February 27, 2017


Young and Innocent – 1937 | 80mins | Thriller | B&W


Plot Synopsis

Young and Innocent

The English and American titles for Hitchcock’s fifth film for Gainshorough are equally innocuous and bland. But then, Young and Innocent was an especially smooth thriller for Hitchcock. It is a film chock full of touches Hitchcock wanted to include in other productions but could never find a way to fit in. In a very real sense, the title describes the kind of film Young and Innocent is. Alma Reville and Charles Bennett created a screenplay based on Josephine Tey’s novel A Shilling for Candles, and the result was a breathlessly paced movie which offers gripping suspense and melodrama.

It begins the way Hitchcock’s 1973 hit, Frenzy was to begin. A woman’s body is washed ashore with the belt of a man’s raincoat, obviously the murder weapon. The body is found, and we’re off on a double chase, the kind Hitchcock knows best. Robert Tisdall (Derrick de Marney) is accused of the murder. He escapes to the Cornish countryside to search for the true killer, the man who stole his raincoat. With the police in pursuit, he is helped by a “young and innocent” girl, Erica (Nova Pilbeam). In the course of their chase the young fugitives call on the girl’s aunt (Mary Clare) and uncle (Basil Radford), ostensibly to establish some sort of alibi.

They find themselves trapped in a game of blindman’s buff at a children’s party. The scene slows the chase down but adds frustrating suspense and, at the same time, humour. You can’t help laughing at the pair’s predicament, yet you still worry about the time they are losing from their escape. It is a well-timed scene, lasting about five minutes but seeming much longer to the viewer. De Marney noted in an interview that Hitchcock used a stopwatch to time scenes. “Too slow,” he would murmur. “I had the scene marked for thirty seconds and it took you fifty seconds flat. We’ll have to retake.” In later films, timing would become second nature to Hitchcock and stopwatches wouldn’t be needed.

Erica and Robert finally find a hobo who can identify the man who gave him the beltless raincoat, the real murderer. Now the police are almost on top of them. A car chase ensues, ending with a climactic cliff-hanging coal mine cave-in. But it’s probably the finale of the movie that most audiences will remember. a single scene created with such remarkable technique that it is worth the entire film. The hobo says that the man they are looking for has twitching eyes. Hitchcock takes us, in one sweeping and flowing single shot, across what was at the time Pinewood’s largest sound stage-from 145 feet away to just 4 inches from the twitching eyes of the murderer. He is a drummer in a large hotel ballroom, where looking for a pair of eyes is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Hitchcock needed two days to complete the sequence, which required a special crane-mounted camera on tracks. It is a dramatic shot and probably does more to excite the audience than any other sequence.

The performances are all convincing, if slight. Nova Pilbeam. was England’s major child star, and Derrick de Marney, a current matinee idol, fit into his role the way Cary Grant later filled similar American parts. Basil Radford, who makes a cameo appearance as the flustered Uncle Basil here, went on the following year to give one of his greatest performances in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. The film runs eighty minutes, but the American version had a full ten minutes chopped from it, much to Hitchcock’s dismay. It was a cut that was to prepare the master of suspense for all the tampering with his films by studio executives in America. Not until he was his own man, his own producer, was he able (and then not always) to get exactly what he wanted, and what was usually best for his films.

ExtractŠ Richard A. Harris, Michael S. Lasky: The Complete Films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Production Team

Alfred Hitchcock: Director
Alfred Junge: Art Director
Bernard Knowles: Cinematography
Charles Frend: Editing
Samuel Lerner: Music
Al Hoffman: Music
Al Goodhart: Music
Louis Levy: Music Direction
Edward Black: Producer
Gerald Savoury: Script
Charles Bennett: Script
Edwin Greenwood: Script
Anthony Armstrong: Script
Alma Reville: Script
A O’Donoghue: Sound


Nova Pilbeam: Erica Burgoyne
Derrick De Marney: Robert Tisdall
Percy Marmont: Col Burgoyne
Edward Rigby: Old Will
Mary Clare: Erica\’s Aunt
John Longden: Det Insp Kent
George: Curzon Guy
Basil Radford: Erica\’s Uncle
Pamela Carme: Christine
George Merritt: Detective Sergeant Miller
JH Roberts: Solicitor
Jerry Verno: Lorry Driver

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