - and the title of Colonel with them!). In fact, when we first see them, Fairbanks is about to marry into a wealthy family at a chic Riviera setting but their scam is discovered at the last minute and, rather than being thrown into jail, are given a ticket each to go do their 'work' elsewhere! They find themselves on a train bound for London, where they meet a lonely old lady (Minnie Dupree) who has suddenly found her former lover's fortune in her lap; the Carletons (the con-artist family's assumed name) believe it to be a golden opportunity and, it appears, that even Fate is willing to lend them a hand as the train is wrecked and they save the old lady's life - after which they're invited to stay with her as long as they like!!
Pursuing them to London is a penniless Scotsman (a debuting Richard Carlson) - named Duncan Macrae! - who had fallen for Gaynor, even if he's aware of her true nature; Fairbanks' love interest, on the other hand, is provided by a sexy Paulette Goddard. The Carletons, however, are anxious that Dupree doesn't become aware of their ultimate intentions - so they propose to demonstrate to her (and her suspicious solicitor, played by Henry Stephenson) that they're self-sufficient: Young and Fairbanks are, thus, sent off by the women in search of work - the horrified look on the two men's faces on their first day as normal salary-earners (accompanied by Chopin's funereal march on the soundtrack) is priceless! However, they both manage to make good of it - at which no one's more surprised than the family itself: Young is promoted from car salesman (his demonstration of "The Flying Wombat" - what passes for a futuristic car in 1938 - is a highlight of the film) to manager, while Fairbanks sets his mind on engineering...though it doesn't hurt to have a boss like Goddard! By the film's end, of course, the family - save for perennially ditzy Burke - has reformed under the benevolent influence of too-good-to-be-true Dupree, while Gaynor is re-united with Carlson and Doug Jr. marries Paulette.
The comedy here is provided mainly through brilliant dialogue, but a few charming sight gags (including the presence of a scruffy little dog and a penguin!) are nicely integrated; Selznick's typically glossy production values (cinematographer Leon Shamroy, composer Franz Waxman and production designer William Cameron Menzies - enough said!) also lend the film a definite sophistication, while the acting is uniformly faultless: nominal leads Gaynor (whose last film this was until a 1957 comeback!) and Fairbanks weren't renowned for playing comedy but, here, they both demonstrate a deft light touch; the ever-reliable (and delightful) Young has one of his best roles; as for Goddard and Carlson, they both manage to rise above the limits imposed by their supporting roles.
If one had to put in a negative word, one might say that Burke's absent-minded matriarch is a bit much (though the fount of undeniable hilarity) and that the inherent sentimentality which marks the family's turnabout is not only an acquired taste (in fact, both Leslie Halliwell and Leonard Maltin tend to de-emphasize this aspect in their glowing assessment of the film!) but even unwarranted in a screwball comedy - though, ultimately, it's perhaps too genteel to be considered as such...but, then, what do you call a film with a scene in which Dupree is herself seen recklessly driving the speeding car, to the consternation of passenger Stephenson!! Still, all of this is negligible when stacked against the film's overwhelming positive qualities, as both craft and entertainment: this is truly one of the best comedies in an era full of such films...
Along the way, to impress her doubting attorney, Young and Fairbanks go out to find a job, something they have never done in their entire lives. Fairbanks runs into Goddard, as he applies for a job, and is smitten (who wouldn't be), and Young learns his trade as a car salesman very well, beginning to take pride in his endeavors.
This is a lovely film with performances simply stated. It was produced by David Selznick and directed by Richard Wallace. Selznick was, at the time this picture was being filmed, looking for a cast for his up and coming production of GONE WITH THE WIND. A bit of trivia: Paulette Goddard was the first choice for Scarlett O'Hara beating out other outstanding stars trying for the coveted role. That is until Vivien Leigh came along. Leigh got the role Goddard was after. Leigh auditioned for the role in THE YOUNG IN HEART that Goddard got.
True, it's often over sentimental and contains a performance from Minnie Dupree as the old lady, which may invoke the occasional murderous thought, but it's a nice film, which leaves you completely satisfied and at peace with the world.
The splendid cast includes Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, neither of whom were renowned for playing comedy but they are both excellent. Best of all is Roland Young as the father in possibly the finest performance of his distinguished career. A word also for Billie Burke, as the scatty mother, although I tend to find her performance a little irritating. Perhaps that's how it should be?
The support cast includes Richard Carlson in his first screen part and the lovely Paulette Goddard who do well in the limited roles they are playing. And of course Minnie Dupree.
