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We Who Are Young


We Who Are Young (1940)

     There is nothing more depressing than watching a young married –and pregnant– couple fall slowly into poverty. Unfortunately, that is essentially all you get with We Who Are Young. Besides being a downer, the story fails to grasp the audience as a true tragedy as we are given a sort-of happy ending with no promise of what is to come.

     Lana Turner as Margie and John Shelton as William Brooks are married in the opening sequence of the picture and the following day return to their jobs in the same office of what might be an accounting firm. The company rules do not allow married women to be employed because of the masses of men out of work, so the protagonists keep their secret as long as they can. When the boss Mr. Beamis (Gene Lockhart) finds out, he fires Margie and lectures the couple on living within their means.

     Unfortunately, earlier that day the Brooks purchased a mass of furniture for their apartment on the installment plan. With one income, Margie and Bill must scrimp. The husband is confident, however, that when Mr. Beamis reads his efficiency plan for the company he will be promoted and given a raise. This plan is nearly unacknowledged but the salary increase does eventually come around just ahead of Margie’s announcement she is pregnant. The couple are ecstatic and worried, but Bill insists his wife have her own maternity doctor rather than go to a clinic. To cover the expense, he has his company give him a loan and the money deducted from his paycheck.

     As the debt piles up, the furniture company repossesses their purchase and, learning of the paycheck deductions, Mr. Beamis fires Bill for violating company policy forbidding such things. All hope is not lost, however, as Bill studies and passes his CPA exam and expects work to be easy to find. It is not. Finally giving in to going on relief, Bill mutters along for three months jobless. He goes so far as to pick up a shovel at a construction site and dig for free until the police haul him away.

     Luckily, the owner of the company (Jonathan Hale)  is impressed by his circumstances and not only bails the man out but offers him a job at a very meager salary. The excited Bill returns to Mr. Beamis to collect his efficiency plan and to tell the man off about being heartless, a message that makes an impact. Margie is ready to have her baby by the time Bill arrives home, and in a panic he steals a car to get her to the hospital.

     Shelton’s character in We Who Are Young seems to convey a lesson near the film’s end when he speaks about how there is always someone to help a person out, yet instead of asking the man to borrow his car, Bill steals it. The man later says he would have loaned it to him under the circumstances, proving Bill’s theory but illustrating him as a moron for not believing his own message about mankind.

     Shelton also bursts into occasional bouts of rage whenever something new goes wrong, which does not add anything to his character nor does the overall story wish to paint him as a violent sort. Turner, meanwhile, sits quietly by, speaking in soft tones and offering us her gentle features as all hope crumbles before her family. Her weak performance positions her as a supporting character to Shelton’s meltdown process and yet it is hard not to love her. We Who Are Young seems more than anything to condemn the notion of buying on credit and living with debt, which is a lesson that clearly was never learned. The picture is a pretty dull one and too depressing for me to watch again.


One Response

  1. Rachel,
    What a depressing story and one we’ve seen over and over even in recent films.
    Love Lana but I haven’t seen this one and thanks for saving me from being depressed!

    A big fan of your honest reviews and still laughing over “dull one and too depressing for me to watch again!” That sums things up in a nice little bow.
    Keep the reviews coming and have a great weekend!

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