I really like 39 Steps. It’s one of the best overall pictures I’ve seen from Hitchcock’s British period. The poster for Young and Innocent (retitled to The Girl Was Young) hails it as the successor to 39 Steps. That might be true. It doesn’t follow the further adventures of characters from 39 Steps, it doesn’t pick up where the previous spy thriller ended and it wasn’t Hitchcock’s next film after finishing 39 Steps. Actually, the only way it really succeeds it’s predecessor is by copying it.
If you watch the films of Hitchcock from the 1930’s you’ll see his favorite story elements repeat. A wrongly accused person on the run must prove their innocence with the reluctant aide of an attractive love interest-cum-coconspirator. Young and Innocent shares these tropes with other Hitchcock films including The Lodger, 39 Steps, and Saboteur. At this point in my study I’ve begun to regard Hitchcock as I would a world class painter. When I examine these films my untrained eye regards his plot structures as repetitive not unlike my same untrained eye might miss the skill behind Monet’s individual brush strokes. Can’t see the masterpiece for the lily pads.
Young and Innocent isn’t without those noteworthy lily pads. Hitchcock uses every available special effect of the time. Miniatures, rear screen projection and long moving crane shots to make his picture stand out. Nova Pilbeam plays Hitchcock’s typical blond with an atypical canine companion. This is a huge bonus, I love it when Hitchcock brings a dog into the picture. Excluding Sabotage.
I can’t think of a director whose skills are more observably honed on screen than Hitchcock’s. It’s fascinating. I mean no disrespect to his films of the 30’s but they often seem like drafts of a bigger idea. Sketches he’ll come back to and finish later. It certainly seems like that’s what he did when he remade his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much. And as I stated in its review, Saboteur seems like he finally nailed the man on the run premise. For the first time in a while I’m excited to see another Hitchcock film.