23 October 2005 | Tom_Barrister
Very pedestrian effort
"Reckless Age" was the fourth of five movies Gloria Jean would appear in for Universal in 1944. Sadly, the movie ranks among the most forgettable of the two-dozen-plus films she appeared in. The plot mirrors that of other Universal movies which were aimed at the younger crowd: Jean, the granddaughter of an overbearing department store magnate, is determined to make her own way in the world. She runs away from home and assumes a new identity in the Midwest, where she goes to work in a store that's part of her grandfather's chain. The usual complications ensue, and of course, everything works out in the end. As is the case with many of these "B" musicals, the plot is thin and the story blotchy in places. There is also plenty of music by such as The Delta Rhythm Boys, some "hep" comedy, some singing, and a dance routine by the fabulous Harold Nicols.
What would ordinarily boggle the mind is that Jean's ample singing and acting talents go almost unused. She sings fragments of three songs, each of which is interrupted after about 20 seconds by something else. The role written for her is sterile and lifeless; she does her best with what she's given to work with, but what little she does is lost in the cacophony of sound and a blur of mis-action surrounding her.
The word "ordinarily" wasn't used superfluously in the previous sentence. As I view more and more of Gloria Jean's films, I get a clearer impression that studio contemporary Deanna Durbin was behind the apparent sabotaging of Jean's films. Durbin, who was Universal's mega-star and top-draw, and for whom Jean was brought in five years earlier to help keep in line (the idea being that Jean could replace Durbin if the latter got too difficult to deal with), was extremely jealous of attention that was diverted away from her. This movie, which looks like it was thrown together in a week or two, appears to be a Durbin-destroyed effort. See my review of "Destiny" for more information about Durbin's antics.
The movie is notable as being the first role for comedian Jack Gifford. Altogether, this is a most unsatisfying experience with very little to redeem it, and unless you're a die-hard Jean fan (as I am), it's probably not something to go out of your way for. As usual, if you really want a copy of the movie, you can get one from Gloria Jean herself at her website. While IMDb policy forbids the posting of URL's, you can find the website by doing a search for her full name of "Gloria Jean Schoonover."