12 December 2004 | aimless-46
A Window to the Early 1950's
"As Young As You Feel" is a modest budget early 50's B&W comedy. While the creative people were experimenting with 'film noir' and 'neo-realism', the studios were cranking out stuff like this for a traditional audience. This adaptation of a story by Paddy Chayefsky was made during the McCarthy years, so the social satire aspect could only be subtly subversive. The themes (balancing work and play, doing work that gives you personal satisfaction, and maintaining your integrity) give the film a worthwhile message and are not delivered in an overbearing manner.
Monty Woolley (as John Hodges) carries the film as a printer who is pushed into retirement at age 65 and decides to impersonate the president of the holding company that owns the printing plant where he worked. This sets up a sort of 'Being There' effect, where his views on national affairs become an inspiration to the whole country. David Wayne (who would eventually play the Mad Hatter on "Batman") plays his prospective son-in-law and their scenes are all gems, partly because they have a real chemistry and partly because they got the best dialogue. The best scene is the opening, a very well staged scene of the company orchestra playing the "Nutcracker": the camera opens on a promotional poster, pans left and takes us into the concert hall as a little girl scurries to her seat. The camera moves around in the crowd where we meet most of the main characters. Hodges is playing one of the piccolos and he soon launches into an impromptu solo, much to the annoyance of the guest conductor and an accurate preview of what his role will be throughout the film.
This film is fairly entertaining but is most valuable as a cultural artifact. Because it was not a high budget production the cast is almost entirely older stars at the very end of their careers (like Wooley and Constance Bennett) and young actors at the beginning (Wayne, Jean Peters, and Marilyn Monroe). So there is a kind of torch passing at work. It is also hints at Monroe's special screen presence which somehow allowed her to beat the Hollywood starlet system. She and Peters were the same age (both were born in 1926) and had both started too late in the movie business. By this film they had already lost all the youthful luster of their early 20's (check out how much better Peters looked two years earlier in 'It Happens Every Spring' and Monroe before she became a blonde), yet Monroe was somehow able to transcend this and become a big star.
Arthur Miller said of Monroe: "She was rarely taken seriously as anything but a sex symbol. To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was. Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes."