Director: Alfred Hitchcock | 80 minutes | action, thriller, comedy, adventure, romance, crime | Actors: Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney, Percy Marmont, Edward Rigby, Mary Clare, John Longden, George Curzon, Basil Radford, Pamela Carme, George Merritt, J.H. Roberts, Jerry Verno, H.F. Maltby, John Miller
The films from the British period of Hitchock’s career that are usually mentioned when discussing the best work of the “master of suspense” are “The 39 Steps” and “The Lady Vanishes”. A film that never appears on lists like this, but is at least as enjoyable as these classics is “Young & Innocent”. The title is reminiscent of a cheap soap but, although the film is a bit lighter than usual, the visual flair of the master and his characteristic story elements, as definitively designed two years earlier in ‘The 39 Steps’ (the unjustly accused man who looking for the actual culprit with the help of a beautiful blonde), are also abundant here. A nice, brisk pace, unpretentious atmosphere, and various virtuoso shots make for a memorable film experience despite the far-fetched plot. So it’s time for the film to be pulled out of obscurity and get the attention it deserves.
Barring the status of his “classic” films, “Young & Innocent” was, in his own words, Hitchcock’s own favorite film (from his British era). Surprising, perhaps, but it can also be seen from the film that there is a lot of love in this. Not only in the story itself, but also in its production. Hitchcock even seems to be so pleased with it that he has a particularly long cameo in the film, as a slightly smiling spectator with a photo camera. As if he identifies himself with this more than usual. But maybe that’s too much speculation. It can be said that this is one of Hitch’s most nimble, sympathetic films.
Love and hope seem to be central values in the film, which the director also applied to the set, according to lead actor Derrick De Marney. The latter has made it known that the filmmaker was uncharacteristically loving and forgiving towards his female protagonist, the 19-year-old Nova Pilbeam, so as not to undermine, the story goes, her naivety and open-mindedness – which were necessary for the role. Pilbeam plays go femme fatale, but a young woman who actually immediately, at first sight, falls in love with Robert (De Marney), when she takes care of him at the police station after he passed out. Of course she still has to be convinced of his innocence – especially since she is the daughter of the chief of the police – but in fact she is immediately sold. And he clearly likes her too. And Hitchcock among them, witness the (almost) sweet music on the soundtrack (reminiscent of “When You Wish Upon a Star”, from Disney’s “Pinocchio”).
It greatly enhances the credibility of the central relationship that this time no forced encounters, changes in behavior, or plot twists to link a couple together were chosen. As a result, the romantic element often feels like a mandatory number. Not in “Young & Innocent”, where as a viewer you really have a bond with this couple and really hope that they can exonerate the young man and have a future together. This also immediately makes you a lot more interested in the rest of the film.
Even though Pilbeam’s feelings are pretty constant throughout the movie, she’s not a softie or a one-dimensional character. She comes across as a real person and her playful scenes with The Marney are lively and charming. In addition, there is a feminist base that is touched lightly here and there. As the eldest daughter, for example, she takes on the role of mother in the family – it is not clear where the real mother is – and her flight with Robert also seems to be a flight from the rigidity of this family and its imposed role. An act of rebellion and a split with her father. This girl is / is growing up and has to live her own life.
But all this remains in the background, because the film is above all smooth, entertaining, action-packed and beautiful to watch. A long, uninterrupted tracking shot at the end of the film – first capturing a restaurant and ballroom with all its people and tables and slowly zooming in on the eyes of a drummer at the very back of the room – has become legendary, but there are several other moments worth checking out. Such as the domestic quarrel that the film opens with, or the children’s party at the aunt of Pilbeam’s character, where the two want to hide, but where the shrewd woman realizes that things are not quite right. The moment when Pilbeam visits Robert, who is hidden in a farm, and climbs the ladder to the hayloft, was also beautifully realized, with a beautiful chiaroscuro-like bell
direction. It is a shot that would not look out of place as a painting on the wall.
The central plot is pretty absurd, with the pair on the hunt for Robert’s stolen raincoat that ended up with a bum, whose missing belt must prove his innocence. The entire police investigation process is also quite peculiar. For example, they could have come to the perpetrator much earlier and Robert is very quickly and easily accused while there are few reasons for this. But it doesn’t make much sense. The film is such a crowd pleaser, with a lot of humor, lovable characters, fun (sometimes unexpected) action – like when Pilbeam’s car suddenly sinks into a pit – and a beautiful visual style that you can only indulge in it. . Even the inadequate scale modeling – with small trains and cars and dolls that have to represent reality – only adds to the entertainment content of the film. So, no, “Young & Restless” isn’t flawless or perfect, but it’s totally worth it. Time for a revaluation of this extraordinarily charming film.