I really wanted to go in chronological order but unfortunately wasn’t able to get the film before this one (Hometown Story), and already being a day behind figured I’d just skip it for now. The next film in our month is the 1951 film As Young As You Feel, the first made under Marilyn’s new contract with Fox. So far she’d been a bit player in a few other films, this one is no different as she plays another secretary to a bigger character. The film tells the story of John Hodges (Monty Wooley) who is forcibly retired from his job since he’s hit the age of 65 (remember when you could be forcibly retired…now you work till you’re dead and then some!). In order to get his job back he impersonates the president of the parent company a Mr. Cleveland and inspires his boss to hire older people. Of course hijinks ensue when the boss’ wife (Constance Bennett) falls in love with him and so on.
For some reason this movie felt a lot like another Marilyn movie we’ll get to later on, Monkey Business. Like that film it had similar opening credits, Marilyn playing a secretary, and hijinks ensuing because someone feels (in Monkey Business it’s literal) young and in charge. Where this differs from Monkey Business is that this is just a bland movie. The stars are not nearly as memorable, in fact when I wasn’t watching Marilyn I kept saying “it’s Russ Tamblyn” who plays the young son of the boss and his wife. He looks maybe about 16 and he’s got some great lines. The rest of the story just felt dull as everyone immediately takes to John for no reason. Lucille, the boss’ wife, meets John for a second, they dance and she’s ready to divorce her husband and leave her child (poor Russ). Even at the end when John’s revealed as a fraud you don’t believe that Lucille is just content to return to her husband, she has no connection with either man.
As Young As You Feel also suffers from far too many side-plots. Not only does John have a plot, his boss has a plot being in love with Marilyn as the secretary Harriet, John’s granddaughter (Jean Peters) is having trouble getting her boyfriend to marry her. Said boyfriend also works at John’s old place of employment and wants a promotion. Everyone’s story is so convoluted and incestuous that you’re surprised that John’s scheme didn’t last two minutes before someone figured it out. Also, I don’t understand the meaning of the title. No one ever feels young with a reason. Does John feel young because people are listening to him, I get that he feels a sense of power and has finally found his voice but not youth. Do the young couple feel older because they’re worried about jobs and marriage instead of enjoying their youth? Honestly it just felt like they were capitalizing on the use of the song “You Make Me Feel So Young.”
Marilyn is very different than in other comedic films I’ve seen, even different than her exact same role as the secretary in Monkey Business. Her character Harriet doesn’t have characterization, it’s implied she’s sleeping around (or just going out with since this is the 50s) with elder men at the company and that’s it. What’s different is her iconic breathy, baby doll voice…it’s not here! She actually has a smokey, deep voice with no wispy qualities to it. She says all her lines matter-of-fact and without an ounce of ditziness. I might have to do a little research about what inspired her to start up the voice because she comes off as smart, certainly smart enough to do the job she’s given in the film. She’s honestly the highlight of this movie, there’s a hilarious scene where she becomes so frustrated at her boss she sticks her tongue out. I’ve never seen Ms. Monroe do that and it was a joy to see (I couldn’t find a screencap to show).
The movie ends with a heavy-handed speech (one of many in this movie) that “It’s what a man gets out of his work that matters.” What I got out of this movie is that you shouldn’t retire old people (again how times have changed). I also got a delightful scene stealing performance from Marilyn, but nothing else.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.