Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Young and Innocent

(The Girl Was Young, 1937)

Young and Innocent (The Girl Was Young) (1937) This was not the first of Hitchcock’s innocent man movies, but it’s only the second, after The 39 Steps in 1935. This story is a bit simpler than that one, but they both have strengths. A young man finds a dead woman on the beach, and runs to get help. But he is seen fleeing, and when the police get there they find she has been strangled with the belt from the young man’s coat. He’s taken in for questioning, introduced to a fabulously funny incompetent lawyer who will be representing him, and manages to escape by simply walking away in disguise. He wears thick glasses and blunders about, which reminded me of a scene in another innocent man movie a few years later: It’s a Wonderful World, with Jimmy Stewart and Claudette Colbert. He meets a young girl (sweet little Miss Nova Pilbeam, who is still alive at 92), who happens to be the constable’s daughter. There is a spark of attraction (how could there not be in this sort of movie?), and they set out to prove his innocence. The maguffin here is the coat with the missing belt. There is a hair-raising and totally unexpected scene where her cantankerous old jalopy enters an abandoned mine and the floor collapses beneath it. Narrow escape! Then comes the famous final scenes, in a huge ballroom with what must have been one of the longest crane shots up to that time, moving in relentlessly to a dance band—all but the conductor in blackface!—and then in on the drummer, and closer and closer until we see nothing but the top part of his face. And his eyes begin to twitch, which is the giveaway our heroes have been looking for. I enjoyed this one thoroughly.