19 November 2008 | bkoganbing
What A Flying Wombat Can Do
The Young In Heart is the story of the Carleton Family an civilized and amiable a group of grifters that the screen ever portrayed. The members are Roland Young and Billie Burke and their children Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Janet Gaynor.
On one train trip where Janet's caught the eye of earnest Richard Carlson and Doug is maybe getting in over his head with southern belle Margaret Early, the family makes the acquaintance of an ingenuous old woman played by Minnie Dupree. They seem to hit it off, even more so after a train wreck and the Carletons look after her.
Dupree's family is long gone and she lives in genteel splendor in a very big house in London. In a burst of generosity she invites the whole family to stay with her. It's an opportunity to good to pass up, I know I wouldn't pass up free lodging even for a short spell.
But in order to keep up appearances and maybe she'll leave them the place in a will, they have to get jobs to appear on the up and up. At least the men folk do. Doug gets a job in an engineering firm, he charms Paulette Goddard into hiring him in an entry level position. And Young gets a job selling a brand new state of the art British car, the Flying Wombat. Both the guys especially Young prove really good, although you have to admit that selling cars should be something an accomplished grifter could take to right away.
In order for The Young In Heart to work the part of the old lady must be carefully cast and played. Minnie Dupree in one of her very few screen appearances is great in the part, bringing the right amount of charm to the role without it becoming maudlin. When you think about it, her's is the most important part, the whole film is structured around it.
Next to Dupree, I like Young the best. He's got a great scene when instead of being fired because they've found out he's a crook, he's offered a promotion to general manager, he's done that well.
I've known a few people in my life, one in particular who was one of the brightest people I've ever met, but who spent his whole short life of some 31 years on earth, running one big revolving con game. He was hard to dislike like the Carletons are, but you could never really get close to him. And if he'd ever applied himself honestly, he could have been a success in any field that interested him.
That's the charm of The Young In Heart, the thought that some people like this can be redeemed. Or maybe that in itself is a big con.
The Young In Heart got Oscar nominations for musical scoring and cinematography. Certainly one talented and charming cast gave it their best and the film is a delight.