|Index||10 reviews in total|
YOUNG PEOPLE (20th Century-Fox, 1940), directed by Allan Dwan, not only
became Shirley Temple's final "little girl" performance, but marked an
end of an era to a legendary child star who entertained and delighted
movie audiences during the Depression era 1930s, with box office hits
that began in 1934. But by 1940, with the changing of times that would
soon lead the country into World War II, and the new likes in movie
entertainment, Temple's once popular box-office appeal was now fading,
and fading fast.
The storyline opens with Joe and Kitty Ballantine (Jack Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood), a couple of vaudeville headliners, after finishing their performance, being given a basket, finding a baby in it. At first they think it's some sort of a gag to add amusement to the audience until Joe finds a note written by their closest friend, the widowed Barney O'Hara, who hasn't long to live, explaining that the infant is being placed in their care. So the natural thing for Joe and Kitty to do is to keep the baby and raise it up themselves. Over the years the infant girl grows into a talented trooper like her "parents," and after some ten years, the Ballantines decide that it's now time to retire, and to give their young "daughter," Wendy (Shirley Temple) the kind of upbringing she very well deserves. So after their farewell performance, they move to a New England farm in Stonefield where they can live the simple life, and have Wendy educated in a local town school with other children her age. But while it all sounds well and good, they find that they are being snubbed by the resident well-to-dos, and learn that the common folks are nothing but phonies who look down on show people.
YOUNG PEOPLE is a worthy conclusion to Temple's childhood years at 20th Century-Fox mainly because it includes film clips from her past movies, inter-cutting her scenes with her on-screen father, Jack Oakie, including her "Baby, Take a Bow" number from STAND UP AND CHEER (1934), where Oakie fills in for James Dunn; and the Hawaiian dance number from CURLY TOP (1935). After these stardust memory moments are presented, comes Shirley, now age 12, taller, prettier with darker hair, doing her song and dance with top hat, white tie and tales in a very energetic manner, showing that even though she's maturing into a young lady, she still has that gifted talent. Sadly, her subsequent films she starred in during the later 1940s, such as KATHLEEN (MGM, 1941) and MISS ANNIE ROONEY (UA, 1942), failed to recapture the magic she once had, mainly due to mediocre scripts that kept Temple from being the super star teenager she could have been like Deanna Durbin, Jane Powell and/or Elizabeth Taylor. And while Temple had been the center of attention through most all her previous movies, for the first time in her successful career, Temple here is overshadowed by her co-stars, mainly by the unlikely likable pair of Oakie and Greenwood.
Good tunes by Mack Gordon, Harry Revel and Harry Warren include: "The Mason-Dixon Live" (sung by Oakie and Greenwood); "The Beaches of Waikiki" (danced by Temple, from the clip from CURLY TOP); "Baby, Take a Bow" (by Jay Gorney and Lew Brown/sung by Oakie and Temple /Temple scenes lifted from STAND UP AND CHEER); "Fifth Avenue" (sung by Temple, Oakie and Greenwood); "I Wouldn't Take a Million" (sung by Oakie); "Flocently Sweet Afton" (sung by children); "Young People" (Sung by Temple and children); "I Wouldn't Take a Million" (sung by Temple); and "Tra-La-La-La" (sung by cast/finale).
Also seen in the supporting cast are George Montgomery as Mike Shea, the town reporter, editor, typesetter and everything else rolled into one; Arleen Whelan as Mike's girl, Judith; Kathleen Howard as Hester Appleby, the town snob; Minor Watson, Darryl Hickman, Irving Bacon, Olin Howland, Mae Marsh, and among other character actors who fill in the New England town. And that's Mary Gordon as the old lady who brings in the basket into the theater in the opening portion of the story.
Reportedly a bigger box-office failure than Temple's earlier 1940 release, THE BLUE BIRD, YOUNG PEOPLE isn't really all that bad. It just returns Temple to the simple plot formula she's been doing most of the 1930s, featuring songs, comedy, little drama and moments of tears, but by this time, these familiar plots were becoming all too predictable and old-fashioned. Critics were probably saying to themselves that this is now 1940, not 1935! 20th Century-Fox did make an attempt or two to modernize YOUNG PEOPLE, especially during the closing credit cast listing with the underscoring being jazzed up a bit to fit the big band era. Otherwise, its a cute and enjoyable little comedy-drama about adjustment and acceptance with a moral lesson intact without becoming too preachy.
