Young and Innocent sounds rather like the title of dodgy movie screened in a back street in Soho, but in fact it is the title of a pre-Hollywood Hitchcock movie, dating from 1937. I was alerted to its quality by comments on this blog some months ago, and now I’ve finally got round to watching it, I can say I agree that it’s a very entertaining film, which has stood the test of time better than many.
From the start, there isn’t much doubt about the identity of the murderer of actress Christine Clay, or the motive, but when her strangled corpse is found by a young man who was friendly with her, the police ignore the obvious suspect (this is never explained) and arrest the young man. The fact she was strangled with the belt of his raincoat is a clinching piece of evidence, although he claims the coat was stolen from him. The hunt for the coat in this film is an early example of a Hitchcockesque pursuit of a Macguffin.
The young man escapes police custody, and is assisted in his flight from justice by the daughter of the chief constable – a part played by a young woman with the marvellous name of Nova Pilbeam. Along the way, the pair bump into a jovial chap played by Basil Radford, soon to earn fame in a real Hitchcock classic, The Lady Vanishes.
The film is allegedly based on Josephine Tey’s book A Shilling for Candles. However, Hitchcock butchered the source material, not for the last time in his career. Inspector Alan Grant, Tey’s series detective, does not even feature in the film – nor, amazingly, does Tey’s murderer. A loose adaptation, then, to put it mildly – but a likeable film nonetheless.