Mad Youth (1939)

Approved   |    |  Drama

Mad Youth (1939) Poster

A rich society mother hires a male escort, but he falls for her daughter instead. The mother-daughter conflict forces the daughter to run off to stay with a friend who is enslaved by a prostitution ring.


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18 April 2014 | st-shot
| Forever 21
American society dames get a cuffing and a lecture on parenthood from a faux count gigolo in this pre-war cheapie looking to cash in on lurid sensationalism. Disjointed and sloppy most of the way it unintentionally (or indifferently)entertains with titillating moralizing as women of all ages pre-sage this age of narcissism with self centered abandon.

Upper cruster Lucy Morgan (Betty Compson) spends most of her time playing bridge with fellow elites and buying the attention of phony counts from an escort service while ignoring daughter Marian (Mary Ainslee) who throws wild parties while she is absent. Enter Count Dehoven (Willy Castello), gigolo with a conscience and the attention of both mom and daughter. The Count falls heavily for the daughter much to mom's consternation, causing a major rift that sends Marian off to live with her star struck friend who in reality is being held hostage in a bordello, a fate now awaiting Marian. Can she be rescued? Looks like a job for the Count.

This crass high society expose may lack subtlety, second takes and production values of any kind but it does offer some warped incite into the era ( jitterbugging teens, absentee parents) via cautionary tale and the offbeat casting of a suave two bit gigolo as its moral conscience. Battling the hackneyed script and his own limited abilities Willy Costello brings both the unctuous and noble out in his Count DeHoven.

Ainslee's Marian is a bit long in the tooth for a confused teen but silent screen superstar in career free fall Compson is indomitable in a low key Billie Burke sought of style as an incurable romantic and while their scenes together lack smoothness they do confront the heart of the matter.

Mad Youth puts on no airs as it plows its way to its tepid climax but it does score points with its Code challenging moments and fun juxtaposing of the generations; the younger caught up in an energized frenzy at a party (featuring in another bizarre twist a baton twirler in full uniform) while their ever so proper parents battle ennui at bridge tables in another part of town with Ma Morgan attempting to bed the count, forever lying about her age.

Mad Youth may be a bad film but under the right circumstances it can be quite entertaining.

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Release Date:

5 May 1940



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