Pros: Derrick De Marney, Nova Pilbeam, Story, Comedy, Direction
Cons: Needs a restoration
Young and Innocent (1937)
Alfred Hitchcock made his name as a director of British films for companies like British International Pictures long before he was famous in America.
Starting out during the silent era he distinguished himself early with a visual sense that rivaled Fritz Lang or John Ford. Towards the end of the 1930s he was discovered by David O Selznick and lured away to Hollywood where he made pictures for another three decades. Young and Innocent is one of the later British Hitchcocks and well worth your time to watch.
Hitchcock was a man who was obsessed with a few key themes, one of which was the "wrong man" theme where an innocent party was implicated in a crime he did not commit and the rest of the movie played out showing him being chased around by the criminals or police depending on how the story was written. Robert Cummings and Cary Grant played this sort of character later for Hitchcock during his American career. There are lots of other Hitchcock touches you can spot, including overhead and other innovative camera angles and the femme fatale, blond of course. Hitchcock also gave full reign to his abundant sense of humor here, with a long cameo that caused me to double up with mirth. Many other humorous moments occur throughout the 80 minute movie.
The British Hitchcocks were made on flea-sized budgets so the special effects, sets, and location shooting are not as spectacular as you would see in his big Hollywood blockbusters like North by Northwest, yet the storytelling and charm of the films usually shine through despite the low dollar treatment.
The movie opens with a middle-aged woman being accused of infidelity by her husband. After some heated words she slaps him hard three times. The scene cuts and the next scene shows her body floating out of the surf. The first person on the scene, Robert Tisdale (Derrick De Marney), runs for help and is seen by two women who mistake it for running away from the crime.
The police are no help and they arrest Tisdale but he escapes before he can be locked up. The police commissioner's daughter (Nova Pilbeam), who had met Tisdale earlier, helps him by taking him away in her bull nosed Morris automobile. At first, her help is reluctant, but later it becomes eager and we see the beginnings of tender feelings evolving in the young and handsome couple.
Just to digress a moment; I certainly am glad I am not under the English law system if what Hitchcock depicted was a good representation. The evidence tying Tisdale to this killing was very thin and the fact that they almost had him convicted before the trial was eye opening to me. By contrast, here in Georgia we have a guy who killed a judge in his own courtroom in front of dozens of eye witnesses and they are not sure they will be able to convict him. What are we to think?
Back to the film: There are some great scenes, including a birthday party that the fugitives inadvertently crash; a night club where an aged bum helps the fugitives to find the key person who he got the evidence from, and several eye popping edits including a teacup smashing on the pavement and causing a pursuing police car to get a timely flat tire.
Derrick De Marney is a forerunner of Cary Grant or Bob Cummings as he is the same type, young and good looking with a good sense of humor. Nova Pilbeam is the blond heroine but she is not quite the devastating beauty that Hitch's later femmes would be. There were several great character performances by unknowns, also. As a bit of trivia, there is a jazz band playing in black face that would probably be upsetting today but was considered fine in 1937.
The DVD is a product of Delta, a public domain publisher. The video and audio is fairly well preserved and there are no extras. The film is black and white, in 1.33:1 theatrical aspect, and runs 80 minutes.
Young and Innocent is recommended for all Hitchcock fans and fans of mysteries and chase movies.