All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s screening and discussion sessions. We’ll be showing Young and Innocent (1937, Alfred Hitchcock, 83 mins) on Wednesday the 15th of January, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.
This film is part of our new focus on film adaptations of detective novels written by women. It is based on Josephine Tey’s second Inspector Alan Grant novel, A Shilling for Candles, which was published in 1936.
In addition to comparing the film to Tey’s novel, we will, of course, be focusing on how it relates to melodrama. The UK fan magazine Picture Show is helpful in this regard. Its preview, written by Maud Hughes, opens by noting that ‘romance runs through the warp of crime’ (25th of December 1937, p. 5). Hughes then briefly recounts some crucial aspects of the characters and the plots provides more detail. In edited form (for the sake of spoilers!) the summary is that ‘Nova Pilbeam is the daughter of a Chief Constable [who] helps a…man wanted by the police on a charge of murder’.
The man on the run (played by Derrick de Marney) may be related to some Dirk Bogarde melodramas we have screened over the last couple of years. These showed Bogarde as a suffering figure and also contained the Mystery, Violence and Chase aspects of the male melodrama (see especially Hunted: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2018/10/18/summary-of-discussion-on-hunted/ ) .
Meanwhile the main female character is potentially the ‘woman in peril’ we have often seen in gothic films, as well as the ‘suffering woman’ of melodrama. The US title of the film, The Girl was Young, further underlines this, suggesting that it is she who is the ‘young and innocent’ (and therefore the most vulnerable character) of Hitchcock’s film.
Hughes comments following her plot summary that ‘cynical’ critics may consider the film to be ‘sheer melodrama’ are very instructive. They demonstrate that ‘melodrama’ is often a pejorative term, especially when it is undiluted (‘sheer’). But Hughes argues for its historical popularity: it is the sort of the story which has ‘held the interest of the big public for hundreds of years’.
Hopefully we’ll enjoy it too. Do join us if you can.