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Jewel Robbery June: You're Never Too Young (1955)

A common trope in classic movies is the jewel robbery scenario, often depicted from the gangster's point of view. We had a lot of titles to choose from for this month's blog where we will focus on some of the less common films.

RODNEY BOWCOCK: The film gets the plot started immediately, as a diamond is stolen and a security guard is killed. Through a somewhat convoluted series of events Wilber Hoolick, barber’s assistant winds up in possession of the diamond without realizing it. Wilber disguises himself as an 11-year-old boy to get a discount on a train ticket home.

SAMANTHA GLASSER: The price has gone up since he traveled last and he doesn't have enough money for an adult ticket.

RB: He continues with the façade in order to protect kind Nancy Collins a teacher at a private school that felt sorry for the youngster and let him spend the night in her room. Eventually the diamond thieves figure out where Wilbur is and head out to get their ill-gotten diamond.

SG: My eight-year-old son asked me what I was watching when this movie started and I told him it was a murder mystery. When Raymond Burr flashed on screen trying to get away from the scene of the crime he just committed, I told him he was the murderer, and that was all it took to get him interested. He stuck through the whole movie, cackling madly at the end sequence on the water skis. It isn't a short film, but the way the comedy episodes are broken up and the splashy color make the 102 minutes breeze by.

RB: I’m really glad that your son enjoyed it! Dean & Jerry were longtime kiddie matinee fare, even at the time that they were still relevant box-office stars. I found ads for this film playing Saturday afternoon screenings just a few months after it went into general release, sometimes billed with an astounding SEVEN CARTOONS. Sounds like a great day to me.

SG: I didn't realize this was a remake of The Major and the Minor until I read the IMDB page. The half fare on the train should have given it away, but it has been long enough since I saw the Ginger Rogers version that I didn't put it together. Jerry Lewis is a much less believable child, although his simpleton character makes it more believable than it should be. The man has incredibly hairy arms and hands; no 12-year-old has that.

RB: Jerry also continually wears a gold pinky ring throughout the film, which was not exactly the style for 11-year-old boys, either then or now.

SG: The musical sequences are smoothly inserted so that they don't feel out of place or unwelcome. The marching band bit displays all the things that make Martin and Lewis a perfectly complementary team. While Dean is along for the ride, he never loses his smooth coolness while Jerry just gets bigger and broader as it continues, turning his body into a jellyfish, but always in control and with precision.

The barber chair bit is predictable but funny. We know Martin isn't going to get a quality shave and that at some point he will probably be dumped out the chair. The team builds on these expectations and throws in the unexpected, like the fact that the chair can go up nearly to the ceiling or that there is an egg trick performed by the stylists at this salon.

RB: This reminded me of a sort of similar sequence in the 1946 MGM film Abbott & Costello In Hollywood, where Lou gives an ill-fated haircut to Rags Ragland.

SG: Yes, definitely! I got a kick out of Jerry whistling The Whistler theme, though his Bogart imitation was less delightful.

RB: Whistler references in movies (including the lengthy Columbia film series) always perplex me because except for a couple of short stints, the show was only heard on the west-coast. I often wonder how aware audiences in the mid-west and east of the country were aware of it at all.

SG: Really? I didn't know that. I always lump The Whistler and The Shadow together in my mind.

Let's talk about the women in this film. Diana Lynn is the lead, a charming woman who isn't spectacularly pretty, but her warmth makes her memorable and an obvious choice for Dean. Nina Foch has a regal kind of beauty, which is put to work in this film where she plays an entitled rich girl, but I thought the makeup department really did her a disservice with that blue eyeshadow. When was blue eyeshadow, except as a punchline or an easy 80s throwback, ever a good look on a blue-eyed woman? Wally Westmore, what were you thinking? Veda Ann Borg looks amazing as the gangster's wife. The black and white animal prints look incredible on her; she seems rich but sleezy simultaneously. I wish she had more screen time.

Raymond Burr is appropriately intimidating with his hulking figure and menacing stare, but he is also tremendously funny in this movie without losing his tough guy status.

RB: I’m glad that you point out the stellar performance of Burr in this film. He’s absolutely fantastic and one can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if he hadn’t have gotten his Perry Mason role and had been able to continue with these sort of comical heavy films. He’s SO good.

There are lots of other fun character actors worth catching. Nancy Culp, Veda Ann Borg, Emory Parnell, Bobby Barber, Hans Conried-- that’s enough to make a lot of those reading this want to catch up with this movie.

SG: Director Norman Taurog was a seasoned hand with comics and children, working with Larry Semon and W.C. Fields early in his career and earning an Oscar for his work with his nephew Jackie Cooper in Skippy. The polish of his MGM films is present here in the style of the film, and his deft hand guiding comics is as well. Film Bulletin said, "Credit director Norman Taurog with drawing the maxi mum of chuckles from the material. But it's primarily Lewis' sparkling contribution that will help this Paramount offering to solid grosses in all comedy situations."

Unfortunately for fans, about a year later Martin and Lewis called it quits.

RB: Taurog directed an astounding 180 films, including many of those that are considered the finest Martin & Lewis films and more than a bushel of films starring Elvis Presley. He likely would’ve continued to work after his 1968 retirement, were it not for the fact that he had gone completely blind by this point. Some claim that he had actually gone blind and continued directing Elvis films, but, while this seems like a true-life page out of Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending, I don’t know that I particularly buy that. The Elvis films were often no great shakes, but they always had pace and were competent.

As you mention though, the days of Dean & Jerry together weren’t long for the world, and it wasn’t really a secret. The Paramount spin-machine tried to capitalize on the rumors as tabloid publications such as SCREENLAND Magazine were reporting that Dean was growing fed up with Jerry stealing the spotlight, while playing both sides by arguing that Jerry never had any intention to steal the spotlight. So, yeah, take from that what you will.

Motion Picture Daily said, "The term 'laugh riot' has been a cliche in this business ever since the Keystone cops used to fall over each other in Mack Sennett comedies, but a better description would be hard to concoct for this one."

This is the kind of movie you either love for its playfulness or hate for its immaturity. I had a great time watching it. Four stars.

RB: Jerry is a divisive name in film fandom. Most either love him or hate him, rarely an in between. Personally, I’m not a big fan of his, but even I can concede that this is potentially his best theatrical work with Dean (I do like their work on the Colgate Comedy Hour.) This is a big, beautiful, colorful blockbuster that never allows plot to get in the way of the humor. I certainly enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Three and a half stars.

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Well, Jerry's very obvious adult appearance in this one seems to heighten, and add to the fun of, the plot's central absurdity. And the color film stock makes the whole business even funnier. YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG isn't the strongest late-stage Martin & Lewis picture (that would probably be ARTISTS AND MODELS), but it has sparkle and some good set pieces. Your post characterizes Dean and Jerry as kiddie-matinee stars, which is not the case. While a team, these two were Kings of Hollywood, with personal & career power of a sort that other film personalities could only dream of attaining. (That power, in fact, went to Jerry's head, and encouraged him to develop his reputation as a preening bull…


One additional reason that Jerry is obviously not a child: Color. You may recall that Wilder insisted SOME LIKE IT HOT be shot in B&W because in color it would have been painfully obvious that Lemmon and Curtis were men in drag, while B&W was just unreal enough to make it work. Fun fact: Monroe's standard contract called for her films to be in color, but after Wilder explained his reasoning, she agreed and signed the waiver. Ironically, two of her last three complete films were monochrome, the other being THE MISFITS.

Incidentally, Lynn was also in MAJOR AND THE MINOR, though of course in a different role. But her real talent for comedy was too often underutilized, as anyone…

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