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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.


Without Love


Without Love (1945)

I find it difficult to picture a world in which Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy persist together “without love”, but that is precisely what their third film together asked audiences to do, although they were expected to hope for it.

    After appearing in Woman of the Year in 1942, audiences were hooked on the pairing and the stars themselves grew addicted to one another. They would remain so for the rest of their lives through nine films and Tracy’s marriage that could not be dissolved because of his strict Catholic beliefs. When theater-goers proved less thrilled by the unromantic The Keeper of the Flame also released in 1942, Hollywood producers came to their senses and returned the actors to the genre in which they were best received for Without Love.

     Military scientist Pat Jameson (Tracy) finds himself the caretaker of a mansion belonging to Jamie Rowan (Hepburn). Jamie is not convinced at first that Pat and his dog Dizzy are suitable for the joint but she is persuaded both because her scientist father was friends with Pat’s father and because he is working to perfect a oxygen mask for Air Force pilots flying at high altitudes. In getting to know each other, the duo have explained their respective reasons for never wanting love in their lives again: Pat was hurt by a selfish woman in France and Jamie’s ideal husband died in an accident two years into their marriage. Since she finds her life meaningless, Jamie proposes the two get married so she can work as Pat’s assistant. The union would be strictly businesslike however and strictly without love.

     On their wedding night, Pat’s somnambulism gets the best of him, however, and he sleep walks right into Jamie’s bed, much to her shock and disapproval. After that hiccup, however, the marriage runs smoothly. Friends and family, however, have started to notice the absence of passion in the relationship, so a neighbor who previously made advances toward Jamie inches his way in. The couple has a row while they are in Chicago offering up the finalized oxygen mask because Pat’s ex is in town and wanting to see the man. Jamie returns home and starts an affair with the neighbor while Pat checks in with Lila. Pat comes home as both halves of the marriage discover jealousy the necessary spark to ignite the flame of love, and the Jamesons restart their companionship properly.

     Adding to the cast are Lucille Ball as Jamie’s business manager of sorts and Keenan Wynn as Jamie’s cousin. Given a childhood of “I Love Lucy” episodes as my Ball baseline, I found the younger actress here elegant and beautifully spoken. Wynn was also younger and less gruff in voice than I am accustomed to, and their characters are quite charming in their side-story romance. Wynn was a fabulous character actor well suited in both comedies and dramas who has about 150 movies to his credit. Hepburn and Tracy are their usual great selves as well, but I would not call Without Love any great achievement, just another on the list of their collaborations.

  • Without Love is set for 10:15 a.m. ET June 15 on TCM.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

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