Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Young Man With Ideas

May 1 marks the birth anniversary of Glenn Ford, and as I mentioned this morning, TCM is spending 24 hours with the movies of Glenn Ford, starting tonight with a prime-time lineup of Ford's 1940s films, and a morning and afternoon tomorrow of Ford's later movies. One of Ford's films that I've never blogged about before is Young Man With Ideas, which is on TCM's schedule tomorrow morning at 9:45 AM.

Glenn Ford stars as Maxwell Webster, an attorney in Montana with a wife named Julie (Ruth Roman) and kids. Maxwell is, if not timid, then at least a keep your head down, don't make waves, and go along to get along type of person. It's something that's prevented him from reaching partner status in the law firm where he works, despite actually doing good work and helping the firm win a big case. When the firm celebrates that big victory at a country club party, Julie wants Maxwell to get some of the credit, and then wants Maxwell to assert himself and ask to be named a partner. Big mistake, as doing that gets Maxwell fired. What's an out of work attorney to do? Well, he could set up his own shingle like James Stewart did in Anatomy of a Murder, but with a wife and kids to support, that's not going to pay the bills. Julie thinks there are more opportunities in a growing state like California, so the family should move there.

There probably were more opportunities in California, which would have been booming in the early 1950s, but when it comes to being an attorney, there's the small matter of being admitted to the bar, and California wants its attorneys to pass the California bar exam, which is notoriously difficult. Maxwell is going to have to study hard for the exam, and worse, not be able to work as a lawyer for several months because the bar exam is only administered a couple of times a year. So he signs up for a bar review course, where he meets Joyce (Nina Foch), who also helps Maxwell get a job at the collection agency where she works. Oh, there's a good job for a non-assertive guy like Maxwell. Complicating matters further is the fact that one of the collections cases Maxwell has to administer is of a sexy nightclub singer Dorianne (Denise Darcel). With all those women around, there's bound to be a misunderstanding that will make Julie think perhaps Maxwell has strayed.

Meanwhile, Julie has other problems. With money tight, the family wasn't able to rent the best house out there, so they wound up in a smaller bungalow in a "fast" neighborhood. The previous occupants were running a betting ring out of the house, and had to leave on short notice. So the phone is still connected, and there are people who wagered money with the betting ring who don't realize there are new occupants, and expect to be able to place bets and collect on them when they pay off!

Young Man With Ideas is one of those smaller, black-and-white movies that MGM wsa putting out in spades in the early 1950s to complement the Technicolor musicals and other big-budget fare, and there's something about the whole production that says, "pleasant, but not ambitious". Glenn Ford is sturdy as ever, well-suited to the inherently nice person to whom things just seem to have a way of happening. The rest of the cast is full of people who are capable, but I don't think ever reached A-level, not even Ruth Roman; something I think is true of a lot of this whole set of MGM's black-and-white output. There's something about the ending that I don't think is quite right: Maxwell does something that would likely run him afoul of the bar's ethics board and doesn't face any discipline over it. It feels like a bit of a cop-out of an ending, as if the writers didn't know how to resolve everything, which was already a bit contrived. But this fits the whole style MGM was doing at the time: movies that are good enough and mostly entertaining, but for the most part not quite great.

Young Man With Ideas isn't availalbe on DVD as far as I know, not even from the Warner Archive. It's another that I think would be suitable for those four-film cheapo box sets that Warner Home Video likes to put out and hawk on TCM.

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