Young Bride (1932) Review, with Helen Twelvetrees and Eric Linden

Allie Riggs
Helen Twelvetrees
Charlie
Eric Linden
Maisie
Arlene Judge
Released by RKO Pathe
Directed by William A. Seiter
Run time: 76 minutes

Proof That It’s a Pre-Code Film

  • At the library: “Where can I get an illustrated copy of Aphrodite?”
  • “If you go out with that guy, you’ve got your reputation in your hands.”
    “Then what’ve I got to lose?”
  • I know what everyone was waiting for on this site, and you finally have it: Eric Linden gets a shower scene:
Check out that chesty peach fuzz.

Young Bride: Bluffing Bad

“If you’ve got enough ambition, you can get anywhere these days.”

“Yes, that’s right, but that takes time and hard work.”

“Work ain’t got nothing to do with it! 99% of the people working, what’ve they got? The 1% that are leaders interest me.”

Don’t marry assholes. We’ve been over that before, right? Maybe I spend too much time following relationships.txt, but actually knowing when to duck and roll out of a relationship is a skill too few of us appreciate.

Young Bride is a Helen Twelvetrees vehicle, she of the sad eyes and broken down disposition. Here she’s a lonely children’s librarian who dreams of fairy tales and adventure. She meets Charlie (Linden), a cocksure fast talker who entices her with stories of Rangoon and Mandalay, all the while he invents schemes and deals that will make him thousands, if only any of them panned out. Or existed anywhere outside his own mind.

They get married after he’s caught in her apartment, but he is restless and, as she quickly learns, a broke fraud. He also has a gang he likes to step out with, including Pete (Cliff Edwards) and the seductive Maisie (Arline Judge). Maisie is a taxi dancer who’d figured Charlie as a sure thing before he sent her a postcard announcing that he was headed to his honeymoon in Atlantic City; she seethes for revenge.

Following in the richer veins of Bad Girl and The Age of Consent, Young Bride showcases the disillusionment of two people who expect life to be romantic and exciting with absolutely no footwork. While the film’s intentions are good, its decision to focus most of its time of the endless travails of Charlie is a grating one.

The relationship at the center of the film is simply tiresome. Linden swoons over Twelvetrees, “You’re just a little baby. A little baby!” and that gets him. He wants to be a big he-man and sees her as almost less than human, but his unrepentant boasts are aggravatingly hammy. His transformation in the last act from wannabe success to a guy who will just be happy with a job is too easy. It’s less a happy ending than delaying the inevitable.

The rest of the cast outside Linden and the solemn Twelvetrees includes Arline Judge as the hotsy totsy dancer, whose revenge is certainly sweet. It’s extremely hard to buy Cliff Edwards as a member of the flaming youth, though he is appropriately monstrous. Polly Walters also has a nice turn as a library aide who leads Twelevetrees into harm’s way and laughs at Charlie with all the rest. She also goes to work at the library extremely hungover, which is *cough* definitely not relatable at all.

A brief sidebar: as a librarian it was fun to watch Twelvetrees’ turn as a member of the profession. While Carole Lombard and Barbara Stanwyck also took their turns as librarians in the pre-Code era, this one gives the profession a little more depth than we usually see. This includes watching Twelvetrees give story hour at her NYPL branch, which doesn’t involve books but her sadly intoning fairy tales from behind a large model to a group of quiet, patient children. As if! I also really loved how her librarian friend would swing around her apartment at all times of night to talk about reference papers. The modern equivalent must be coworkers sending each other library memes in group chat; that’s what I do anyway.

Young Bride seems like a confused combination of the kind of dangerous pre-Code youth films that Linden had churned out– see Are These Our Children?— and the self-sacrificing dramas Twelvetrees specialized in– see A Woman of Experience. It’s a bad match, making a film about the dangers of a rocky relationship impossible to empathize with. You can’t root for the couple if you still believe both of them would be happier with someone else. Anyone else.

Screen Capture Gallery

Click to enlarge and browse. Please feel free to reuse with credit!

Other Reviews, Trivia, and Links

  • I’m more or less in agreement with the absolutely nasty Variety review, which eviscerates the movie. A sample:

Just another picture about a rather cheap young couple who marry in haste and repent at leisure and invite no great amount of sympathy in the process. […] If the object was to point a moral in the corrupting influence of a taxi dance hall, this is a late day to go about it. Dance halls are not a public issue at the moment, besides which lesser players in the story here are much more likeable than the heroine and hero, who in a final awakening,, escape its evil atmosphere. At least these minor characters are fairly gay and entertaining, while the leading pair are a bore. […] It’s just a bald recital of a dull story[.]

The characters are recognizable as hundreds and thousands of young New Yorkers, and the tawdry settings of lower middle class amusements are not exaggerated. The story is simple enough.

What I love about Young Bride is that every character is flesh and blood. Despite the decades of separation, I know these people. And their places. The least recognizable of the bunch is the least ugly of the characters, Helen Twelvetrees as Allie. But she has the greatest growth, even if it comes with a loss.

Awards, Accolades & Availability

  • This film is an obscure one, but plays occasionally on TCM. I wish you luck in finding it!

More Pre-Code to Explore

WhatIsPreCode2 FilmList
ImageBumper

Actresses Actors
ImageBumper

Twitter