Oddly, YOUNG PEOPLE never became part of the Shirley Temple video package from CBS/FOX VIDEO back in the latter part of the l980s. This oversight was finally corrected in the mid 1990s when YOUNG PEOPLE was distributed to home video, but unlike the earlier packages, it's available only in colorization. While YOUNG PEOPLE had been presented in recent years on several cable TV stations colorized, such as the Disney Channel in the early 1990s, American Movie Classics, which premiered this overlooked Temple feature back in 1996, wisely presents this in its original black and white format, the way it should be presented for that's the way it was distributed in theaters.
YOUNG PEOPLE may not be top Temple material, but it is a fond farewell to a little girl who has now grown up. (***)
This movie has touched me with it's warmth and charm from the time I saw it as a teenager. I feel in love with Charlotte Greenwood and have been a fan of hers ever since. Her delivery was only matched by Eve Arden and what a pity we never had the two of them together. What a delight to see elegant Miss Greenwood cut loose and let her dancing legs fly. There has been none like her. For fans of Shirley Temple this was an opportunity to see her as she was about to enter the teen years. Too bad her last film at Fox was not a big success. "Young People" had some great old clips of Shirley in her earlier film roles and made for a proper tribute to her talent and poise as a young lady. Miss Greenwood and Jack Oakie play off of Shirley with perfection and make for the perfect vaudeville family trying to find a new life and real home.
This is certainly not a bad film if one accepts the fact that Shirley
is growing up. There is a predictability to it, for sure but can anyone
deny the all-the-more-so predictability of every Astair-Rogers film? We
still love them, don't we? Young People suffers from a mediocrity that
gives it a feel of a second rate Andy Hardy film, but it has a way of
growing on you. My daughter and wife occasionally can be heard humming
"5th Avenue" a very catchy number from the film.
I wonder if anyone out there noticed the scene when Shirley, reading the paper in the parlor, points out casually to her parents that an old show biz acquaintance is going to appear on "television"! This may be the first time the new (very very new) medium is mentioned in a "throw-out" line. Any comments?
The first time I saw this movie when I was a pre-teen, I loved it. It is
innocent, real, true to life and I love Charlotte Greenwood and Shirley
Temple. I can still see it in my memory.
I like this movie "Young People" but I haven't been able to find it. I pretty much have all Shirley Temple's movies but I can't find this in Video Stores. Will they be getting in more stock on this movie? Every time I go to a video store they say its not on stock or they never heard of it. Can it only be ordered on line or will I be able to get it at a video store? I told my grandchildren about this movie and how they helped people even if they were made fun of. Its a very entertaining movie. I know I can get my grandchildren to sit down and watch this movie. I also enjoy watching Jack Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood. These are good family movies that I've enjoyed and would like my grandchildren to see. Please let me know how I can get this movie. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks, Veronica
It looks as if Fox wasn't prepared to spend anything but a B-picture budget
on Shirley's last film for the studio. Even the colorized version that
popped up several years ago fails to give the picture an A-picture look that
it deserved. All the trappings are on a downscale that makes the film little
more than a programmer.
Shirley herself is still a talented girl--still the cheerful disposition, dimples and dancing feet--but while her talent is obviously a modest one, it's Charlotte Greenwood and Jack Oakie that are the real pros. Occasionally Shirley meets their standards and this gives the film the lift it needs. But all too often, it's apparent that the charm she had as a tot isn't enough to maintain her pre-teen appeal.
The story is a simple one about a vaudeville couple who adopt a baby girl and then want to retire to the country so she can have a normal life when she's growing up. The conflict comes when the townspeople refuse to accept the showbiz family in their community. Finally, with the help of George Montgomery and Arleen Whelan, the family overcomes all obstacles. A fierce storm sequence toward the end is extremely well done but fails to save the picture from being anything more than an ordinary yarn.
Clever use of Shirley's earlier film footage as a tot is inserted for the "babe on the road" inserts. It's a pleasant enough show but more funding by Fox would have elevated it to A-status.
