truthaboutyouth11

The Truth About Youth (1930) Review, with David Manners, Myrna Loy and Loretta Young

Indifferent

Loretta Young truthaboutyouth4 truthaboutyouth26
Phyllis Ericson
Loretta Young
Richard ‘Imp’ Dane
David Manners
Kara
Myrna Loy
Released by Warner Bros./First National | Directed by William Seiter
Run time: 67 minutes

Proof That It’s a Pre-Code Film

  • Manners helpfully peeps in on Loy as she changes her outfits.
  • “Oh, you’ve seen her on those posters down at the railroad station. That wise voluptuous looking creature with red hair and nude hips.”
  • “Dick, why do you respect me? I wish you wouldn’t respect me so much. […] Couldn’t you respect me a little less, even if it’s just now and then?”
  • “Do you approve of that costume? Because there seems to be so little of it.”
May 19th?! I'm there!
May 19th?! I’m there!
  • Myrna’s Kara is a gold digger, and a notorious one of that.
  • “Sorry I can’t join you on your honeymoon, but you know my address. I expect my commission!”
  • Loretta Young thinks the rumors about Myrna Loy’s hips are over-exaggerated.
  • “You have a couple of dangerous curves yourself.”
    “Really? Where are they?”
  • A woman who marries for money marries someone for money and then divorces them when a better option comes up– the next day.

Truth About Youth: False Equivalence

“For youth must have its fling, lad, and every dog its day.”

I finished a book last night called A Field Guide to Lies. Most of it is a peon to skepticism and a bunch of Statistics 101, but one part stood out to me. When discussing counter-knowledge– conspiracy theories or other fanciful solutions to problems that rely on circuitous questions rather than answers– the book posits the surest way to know something isn’t true is when the subject declares up front that it is true. Think about all the websites that quickly assert to have the real truth behind any number of things, and you’ll know what it means.

That’s why it’s unsurprising that The Truth About Youth is nothing of the sort. If you take the title at face value, it implies that fresh faced youngsters are fools (fair enough) and sexy young teenagers get really hot and bothered for grumpy 50-year-old men (ehhhh). Elektra complex, here we come.

David Manners couldn't possibly have appreciated this as much as I would have.
David Manners couldn’t possibly have appreciated this position as much as I would have.

The plot: Richard Carewe (Conway Tearle) is a veteran of the Great War and has made a fortune before losing it in the stock market crash. He has a son that he’s adopted from a deceased comrade, nicknamed Imp (Manners), who still behaves as if the family coffers are overflowing. This includes the pursuit of Kara, AKA The Firefly (Loy), a rampant gold digger/singer/dancer/seductress and all around firecracker. Imp keeps this on the down low, though, because Richard has designed things to pair Imp with his maid’s daughter, the revoltingly perky Phyllis (Young). Phyllis, in the film’s only twist, is actually crushing hardcore on Richard, even if Tearle looks like Bela Lugosi was left out in the sun too long and melted.

There’s a misunderstanding and Phyllis thinks that Richard is set to marry Kara, but it turns out that Imp has a secret wedding with the woman before she finds out he’s really destitute. Loy turns in a grade A meltdown here, and, really, is the central joy to this pretty static 1930 picture, as she dances, connives and generally flouts her immorality– getting away with it all, too. It is a pre-Code after all.

"So the premise of the movie is that 17-year-old Loretta Young is mad in love with this guy." "And it's not icky father figure stuff?"... is it okay if I lie and say yes?" "Okay."
“So the premise of the movie is that 17-year-old Loretta Young is mad in love with this guy.” “And it’s not icky father figure stuff?” “… is it okay if I lie and say ‘yes’?”

Richard, unaware of the marriage, decides to pay Kara to pretend she’s interested in him, forcing Imp to head back to Phyllis. Complications ensue, including Phyllis showing up at Kara’s nightclub and the two women wrestling over the man they love– or are paid to pretend to love at least.

The Truth About Youth is framed from Richard’s perspective, as a man who won a war, won a fortune, and then lost his friend and the money to boot. He holds onto his memories and desires with fortitude but is no match to Imp’s recklessness. Imp’s youth teaches him a harsh lesson, while Richard’s experience gives him the opportunity to make the right decisions– and nail a 17-year-old. It’d be charming if it weren’t so explicitly gross– every bit of it seems self serving, like a letter to the flapper-era Penthouse forum.

If you do track this one down or stumble upon it, Myrna Loy is a lot of fun here. She gets to let loose, and has an energy that performers in 1930 really tried to tie down in fear of offending the Vitaphone. Instead, her charismatic, primal energy makes it the only real reason to sit through the blasted thing.

Gallery

Click to enlarge. All of my images are taken by me– please feel free to reuse with credit!

Trivia & Links

  • TCMDB talks about how this is one of four early pairings between Loretta Young and Myrna Loy. It then discusses their relationship over the years:

Young would recall Loy as “one of the substantial, one of the very important, people in the motion-picture industry. Even when she started out, she had a quality about her, but by the time she got to MGM she was so well-seasoned. I loved that part of her career. That had real elegance, I thought. That’s when she realized her full potential, because Myrna’s one of those rare people with humor in our business… She was always a little bit wiser, more compassionate and sophisticated.”

  • Erich over at Acidemic finds the reversal to the romance of the older man refreshing, though I’m not so sure it ever went that far out of style. But he concludes:

The code would make living happily ever after with girls half your age fairly difficult, unless you were Gary Cooper, say, or Cary Grant and safely inside a Billy Wilder movie, which is why here it’s so vital, cool, and necessary. Time and again, Seiter lines up the cliches, then bowls them over with a wry compassion that doesn’t need to rely on bourgeois railings.

Can anything
You can tell it’s real love by how much his goiter is inflating.

The Truth About Youth is an enjoyable picture. Mixing comedy, drama, and romance, it keeps a steady pace and illuminates male-female relationship expectations of the period. DM captures the essence of his character well and has a great scene when he, returning from his birthday night out, arrives at home “blotto.”

  • Once again, I must be an awful person. The movie has not one but TWO characters named Richard, and so here is a sampling of lines that made me giggle inappropriately:
    • “Remember the redhead who tried to educate Dick?”
    • “If it’s respectable enough for Dick, then it’s respectable enough for you.”
    • “The only thing I don’t envy of you is Dick!”
    • “I could see you in him, Dick. That’s why I loved him!”
    • “I’ve always loved you, Dick, but you never seemed to care!”

Awards, Accolades & Availability

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Danny

Danny is a librarian who lives on the coast of California with his lovely wife, adorable daughter, and yappy dog. He blogs bi-weekly at pre-code.com, a website dedicated to Hollywood films from 1930 to 1934, and can be found on Twitter @PreCodeDotCom.

2 thoughts on “The Truth About Youth (1930) Review, with David Manners, Myrna Loy and Loretta Young

  1. I just saw this film and agree with you. Myrna Loy is the only reason I watched it even though the short run time seemed to drag on forever. I’ve watched quite a few of Young’s films and find her dull. I think the best Manners ever did was his role in Miracle Woman.

    1. Mr. David Manners was one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous-to-look-at actors ever. Hew was a deeply philosophic and intensely introspective man, as well as an artist, poet and essayist. He left this mortal coil at about 100 years of age.

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