YOUNG AND INNOCENT is a marvelous romantic chase movie from Alfred Hitchcock's British period, which finds a police constable's daughter (Nova Pilbeam) helping an escaped accused murderer (Derrick de Marney).
The couple on the run was one of Hitchcock's favorite themes, used again in films such as SABOTEUR (1942) and NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959). I actually enjoyed YOUNG AND INNOCENT more than Hitchcock's much better-known British chase movie of a couple years earlier, THE 39 STEPS (1935).
YOUNG AND INNOCENT was more lighthearted than THE 39 STEPS, and I liked that Erica (Pilbeam) and Robert (de Marney) are together through most of the movie. In THE 39 STEPS the lead couple aren't thrown together until nearly 2/3 into the film! THE 39 STEPS had some wonderful set pieces, but -- at least on first viewing -- I preferred the sweet and romantic YOUNG AND INNOCENT. It's curious to me that the film doesn't have more of a reputation.
Nova Pilbeam had been a child actress and was 18 when she was cast as the spunky, determined Erica in YOUNG AND INNOCENT. She only made 15 movies, but thanks to the kindness of Missy I can see another one soon: YELLOW CANARY (1943), in which Pilbeam starred with Anna Neagle and Richard Greene. Pilbeam's first husband died in a plane crash during the war in 1941; she retired for marriage and motherhood when she remarried in 1950. She turned 90 years old last November.
I loved watching Derrick de Marney's bemused and later adoring reactions as Erica decides to help him. De Marney played Disraeli in VICTORIA THE GREAT, released the same year as YOUNG AND INNOCENT, and he reprised the Disraeli role in 1938's SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS. He had over 40 film and TV credits, mostly in Britain. His brother, actor Terence de Marney, had twice as many credits, including a great deal of work in the United States. Terence was in many Warner Bros. TV episodes of the '50s, including five episodes of my favorite series, MAVERICK.
The supporting cast includes Percy Marmont as Erica's father and Mary Clare as Erica's somewhat obnoxious, highly suspicious aunt. Edward Rigby plays a hobo who turns out to have key evidence to help solve the murder. Torin Thatcher is the manager of a shady lodging house.
I missed Hitchcock's cameo as a photographer. I'll be watching for it when I watch the movie again with the commentary track.
YOUNG AND INNOCENT runs a brisk 83 minutes. It was based on the novel A SHILLING FOR CANDLES by Josephine Tey. The movie was first shown in the United States under the title THE GIRL WAS YOUNG.
The movie was shot in black and white by Bernard Knowles, who filmed a number of Hitchcock's other British films, such as THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS (1935), SECRET AGENT (1936), SABOTAGE (1936), and JAMAICA INN (1939). There is a wonderful tracking shot near the end of YOUNG AND INNOCENT which runs over a minute, as the camera gradually zooms in on the murderer; it's reminiscent of the famous shot which ends on the key in Ingrid Bergman's hand in NOTORIOUS (1946).
YOUNG AND INNOCENT is available in a lovely DVD print either as a single-title release or as part of the 8-film Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection, a beautiful set which I was fortunate to obtain when it was on sale last year. Extras include a commentary track and stills gallery.
Previous reviews of Hitchcock films: THE 39 STEPS (1935), THE LADY VANISHES (1938), FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941), SABOTEUR (1942), SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), I CONFESS (1953), DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954), TO CATCH A THIEF (1955), and MARNIE (1964).