I never would have watched 'My Teenage Daughter' if it hadn't been made by Herbert Wilcox and Dame Anna Neagle. This husband/wife team (he as director, she as star) churned out a long series of highly profitable British films, most of which were earnest period dramas. 'My Teenage Daughter', made in 1956, is very much of its time, and tries hard to make some earnest statements about the disaffected youth of the Fifties. Unfortunately, the end result is more like one of those Ed Wood exploitation movies about reform-school girls gone wild. This movie tries hard to be 'with it' but is clearly Without It. This movie is similar to 'Reefer Madness': it deals with a genuine problem in society, but fails to address that problem honestly.
Sylvia Syms (whom I've never liked) plays 17-year-old Janet, who drops out of business school to spend all her time with Tony (Kenneth Haigh), a teddy-boy spiv. The booze and the wild parties are a bad influence on her, but the fatal corruption occurs when he takes her to a dance-hall where she learns how to dance 'jive'. Well, once a teenage girl dances 'jive', her soul is beyond all redemption.
Tony casually murders his aunt to get money to finance his wild sprees. (What will he do for money when he runs out of aunts?) Tony is such a bad influence on Janet, he soon has her yelling at her mother (shock! horror!) from inside a gaol cell. Jan's mum Valerie is played by Anna Neagle, which is part of the problem in this film: the main characters are clearly meant to be Janet and Tony, but the focal character is Valerie.
SPOILERS COMING: Eventually, Janet is hauled up before a magistrate, played by senile Major Gowen from 'Fawlty Towers'. Tony comes to a bad end (no surprise!), and Jan learns her lesson after having committed only a few misdemeanours. 'We mustn't ever lose each other again,' says Valerie to her daughter in a tear-stained reunion. Oh, blimey! Naturally, this film takes the line that parents want to hear: namely, *your* kids aren't bad, it's that *other* lot they've got in with (such as Tony) who are the real problem. And parents always know best, of course. (No comment.)
Matters are not helped by a leering undertone throughout 'My Teenage Daughter'. The film takes a moralistic stance, but it invites us to take a voyeuristic look at all the stuff that happens to teen girls gone wild. Wilfrid Hyde-White is good in a supporting role, as Janet's respectable employer before she goes off the rails. I'll rate this movie 4 points out of 10. It's a very revealing artefact of the 1950s, but not for the reasons that its makers intended.