Young At Heart

Young At Heart

****

Reviewed by: Caro Ness

When Alex (Gig Young), a composer, arrives at the musical Tuttle household, all three daughters fall for him, but Laurie (Doris Day) and Alex fall for each other and become engaged.

When Barney Sloan (Frank Sinatra) arrives to orchestrate and arrange Alex's pieces, the plot thickens. Alex is charming, good looking and personable, whilst Barney is morose, pessimistic and has a huge chip on his shoulder. On the eve of her wedding, Laurie realises that her sister is in love with Alex and breaks off the engagement, switching her affections to Barney, whom she sees as a challenge, refusing to accept that anyone could be so cynical and gloomy.

Copy picture

Laurie and Barney's married life proves to be full of hardship, poverty and depression, with Barney stubbornly clinging to the belief that his wife is still in love with Alex, although she is by now madly in love with him. It is only when he deliberately hurts himself in a car accident and learns that Laurie is pregnant that he finally comes to his senses.

Young At Heart is a 1954 musical remake of Four Daughters and director Gordon Douglas's version of Fannie Hurst's novel is considerably cheered up from the 1938 tearjerker.

I have to confess - no doubt thousands will snarl with fury - that I LOATHE Frank Sinatra and always have. I don't like his phrasing when he sings. I don't like his voice particularly. And I didn't really like him as a person, or as an actor. But I admit, with some humility, that he is very good in this movie, perfectly cast as a born loser who always chooses to find the worst in everything until he discovers, not only the joys of fatherhood. but also the blessing of a woman who loves him. His acting is understated and yet he dominates the screen every time he appears. You forget you are watching Sinatra and instead believe utterly in Barney Sloan.

It is absolutely impossible not to like Doris Day. She has such a joyful persona and her portrayal of Laurie is warm and upbeat and neatly judged. A great supporting cast surrounds them, including Young who is spot on as the charming Alex and the wonderful Ethel Barrymore, who is splendid as the irascible, yet shrewd and insightful Aunt Jessie.

This proved to be the only film that Day and Sinatra made together and judging by the great chemistry they have on screen, it is a crying shame. Strangely, they sing entirely separately, except in the closing duet. The score is to die for, a cornucopia of fantastic Fifties songs from the pens of Arlen, Mercer, Gershwin and Cole, including Someone To Watch Over Me, Make It One For My Baby, You My Love and Just One Of Those Things, not to mention the title song, Young At Heart.

From the opening frame, you are firmly in the Fifties in what appears to be a light-hearted glossy rom-com. But don't be fooled. Once Barney Sloan enters the fray, he brings all kinds of issues to the fore, such as destiny, strength of character, human will, the pain of loneliness, the power of hope, the notion that experience and trauma can change your life and the recognition that love can conquer all.

I rate the film 4 stars, not just because the cinematography makes it look so beautiful, but also because of the sterling cast and, in particular, the wonderful, wonderful score.

There are two fascinating facts to add as a postscript. Apparently, Sinatra took an intense and immediate dislike to Day's husband, Martin Melcher. He thought that Melcher was using her to get ahead in the movie business and tried to persuade her of this fact. He disliked him so much that he had him banned from the set. Day refused to listen to Sinatra's advice, but on Melcher's death in 1968 it transpired that he had squandered all of the money that she had earned during a 20-year film career.

The second concerns the music. Quite apart from the fact that two great singers barely appear on screen together singing, this is, I believe, the only musical that doesn't bear proper musical credits. The musical director, Ray Heindorf, had his name removed because of a ruling that the term "musical director" was to be replaced with "music supervised and conducted by...".

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2005
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The only film that Doris Day and Frank Sinatra appeared together, although they sang apart.
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Director: Gordon Douglas

Writer: Julius J Epstein, Lenore J Coffee, based on Four Daughters by Fannie Hurst

Starring: Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith, Elisabeth Fraser, Alan Hale Jr, Lonny Chapman, Frank Ferguson

Year: 1954

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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