All in all, a great little film that only the hard of heart could possibly dislike.
What a treat and a surprise this film was! It deserves to be as highly regarded as The Awful Truth, it Happened One Night, and any top notch Romantic Comedy of the 30's. It had me laughing and tearing up. The quality of the production was top tier. Imagine using a clip from the train wreck (which was just a minor plot device) in a 1960's popular TV series. That is just one example of how 1st class this film is. Some of the scenes, particularly the father and son speculating over the construction site over how the workers could possibly be having any fun, and the father's horror at actually having to get a job along with the funeral procession to the door of the Flying Wombat dealership to take his position as a car salesman, are absolutely hilarious. (and not just hilarious "for its time.")
I won't add to the the praise of the actors from other reviewers. Just that I agree wholeheartedly.
It's not just another Romantic Comedy. It has drama and heart as well.
On one train trip where Janet's caught the eye of earnest Richard Carlson and Doug is maybe getting in over his head with southern belle Margaret Early, the family makes the acquaintance of an ingenuous old woman played by Minnie Dupree. They seem to hit it off, even more so after a train wreck and the Carletons look after her.
Dupree's family is long gone and she lives in genteel splendor in a very big house in London. In a burst of generosity she invites the whole family to stay with her. It's an opportunity to good to pass up, I know I wouldn't pass up free lodging even for a short spell.
But in order to keep up appearances and maybe she'll leave them the place in a will, they have to get jobs to appear on the up and up. At least the men folk do. Doug gets a job in an engineering firm, he charms Paulette Goddard into hiring him in an entry level position. And Young gets a job selling a brand new state of the art British car, the Flying Wombat. Both the guys especially Young prove really good, although you have to admit that selling cars should be something an accomplished grifter could take to right away.
In order for The Young In Heart to work the part of the old lady must be carefully cast and played. Minnie Dupree in one of her very few screen appearances is great in the part, bringing the right amount of charm to the role without it becoming maudlin. When you think about it, her's is the most important part, the whole film is structured around it.
Next to Dupree, I like Young the best. He's got a great scene when instead of being fired because they've found out he's a crook, he's offered a promotion to general manager, he's done that well.
I've known a few people in my life, one in particular who was one of the brightest people I've ever met, but who spent his whole short life of some 31 years on earth, running one big revolving con game. He was hard to dislike like the Carletons are, but you could never really get close to him. And if he'd ever applied himself honestly, he could have been a success in any field that interested him.
That's the charm of The Young In Heart, the thought that some people like this can be redeemed. Or maybe that in itself is a big con.
The Young In Heart got Oscar nominations for musical scoring and cinematography. Certainly one talented and charming cast gave it their best and the film is a delight.
This film might not be to everyone's taste - some will find it overly sentimental - but it is definitely to my taste. Vivid characters, funny scenes, and with good performances, "The Young in Heart" is a warm film. Paulette Goddard plays the young woman whom Fairbanks Jr. meets, and she's lovely.
Without this fine cast and the direction by Richard Wallace, this might have been a sappy movie. Janet Gaynor looked sweet, but she was also a very good actress. Here she's smart and believable. Fairbanks Jr. is always wonderful, as are Billie Burke and Roland Young. Minnie Dupree is delightful as Miss Fortune.
A very satisfying film, a nice ending - highly recommended.
They start off with bad intentions but have a reversal of heart once they get to know the old lady. It's handled in a very tasteful manner with a cast that is entirely responsible for making the material seem better than it is. The odd family of grifters includes JANET GAYNOR, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR., ROLAND YOUNG and BILLIE BURKE.
Lesser roles are played deftly by RICHARD CARLSON and PAULETTE GODDARD, second leads in the romance department.
Stage actress Dupree is charming enough to make the story seem reasonably believable and HENRY STEPHENSON as her solicitor is excellent, as usual.
It's such a tastefully filmed production that it comes as no surprise that it's from the Selznick studio. Janet Gaynor, although not a favorite of mine, has rarely been seen to better advantage. Paulette Goddard registered stronger in subsequent roles at Paramount where her flair for comedy was more evident.
The word "sweet" comes to mind in describing the film's overall effect. Some may find it a little too sugary, but it passes the time pleasantly.
NOTES: Leon Shamroy was nominated for the 1938 Academy Award for Best Cinematography, losing to Joe Ruttenberg for The Great Waltz. Franz Waxman was similarly nominated for Best Original Music Score but dipped out to Erich Wolfgang Korngold's The Adventures of Robin Hood.