Shirley Temple's last film on her 20th Century Fox contract was a good
one. Young People is the story of Shirley and her adoptive parents Jack
Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood, a pair of vaudevillians who have decided
to settle down on a Vermont farm that Shirley's real father left her to
give her a home and some stability. They figure she ought to have some
at the ripe old age of twelve after a life of born in a trunk.
Oakie and Greenwood are the Ballantines and they have some nice chemistry between them. They should have been teamed more often.
Sad to say what they get is a bunch of hidebound New Englanders who don't take lightly to strangers telling them what's wrong with their way of living. Especially from a brash show business type and they don't come more brash than Jack Oakie. But in her usual fashion Shirley brings them together. As the Good Book says, 'and a little child will lead them'. Even though the little child is starting to show signs of puberty. No doubt why Darryl Zanuck did not renew her contract.
Shirley Temple left 20th Century Fox on a good note.
This is Shirley Temple's last film under her very successful Twentieth
Century-Fox contract. And, sadly, it's NOT among her better films. Part
of it is that Shirley now was 12--and no longer the adorable 7
year-old. Most of it, however, was the script--which was rather weak.
The film begins with two show people (Jack Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood) being given a baby. It seems their friend has died and he wanted them to raise the kid. Years pass and the child grows into an adorable show-stopping kid herself (Shirley Temple). During this montage sequence, you see several cute clips of a younger Shirley in previous films. After years of working hard on the road, the family has decided to call it quits and settle down on a farm left to Shirley by her biological parents. However, Oakie and Greenwood REALLY come on very, very strong in this VERY conservative neighborhood. Now these townsfolk are obnoxious old drips---but I also thought that if this family came storming into town like this family did, I might hate them, too. This is a seriously weak part of the film as you were supposed to love Shirley's family and dislike the townsfolk--but I really didn't like any of them. Eventually, however, the family is able to convince everyone how wonderful they are and the film ends--a contrived and weak ending if I've ever seen one. Overall, this film is a time-passer at best. It's not bad but neither is it very good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If "The Wizard of Oz" became "The Blue Bird" when the deal to lend
Shirley Temple out to MGM failed, then the Mickey/Judy vaudeville
musical became this musical comedy of showing the staid town leader a
good time. Jack Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood are a popular vaudeville
team who all of a sudden become parents when an old friend bequests
them her baby in a basket. The baby grows up to be Shirley Temple, and
like "Babes in Arms", her passage of time is documented by old clips of
her early days. They work the vaudeville circuit until deciding to
retire to a farming community, never telling Shirley that she was
adopted. They find themselves up against the power mongering Kathleen
Howard, who like Margaret Hamilton in "Babes in Arms", tries to stop
the show in the barn from going on. It's only a matter of time before
the truth comes out, leaving Shirley quite despondent.
This makes enough changes to be different, but with Mickey and Judy having moved into the spot once held by Shirley, it's obvious that this was influenced by that smash hit at MGM and what would wrap up Shirley's years at 20th Century Fox. One number, "We're not babies anymore", is a direct rip-off of "Babes in Arms" title song. Still moderately entertaining, in this case it's Charlotte Greenwood who came out the winner. Oakie is basically playing the types of roles that he'd been playing for a decade. In a sense, I didn't find Oakie and Greenwood's plans to liven up the town realistic, and yet didn't sympathize with the nasty Howard either. The way the truth about Temple's paternity comes out seems forced as well. It's good intentions for a combination of music, comedy and pathos that just doesn't really gel. A laughable sudden turn of events at the end just adds to the absurdity. Ironically, Shirley's next home (for one film) would be MGM, and it wasn't meant to last.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
1940 was a watershed year for Fox musical comedies. Shirley Temple
films: the staple of their mid-Depression era musical comedies, no
longer wowed audiences as they had a few years earlier. She was growing
into a teenager, and the Depression crisis was rapidly changing into a
world war crisis. Fox needed new musical stars to compete with MGM
musicals. In 1940, they acquired several, in Betty Grable, Carmen
Miranda, and John Payne who, in addition to holdovers Alice Faye, Don
