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Saturday Night Cinema: Young and Innocent (1938)

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Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema feature is the Alfred Hitchcock film, Young and Innocent (aka The Girl was Young). Though not well known, this early work is “breezy, romantic Hitchcock; an underrated gem.”

Like all of Hitchcock’s films, the movie grabs you from the opening scene. First, a closeup of a woman in an ugly, heated argument with a man we soon discover is her outraged husband. It’s one of the more striking opening sequences in Alfred Hitchcock’s entire filmography.

Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville, who played a large role in much of Hitchcock’s work, had a hand in writing the screenplay.

THE SCREEN; Alfred Hitchcock’s Melodrama, ‘The Girl Was Young,’ Starring Nova Pilbeam, Opens at the Criterion
By FRANK S. NUGENT
Published: February 11, 1938

Alfred Hitchcock, England’s jovial and rotund master of melodrama, has turned out another crisply paced, excellently performed film in “The Girl Was Young,” which arrived at the Criterion yesterday. Although it misses the heart-tearing suspense, the febrile excitements ??? “The Thirty-nine Steps” and “The Woman Alone,” his new work has a quieter charm which serves his purposes—and ours—almost as well.

Mr. Hitchcock has the demonic knack of filling the commonplace with terror. A serene English countryside under his glance suddenly grows ugly and threatening; a rail road yard can be made as ominous and mysterious as Herr Franken stein’s castle; a crowded dance floor in a hotel dining room becomes sinister and dread. When murder blights a drowsy English village Mr. Hitchcock can be depended upon to see that melodramatic justice is done.

In “The Girl Was Young” a woman’s body is washed ashore and with it the belt of a man’s raincoat, to confirm Scotland Yard’s theory that she had been strangled not drowned. Her young protége is seized; insists his raincoat was stolen in a tavern one night. Mr. Hitchcock snaps directorial fingers and permits the prisoner to escape, to arouse the interest of the chief constable’s daughter. Together they pursue the quest for the stolen raincoat, the old china mender and the man with the blinking eyes who gave the coat away.

These are the melodramatic commonplaces which Mr. Hitchcock has twisted and woven into a taut skein of adventure and romance. He has been fortunate in his accomplices. Nova Pilbeam plays the constable’s daughter with a wholesome and natural charm and a delightful ease of manner. Derrick De Marney, as the suspect, is agreeably light-hearted in the shadow of the noose, and there are a panel of delightful characters around them. We particularly admired the annoyingly optimistic solicitor, J. H. Roberts, the frowsy old china mender, Edward Rigby, and the several muddling-through constables and Yard men. But chiefly, of course, we admire Mr. Hitchcock.

THE GIRL WAS YOUNG, based on the novel “A Shilling for Candles,” by Josephine Tey; screen play by Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood and Anthony Armstrong; directed by Alfred Hitchcock for Gaumont-British. At the Criterion.
Erica Burgoyne . . . . . Nova Pilbeam
Robert Tisdall . . . . . Derrick de Marney
Col. Burgoyne . . . . . Percy Marmont
Old Will . . . . . Edward Rigby
Guy . . . . . George Curzon
Christine Day . . . . . Pamela Carme
Detective Grant . . . . . John Longden
Detective Miller . . . . . George Merritt
Solicitor . . . . . J. H. Roberts
Sergeant . . . . . H. F. Maltby
Policeman . . . . . John Millar
Lorry Driver . . . . . Jerry Verno

Initial release: November 1937
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cinematography: Bernard Knowles
Screenplay: Alma Reville, Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood, Anthony Armstrong, Gerald Savory
Music composed by: Louis Levy, Jack Beaver

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