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

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