The Youngest Profession (1943)


Image Source: Greenman 2008

Synopsis: Plucky Joan Lyons (Virginia Weidler) is the president of the Guiding Stars Limited, her high school’s official Hollywood fan club. The girls of the GSL spend their extracurricular hours penning letters of admiration to stars like Lana Turner and Robert Taylor, yearning for recognition and an autograph in return. But fantasy turns to reality when Joan hears that Greer Garson is coming to town. Through her perseverance and cunning, Joan soon finds herself in the presence of Ms. Garson, along with Walter Pidgeon! However, Joan’s bliss is short-lived when she learns from her meddling housekeeper (Agnes Moorehead) that her parents’ marriage may be on the rocks. Can Joan’s club and her new Hollywood friends scheme a way to keep the family together?

I love seeing stars play themselves on screen, so I’m a real sucker for pictures that don’t pretend to be anything else but an excuse for cute cameos. I’m also slightly obsessed with teenage “fan culture” of the 1940s and ’50s, so naturally the premise of this film was enticing to me. Unfortunately, The Youngest Profession (directed by Edward Buzzell for MGM in 1943) makes the fatal mistake of trying to shoehorn a plot in between the genuinely-fun star appearances, and it’s this slapdash last-minute effort to create a credible story that sinks the whole ship. Virginia Weidler, who is known for her delightful appearances as the precocious kid in such memorable titles as The Philadelphia Story and The Women, is really just not convincing as a starstruck, movie-obsessed fangirl. All I kept thinking was, “You’ve worked with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell – and you’re this excited over Walter Pidgeon?” Virginia herself doesn’t seem to want to be there, and all the “cutesy” little affectations she puts on that are supposed to make her character likeable and endearing fall extremely flat. All the other characters are nondescript time-wasters; not even Agnes Moorehead can fix this trainwreck. I wish I could say it’s worth it for the cameos, but it’s really not. Lana Turner, Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, and William Powell (who only shows up in lengthy clips from Crossroads and at the very end) can all be seen in much better films (understatement of the century). Unless you’re a completist, I would say don’t bother with The Youngest Profession.


The Youngest Profession (1943) – 1.5/5 stars

Loving Lucy Blogathon: The Big Street (1942)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Hopelessly romantic busboy Augustus “Little Pinks” Pinkerton (Henry Fonda) is head-over-heels for Gloria Lyons (Lucille Ball), a gruff-and-glamorous NYC nightclub singer with big dreams and an even bigger ego. Despite how well-connected Gloria believes herself to be, when her jealous boyfriend Case Ables (Barton MacLane) pushes her down a flight of stairs, Little Pinks is the only one who comes to her rescue. Gloria’s fall leaves her partially paralyzed, and Pinks allows her to believe that her recovery is being funded by millionaire playboy Decatur Reed (William T. Orr) when in actuality the bill is being paid out of Pinks’ own shallow pocket. When there’s no money left to give and no hope left for Gloria to regain the use of her legs, Pinks moves Gloria into his meager basement apartment, despite her ungrateful protestations. Upon hearing that Pinks’ neighbor Violette (Agnes Moorehead) and her beau, competitive eater Nicely Nicely (Eugene Pallette), are moving away from the frigid winters of New York to the sunny coast of Florida, Gloria begs Pinks to take her there, despite their lack of money. Seeing no other alternative and desperate for Gloria’s approval, Pinks pushes Gloria in her wheelchair through the Holland Tunnel, and the unlikely pair alternately walks and hitchhikes their way down to Miami. Upon hearing that Decatur Reed is in town, Gloria is desperate to catch up with her old flame, but terrified that he will find out about her condition. How far is Little Pinks willing to go for the woman he loves – and who hates his guts?

This is an official entry in the Loving Lucy Blogathon, True Classics’ marvelous celebration of the incomparable Lucille Ball on this, the 100th anniversary of her birth. Click the banner to read a slew of entries on everyone’s favorite redhead, covering her work in film, television, and radio.

Yes, I know, I’m late to the party as usual, but let’s skip the excuses and get straight to the point, also as usual. Directed by Irving Reis for RKO Pictures in 1942, The Big Street was scripted by Leonard Spigelgass from a short story by Damon Runyon. Despite some tension on the set – husband Desi Arnaz was concerned about Lucy starting up again with ex-boyfriend Henry Fonda, so he spent a lot of time prowling around during filming – Lucy would later name The Big Street as her favorite of her film performances. Given this fact and given what a unique – and good! – movie it is, I’m consistently surprised that The Big Street isn’t more well known or remembered. It’s definitely my favorite of Lucy’s films, as well, which is why I jumped at the chance to review it for this blogathon celebrating the Queen of Comedy’s 100th birthday. (more…)

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