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Young and Innocent (1937)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Young and Innocent (1937)
35mm, black and white, 84 mins
Directed byAlfred Hitchcock
Production CompanyGaumont-British Picture Corporation
ScreenplayCharles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood, Anthony Armstrong
PhotographyBernard Knowles
Original novelElizabeth Mackintosh

Cast: Nova Pilbeam (Erica Burgoyne); Derrick De Marney (Robert Tisdall); John Longden (Detective Inspector Kent); Edward Rigby (Old Will); Basil Radford (Basil, Erica's Uncle)

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A woman is found murdered, and the prime suspect escapes from the courthouse. With the help of the daughter of the chief of police, he goes on a quest to clear his name and find the true killer.

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Young and Innocent (1937) is another of Hitchcock's stories in which the hero undertakes a quest to clear his name, a series which also includes The 39 Steps (1935), Saboteur (US, 1942), To Catch a Thief (US, 1955), The Wrong Man (US, 1957) and North by Northwest (US, 1959). Like several of these, it features a couple pushed together by circumstance, reluctant partners at first, but finally lovers.

It is much lighter in tone than most of Hitchcock's previous thrillers, thanks in part to the easy charm of lead Derrick de Marney, and anticipates the successful blend of comedy and suspense in The Lady Vanishes the following year.

The climax of the film is a justly celebrated sequence in which the camera glides over a crowded dancefloor to pick out the true murderer. But this is not the only impressive scene in the film. In a pivotal scene, strangely removed for the American release, the couple attend a children's party at the house of Erica's aunt and uncle. To avoid suspicion, the pair agree to make up a new identity for Robert, but only create suspicion when they tell different stories. Later they play a game of blind man's buff.

The party scene neatly illustrates the film's central themes: disguise and playacting (Robert makes his initial escape from the courthouse by donning his defense lawyer's glasses; the tramp Old Will dresses up in a suit in order to pursue the killer, who is himself in disguise as a blacked-up drummer in a dance band) and seeing, or impediments to seeing (the search for clues and for the real killer; the glasses Robert borrows ironically impair his vision; the villain has an involuntary blink).

Nova Pilbeam - just 18 - played her first lead role in the film: she had been a juvenile in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). According to de Marney, Hitchcock was uncharacteristically gentle with the actress, because he was afraid that his usual hard approach might affect the natural naïveté of her performance. The rest of the cast and crew didn't get off so lightly.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. Courtroom drama (4:04)
2. Blind Man's Buff (6:27)
3. A twitchy killer (1:17)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Railway Collision, A (1900)
Bennett, Charles (1899-1995)
De Marney, Derrick (1906-1978)
Frend, Charles (1909-1977)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
Junge, Alfred (1886-1964)
Radford, Basil (1897-1952)
Tennyson, Pen (1912-1941)
Verno, Jerry (1894-1975)
English Hitchcock