COMMENT: A beautifully acted, if somewhat slow-moving and predictable comedy of manners about four confidence tricksters who seek to impose on a rich old lady but are reformed by her.
Richard Wallace's direction is somewhat pedestrian, but superlative photography, eye-catching art direction and gorgeous costumes, plus sharp film editing more than save the day.
Minnie Dupree, a noted stage actress who made very few films, gives a beautiful performance, as does Janet Gaynor in a somewhat offbeat role, well removed from the Goody Two-Shoes characterizations she usually essays. Roland Young, of course, does much his usual bit (and does it proud), whilst young Paulette Goddard makes quite an impression as a secretary who has an eye for Fairbanks Junior.
A family of con artists, having just been thrown out of one country for their fraudulent activities, meets an elderly, wealthy widow (Dupree) on their train trip back to England. These Carletons, whose passage had been purchased by the authorities in the "exporting" country, are hungry, penniless and seemingly skill-less, none of them having ever worked an honest day in their lives.
Unfortunately for George-Anne Carleton (Gaynor), she actually fell in love with her rich prey Duncan (Carlson) from her family's previous scam (Lucile Watson was also one of the intended victims). However, she is the first to recognize their newest target, the lonely (and aptly named) widow Miss Ellen Fortune. Her father, who pretends to be a Colonel, "Sahib" Carleton (Young), ditzy mother (Burke), and too handsome brother Richard (Fairbanks Jr.), quickly latch on to Miss Fortune and, after their train (quite literally) wrecks, become her permanent house guests. Miss Fortune's lawyer Felix (Stephenson) is initially indifferent to the arrangement until he learns about the Carletons' real and storied past. Eily Malyon and Tom Ricketts play two of Miss Fortune's servants.
The Carletons decide to do all they can to please Miss Fortune while they're living with her, hoping that she'll update her will to leave her estate to them before she dies. To demonstrate their best intentions, George-Anne decides that her father and brother should look for work. Because he can't live without her, Duncan returns to George-Anne, though he quickly (and correctly) assesses and disapproves of what he sees that she and her family are doing at Miss Fortune's. Because of her denials to his accusation, he calls her bluff and arranges a job for her father as a car salesman for the revolutionary "Flying Wombat". Funeral procession music plays in the background as Sahib approaches gainful employment for the first time in his life. Richard too finds clerical work at an engineering firm; he is hired by Leslie Saunders (Goddard), who's no doubt more impressed with his appearance than his non-existent credentials.
Through the course of the film, one by one, the Carletons gain a sense of self respect as they begin to earn their own keep. Duncan continues to pursue George-Anne, while a growing (towards romantic) relationship develops between Richard and Leslie, who sees him as a work in progress after he'd revealed his family's original intent regarding Miss Fortune.
When Felix informs Miss Fortune of the Carleton's family history, she better understands her earlier interactions with them but insists that they are good people, and refuses to throw them out or let on that she knows any different. Of course, it turns out that Miss Fortune was right about the Carletons, who are given a chance, in the end, to return the favor.
This story is a comedy drama about a family once of Canadian stage notoriety who have become perpetual sponges. They live by scams, cheating at cards and other dishonest means. Their prey are wealthy patsies they meet traveling around Europe. While the family exudes hedonism to the point of nausea, the story turns into one of redemption for all four in time. When they meet up with a lonely wealthy woman, Miss (Ellen) Fortune, their lives take a turn away from misfortune to honesty and integrity.
Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. are the leads. She is George- Anne Carleton and he is her brother, Richard Carleton. Roland Young plays their father, 'Sahib' Carleton, and Billie Burke plays Marmy Carleton. Sahib's real name, which we see on a stage publicity poster, is Thomas Higgins, but he goes by the name the family absconded with from the long-running play they performed in Toronto, Canada. That was "Sweethearts of the Bengal Lancers."
Miss Fortune is played by Minnie Dupree. Other key roles are Paulette Goddard as Leslie Saunders and Richard Carlson as Duncan Macrae. All of the cast are very good in their roles, but the hedonistic airs begin to wear thin and leave a distasteful note. Fortunately, Miss Fortune's genuine kindness and goodwill soon have an effect on the Carleton clan, whose men set out to work for a living. The film quality isn't the best, and the screenplay and film editing seem a little choppy in places. But it's a good story, with some good performances that will leave one smiling at the end. Miss Fortune wasn't a misfortune in the lives of the Carletons, but a saving angel.
