YOUNG AT HEART (1954) 

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Doris Day
Frank Sinatra
Gig Young
Ethel Barrymore
Dorothy Malone
Robert Keith
Elisabeth Fraser
Alan Hale Jr.
Lonnie Chapman

Gordon Douglas


Time: 117 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Romance/Drama

The main reason I watched this movie was because there wasn't much else on. Plus, I haven't seen many Doris Day or Frank Sinatra movies, so I though I'd expand my repertoire. Though I have little to base this next statement on...I'm pretty sure they've both made better movies than this. YOUNG AT HEART is a by-the-numbers kind of romantic melodrama. Since both the leads are more well-known for their singing ability rather than their acting, the story makes each of them musicians so that the film can capitalize on their vocal talent. So, it's something of a musical, but not of the "let me sing my feelings" variety. Day plays her typical sunny, "always look on the bright side of life" character and Sinatra is her surly, yet talented lover. Though they each have great screen charisma, they don't have it with each other. They are obviously from very different worlds and I just didn't feel the connection. Kind of important when the whole story hinges on that point.

Day plays Laurie Tuttle, the oldest of three musical girls who play as a quartet with their father. They are all looking for love, but fear they'll never find it in there small town. Fran's (Malone) enagagment to local businessman Robert Neary (Hale Jr.) starts the love ball rolling. Amy (Fraser) has an admirer in a local appliance salesman Ernie Nichols (Chapman), but wonders if she could do better. Fran has no romantic prospects until Alex Burke (Young) rolls into town. The son of an old classmate of their fathers, Alex is suave, charming and a talented composer working on a new musical. He needs a job and a place to stay and soon has both courtesy of the Tuttles. He and Laurie hit it off immediately. Unbeknownst to either of them, her sisters also have major crushes on Alex, even though they both have men waiting in the wings. With the due date for his latest masterpiece looming, Alex requests the help of an old piano playing friend Barney Sloan (Sinatra).

Having survived a pretty hard-luck life, Barney is completely out of place in the happy, perfect world of a loving, close-knit family. Laurie is intrigued by him and his lack of enthusiasm for life and takes Barney on as a new project. She going to change his outlook of the world, if it's the last thing she does. They strike up a close friendship with Laurie helping him fit in. When Laurie and Alex get engaged, Barney is not the only one devastated by the news. Amy was hoping that somehow she and Alex would get together, though she manages to keep her feelings from Laurie. Seeing that her chance with Alex is also fruitless, Fran agrees to set a wedding date with Robert. Laurie begins to worry about Barney when he doesn't show up for Fran's wedding. She confronts him on the morning of her wedding and gets the shock of her life. Barney confesses his love for her and exposes Amy's secret. At first she doesn't believe him, but when she sees her sister's misery for herself, she decides to marry Barney instead, leaving Amy a clear path to Alex.

This is point where the film completely goes downhill. I don't care how close I was to my sister, if I was in love with someone enough to agree to marry them I wouldn't call off my wedding because she was in love with him too. Obviously, Alex loved Laurie otherwise he wouldn't be marrying her. Her stepping out of the way isn't going to change that fact, it's just going to break his heart. This was a ridiculous and unbelievable turn of events. Of course, since Sinatra is the bigger marquee name, you know they're going to get together, I just hated how they did it. There's no way any woman in her right mind would do something like that. To make matters worse, they have Laurie elope with Barney. She was supposedly in love with Alex when she woke up that morning. Suddenly, just because Barney says he loves her she decides to marry him. This behavior from a fairly level-headed character is just more than I could take. Especially, since it's clear that her life with Barney will be far from easy. There just wasn't enough of a spark between these two characters for me to be able to accept this turn of events.

It also stops the film cold. YOUNG AT HEART goes from being a fun romantic comedy, to a dark melodrama. Even though she married him, Barney is still the glass is half empty kind of guy who can't believe he got so lucky. For her part, if Laurie loved Barney so much she'd stop trying to change him. The story just never provides a reason why she would fall in love with a man like Barney. His behavior certainly wouldn't sweep me off my feet. The entire third act is ponderous and overly dramatic with tragedy causing all each of the girls to realize what wonderful men they are married to. The film ends on a high note if you believed that Laurie and Barney should be together. Otherwise, you'll consider it a waste of your precious time. Sinatra and Day are both very talented performers, they just have no business being in a film together. I went into this film expecting a light, fun, happy story and got stuck with an unbelievable mess. If you like either of the leads, you may enjoy this picture, but otherwise I can't really recommend sitting through it.

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