Ameche, and Sonja Henie, would carry their musicals through the war
years. They also acquired talented tunesmith Harry Warren: a refuge
from the disbanded Warner Busby Berkeley-choreographed dance
spectaculars of the mid-30s. Warren would replace Harry Revel as Mack
Gordon's chief collaborator in composing songs for Fox during the war
years. I believe the present film is the first musical this team
composed for. Fox also acquired two very talented veteran vaudeville,
Broadway, and film-trained character actors with musical talent in Jack
Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood, who would become rather prominent in a
number of these '40s musicals. Here, they have their most prominent
roles, teaming with Shirley, in her last Fox film, to form a
vaudevillian family, who then decide they've had enough of the suitcase
and train berth lifestyle, opting for an anticipated quite retirement
on a farm, near Stonefield, which appears to be in Vermont, with all
the emphasis on Republicans(Vermont was one of only 2 states not to
vote for FDR in the '36 election), the stony hilly farm land, and
Oakie's comment about reopening the slate and granite mines. But, of
course, their arrival turns the town into a virtual war zone, with the
conservative Republican town folk being put off by these aggressive,
brash, Democratic city slickers, out to convert them into being the
same. In addition, they discover how much they miss their stage
As usual, Shirley is cast as an orphan, arriving as a baby in a basket at the conclusion of a stage performance by Jack and Charlotte(the Ballantines): a 'gift' from her dying mother, a good friend of this couple. They provide loving and stable parents through Shirley's childhood, incorporating her into their acts. Thus, the conflict drama is centered on the cultural conflict between this family and the leading residents of Stonefield.
Shirley's farewell-to-show business speech, at the end of the "Fifth Avenue" vaudevillian song and dance number, could be taken as a farewell speech for her entire film career at Fox. From this perspective, it should have come at the end of the film. However, the screenplay demanded that it happen rather early. Incidentally, from her comments, it's clear this was a 'prologue' performance: a common institution in film theaters at this time, in which a short live stage performance preceded the film showing. The prior Warner's musical "Footlight Parade" dramatizes the inception of this institution: most popular during The Depression years. Incidentally, the song for this performance is quite memorable. To help cheer themselves up, they would repeat their performance in their farmhouse parlor, in everyday clothes, instead of the top hats and tales of their stage performance. 'Baby Burlesque' film shorts, in which Shirley often participated, were one alternative to live prologues during the 1932-33 period
Shirley's last musical performance, which she shared with her 2 costars, was a tap dance to a spirited 'Tra La La La": quite a catchy tune, the lyrics of which summed up the messages of most of her films. a sampling of the lyrics: "so wear a smile, sing a little while it's raining, and through the clouds, every little star will shine". Incidentally, Betty Grable and Dan Dailey would again sing this when they were feeling down, in "Mother Wore Tights": another Fox musical about a vaudevillian family. Each of the 3 stars got to do their solo dance as part of this act. Heavy-set Jack looked rather awkward in his vigorous hoofing. Charlotte finally did her signature sideways high kick, which can also be seen in several other Fox musicals, including "Down Argentine Way", released the same year.
In another Warren-Gordon tune: "I Wouldn't Take a Million", first Jack, and later Shirley, express their love for each other, with the lyrics being slightly altered, as appropriate.
Believe it or not, Kathleen Howard, who played the shrewish leader of the opposition(Hester Appleby) to the Ballantine's attempt to modernize the community, was an opera singer in her younger days.
The drama of the last section, which has the Ballantines in their car, leaving this hopelessly hostile community, is quite contrived. As they drive off, a hurricane hits this town! When they get stuck in the mud, just outside of town, they encounter a bunch of kids, seemingly lost, then see a house up on a hill and herd them up there. It happens to be Mrs. Appleby's house! She invites all in, then Jack goes looking for a missing boy, whom he eventually finds. So, the Ballantines are now local heroes, deserving of a measure of respect, and a grudging license to put on vaudeville-styled performances, as they reconsider their decision to leave.
Handsome George Montgomery is a secondary character, seemingly the only real friend the Ballantines have in this town, as the editor of the Democratic party newspaper(how can he survive here??), inconveniently romancing Mrs. Appleby's niece. He would be the leading man in several future Fox musicals.
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