One interesting curiosity of this film is the Flying Wombat, the first car of the future to appear on the silver screen. In reality, it was the Phantom Corsair, an automobile decades ahead of the times. It was a prototype made by the Bohman and Schwartz coach company of Pasadena, California. As Sahib tells a prospective customer, "The Wombat is above mechanical perfection. The Wombat is ahead of its time. As far ahead of its time as was, um, well Socrates in his."
The Phantom Corsair never went beyond the prototype we see in this film. So, it wouldn't have been a car that Sahib could be selling in England. The IMDb Web site says this movie was filmed in West Virginia. I wonder if Selznick didn't get to use the Phantom Corsair as sort of advance and free publicity for the automaker. And, I wonder if the futuristic car was in the original story, or if it was added by Hollywood writers. In any event, it's an interesting aside for this film in which audiences can see a real example of an advanced early automobile design.
Had it not been for the death of its designer, Rust Heinz, in a July 1939 automobile accident, we would likely have been driving cars of such modern design by the early 1950s. The Phantom Corsair never went into production, but people today can see the actual car used in this movie. It's one of a kind and it's in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. I've seen it and several other historical automobiles in that world-class museum. One can spend two days to see and appreciate everything in that museum. Women enjoy it as much as men because the numerous vehicles are displayed in period settings. That adds real flavor and a look at some of the culture of the various periods.
Here are some humorous lines from this film. Marmy, "The Sahib doesn't believe in unemployment. He says the only way to do away with unemployment is to do away with employment. And so, the Sahib hasn't done a speck of work for years. Passive resistance, you know."
Richard, "Don't hydraulic engineers ever rumba?" Leslie, "Rarely, and not very well."
Marmy, "My little girl's going to have a birthday this year."
Miss Fortune, "Wasn't it Rossetti (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-1882) who said something like that somewhere? 'Beauty, without the beloved is a sword through the heart.'"
George-Anne Carleton, "Did you ever know anybody who married for love?"
The story concerns the Carleton family: Saltin, alias Colonel Anthony (Roland Young); his wife, Marmy (Billie Burke); and their adult children, Richard Carleton (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and George-Anne (Janet Gaynor), who are given an open introduction: "The Riviera! Coney Island with a monocle – when the beach twinkles like a Gold Piece and the Moon comes rolling out of a slot machine. Here millionaire Mama seeks a glamorous son-in-law, while tired Papa looks for new ways to get trimmed – and here came the Carletons, a merry streamlined family excluding charm and a touch of larceny with every fortune-hunting smile." At Monte Carlo, Richard Carleton is set to marry Adela Jennings (Margaret Early), a homely daughter of former Georgia senator, Albert J. Jennings (Irvin S. Cobb) and his wife, Melna (Lucile Watson), for her money. After being discovered and exposed as fortune hunting con-artists, the prefect of police (Walter Kingsford) sets the now destitute Carletons on their way with paid train tickets bound for London, England. The Carleton reputation, however, doesn't phase Duncan McCree (Richard Carlson) from wanting to marry George-Anne, who feels it be better for all to break off their engagement while in reality not being rich enough for her. While on board the train, George Anne makes the acquaintance of Miss Ellen Fortune (Minnie DuPree), a sweet little old lady with lots of money but no friends nor living relatives. Inviting George-Anne and her family to her compartment, Miss Fortune takes the family into her confidence. After an unexpected train wreck, the lonely spinster fights loneliness by inviting the Carletons to her luxurious but empty mansion where she'll have the companionship of good friends. Plotting to remain with Miss Fortune with the hope of being named as correspondents in her will and inherit her home at the time of her death, George-Anne feels it best for the family to act legitimate by having outside jobs so not to cast any suspicion from Miss Fortune's lawyer, Feliz Amstruther (Henry Stephenson). During the course of time, Mr. Carleton becomes salesman for the Flying Womart Motor Car while Richard works as a clerk at an engineering firm where he finds a romantic interest with Leslie Saunders (Paulette Goddard). Complications arise as Duncan returns to George-Anne's life, feeling he might spoil the family plot to what may happen if Miss Fortune should ever learn the truth about the Carletons.
