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

The Killing of Sister George (1968)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) has spent so many years portraying a kind-hearted nurse on the BBC soap opera Applehurst that even in real life everyone has taken to calling her by her character’s name – Sister George. However, off screen George is nothing like her saintly fictional counterpart, appearing drunk in public and forcing her younger lover Alice “Childie” McNaught (Susannah York) into cruel and twisted games. When the fictional George is slated to be killed off due to low ratings, the real George also begins to come apart at the seams. With Childie becoming increasingly defiant and her boss Mrs. Croft (Coral Browne) encroaching on both her professional and personal territory, George fears her days as a beloved actress and parent-like provider to Childie are numbered.

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

I considered making this a one-word review, but “ick” doesn’t really come close to describing how uncomfortable this film made me. The lead character is a total monster with no redeeming qualities; she drinks constantly, she has no regard for what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, she’s sadistic and abusive – and none of it in a fun way. Her girlfriend Childie is pathetic and poorly written as a character, and Mrs. Croft is just your typical predatory-older-lesbian stereotype. This movie was directed by Robert Aldrich, who of course scored a hit six years prior with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and again in 1964 with Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. While he proved with these two previous endeavors that films which are somewhat exploitative and which appeal to baser sensibilities can still be enjoyable (and how!), here he doesn’t have the star power or the outright horror context that made those two films successful, and his directing brought into the light of day seems hokey and amateurish. While this film is somehow considered “historic” for its explicit portrayal of a lesbian relationship, in absolutely no way is this a healthy or positive portrayal, so what’s so special about it? I mean, I really don’t understand what’s so groundbreaking about making queer people look bad. I do give it points for the stellar performances by Beryl Reid and the recently-late Susannah York – even if I hated or didn’t understand their characters, I still think they did a great job at portraying them – and for the few scenes shot in the authentic 1960s underground lesbian bar the Gateways Club. But otherwise this was an utterly joyless film and, at two hours and twenty minutes, utterly torturous to sit through. Maybe I’m just not cut out for 1960s “black comedies” set in working-class Britain, since they seem intent on exploring themes that make me squirm. If you’re into that sort of thing, maybe you’ll like this one, but I certainly can’t recommend it from my perspective. Like its title character, The Killing of Sister George is just unrelentingly awful the whole way through.

The Killing of Sister George (1968) – 1.5/5 stars

White Zombie (1932)

Image Source: Wrong Side of the Art