A delightful story with an interesting cast of fine performers and character types. While Paulette Goddard had few screen credits to her name, her most famous being opposite Charlie Chaplin in his final silent comedy, MODERN TIMES (1936), her screen introduction here plays like a movie debut. For Janet Gaynor's second and final film for producer David O. Selznick, THE YOUNG IN HEART is certainly a worthy follow-up to her initial Selznick production of A STAR IS BORN (1937). One wonders had Gaynor not retired upon this film's release how far her movie career might have gone or developed if extended into the 1940s and beyond. Though Gaynor made a return engagement to films opposite Pat Boone in BERNADINE (20th-Fox, 1957), and occasional television appearances later on, her glory days of Hollywood were behind her. While it may be a little hard to accept Richard Carlson as the accented Scotsman, Roland Young and Billie Burke, most remembered for their trilogy "Topper" movie series, once again prove themselves a fine screen team. Regardless of how they present themselves, THE YOUNG IN HEART comes close to belonging to the now unfamiliar face and name of Minna DuPree, who gives both warmth and sincerity to her character that should have at least earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Animal actors featuring a dog and penguin provide some very cute moments as well.
Of the many comedies of this nature produced in the 1930s, it's now hard to imagine THE YOUNG IN HEART as an overlooked item long forgotten through the passage of time. Not every movie is destined to have a lasting legacy, but does deserve a look to determine whether or not this to be a regarded a rediscovered classic. Unseen on broadcast television since the early 1960s, my introduction to THE YOUNG IN HEART actually came when given a then rare television showing on New York City's WNBC, Channel 4, in mid 1982 where it was with an background commentary by non-other than Bette Davis. Over the forthcoming years, THE YOUNG IN HEART has turned up on some cable/public television channels and/or video cassette, often in colorized formats. In recent years, it's guaranteed original black and white form either on DVD or whenever presented on Turner Classic Movies. (***1/2)
- The casting for the family of grifters. They're played by Roland Young, Billie Burke, Janet Gaynor, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., an interesting group of actors, and each are allowed to have their moments. Afterwards, Gaynor would retire from films at just 32, making this her last major part, and that alone makes it worth seeing.
- The old woman they try to bilk after latching on to her on a train, played by Minnie Dupree. We feel a tinge of sadness in her character, but mostly kindness and wisdom. She's travelling alone when they meet her, and says "Oh, I've seen many lovely things on this little jaunt. But I've had to see them alone. And after all, we see them best, really, through the eyes of those we love. Wasn't it Rossetti who said something like that somewhere? Beauty without the beloved is a sword through the heart." And yet, she's not a sad or pathetic character at all, on the contrary, she's dignified, and seems to accept life. Later she'll say "I've learned not to judge people. I've learned to take them as I find them, not as others find them. And most of all, I've learned to give complete and unquestioning faith to the people I love." She's wonderful.
- The futuristic 'Flying Wombat' car in the film, the prototype 'Phantom Corsair' in real life, is fantastic. What a fun touch this was.
- Several cute dog moments, including the little pupper tripping while trying to get up a couple of stairs.
- A little too sugary and light, at least for my taste (though hey, it's a comedy). I never felt that this family of grifters was truly real, and I wish there had been at least an element of menace. There is a niceness to them even when they're scheming, and it doesn't feel like they're as underhanded as they should be. Part of that may be the likeability of the cast working against them (Gaynor is as angelic as ever), but I think it has more to do with the script (e.g. their unlikely honesty and forthrightness about their plans) and the tone the film took. I think the film's payoff would have been more powerful had it been otherwise.
- The love interests for Gaynor and Fairbanks, played by Richard Carlson and Paulette Goddard, are tepid and mostly wasted in the roles of consciences for the pair.
- The ending. I won't spoil it with a description or even an adjective, but will just say it felt kind of glued on there.
The patriarch of the family, the always irascible Roland Young, has a simple philosophy regarding unemployment. If no one worked, there would be no unemployment. This is his idea as well as his loafer of a son, played with relish by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Billie Burke is the matriarch of the family and their daughter is none other than Janet Gaynor.
What's the problem with this nice film? Number 1, it's a nice film and who can believe that this family is up to basically no good.
Minnie Dupree is the elderly widow who teaches them about life after they meet her following a train wreck. Dupree who lost out in love but inherited a fortune instead is quite memorable here.
The picture is positive in nature as the men begin to learn about the work ethic and they actually begin to succeed at it!
Richard Carlson is along for the ride as an Irish gentleman courting Gaynor. He really has an authentic Irish brogue for his part. Paulette Goddard costars as a boss of Fairbanks' who comes to love him.
In the end, positive family values are stressed so I guess you can add another 1/2* and up my rating to ***.