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Adventures with Robert Young

In an attempt to make Remington Steele last a bit longer (blasted old shows, and their finite number of episodes!), I have been mining YouTube for Robert Young films. I don't think he's terribly well known, but he's one of my favourite actors. America apparently knows him best for a TV show that he did in the seventies, but I've never seen that, and instead know him for the string of above average B-movies that he made in the forties and fifties. Anyway, one of the ones that I've watched is one that I thought might appeal to a few people.

It's called Relentless, and it dates from 1948. Young plays a wandering cowboy trying to clear his name of a murder charge, but underneath that it's like Feminism: The Western (well, okay. Not really). The heroine gets a great speech about how being expected to give up your life to look after a husband is a rubbish goal for a young woman. Usually this would be followed by the hero buying her a dress, at which point she would gasp at its beauty, and realise that actually there's nothing she'd like more than looking after a man for the rest of her life. Oh, the power of a tight bodice and a few frills. In this film though, the hero agrees. She then basically spends the whole film bailing him out of trouble, including one terrific, high-speed wagon sequence, where she gets to be properly heroic (and he doesn't save her once). Then it all ends with her pretty much proposing to him. Sometimes, ye olde movies get it right.

Mind you, just to ram home the fact that old TV and movies do love making us wince, I followed it up with Second Woman, from 1950. Is Robert Young paranoid, or is somebody really out to get him?! It's actually a nice little film for the most part, but about halfway through, when Young is worrying over whether a Mexican waiter has been lurking in his garden, his ex-father-in-law tells him to think nothing of it, because "these fellows all look the same unless you know them". Gee, thanks 1950. There's nothing quite like ruining a movie with a little throwaway racism.

And even that pales into comparison with Western Union. This is a great fun little Western from 1941, in which a baby Robert Young somehow manages to get top billing above Randolph Scott. It really is very entertaining - until, again about halfway through, which is clearly the danger point with these films - they suddenly dig out the crass "Injun" stereotypes. And if they're not agonising enough on their own, they're made even more so by the fact that there are two highly dignified-looking genuine native chiefs in the cast. I know they needed the money back then, but yeesh. What a way to make a living.

So yeah, that's been my week. A holiday from terrifying bouffants, which started out well, but got sinister thanks to creaky old sensibilities. I shall always love old movies, but I wish they loved me a little more in return. Is it really so hard to go ninety minutes without insulting entire civilisations?! Apparently so.

I still like Robert Young though; even when he keeps being in colour. Being in colour when you're Robert Young is just unnatural. Actors can be strangely uncooperative that way.


( 13 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Apr. 3rd, 2015 04:55 pm (UTC)
Being in colour when you're Robert Young is just unnatural. Actors can be strangely uncooperative that way.

You do have quite stringent standards for actors; you can't expect them to always manage to only be in radio or black and white or whatever. ;-p

Apr. 3rd, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC)
If they will persist in refusing to follow my rules on not dying, the least they can do is obey a little thing like staying in monochrome, or not randomly having a face when they're just supposed to be a voice. I don't see this as unreasonable. ;)
Apr. 3rd, 2015 09:06 pm (UTC)
I know Robert Young best for Father Knows Best. My grandmother loved it and it was always on in re-runs when I was a kid. Also the movie Journey For Margaret. We watched that over and over, too. And weirdly enough I always thought he looked better in black and white, too. :P
Apr. 4th, 2015 04:08 am (UTC)
I've seen "Journey For Margaret", but not for a very long time. My favourite of his is "Slightly Dangerous", co-starring Lana Turner.

And yes, black and white suits some people. Cary Grant is another.
Apr. 4th, 2015 05:56 am (UTC)
Imagine how unnerving if he was in black and white in real life though. Like a Twilight Zone episode.

Cary Grant is more dashing in b&w, but then the shade of fake tan he preferred in colour was a bit alarming.
Apr. 4th, 2015 10:07 am (UTC)
You mean orange wasn't his natural colour?! Apparently an interviewer once said that he would love to be Cary Grant, and Grant replied "So would I." So presumably he would also have preferred life in black and white.
Apr. 4th, 2015 07:48 am (UTC)
I seem to remember having watched films with him, at least the name rings a bell. The problem for me is that back then film always had completely different titles from the English original so it's hard to figure out if I've watched a film or not!
Apr. 4th, 2015 10:10 am (UTC)
Yes, films often change names whilst crossing the Atlantic, in both directions. It's really weird. I'd love to know what the thinking is sometimes. At least you have a different language as an excuse!
Apr. 4th, 2015 11:29 am (UTC)
Robert Young definitely rings a bell. I'm sure I've seen him in lots of ye olde films, but I can't quite place him.

Ah, IMDB says 'Secret Agent' now I know who he is:)
Apr. 4th, 2015 12:23 pm (UTC)
That's a good one. Peter Lorre!
Apr. 4th, 2015 12:32 pm (UTC)
He of 'Arsenic and Old Lace':)

'Mad Love' with Lorre is a guilty pleasure of mine: "He could conquer science, but he couldn't conquer love!"
Apr. 4th, 2015 01:04 pm (UTC)
"Arsenic & Old Lace" is so good. Lorre was always good though. He made a film with William Hartnell once, which I must get around to seeing some time.
Apr. 5th, 2015 11:21 am (UTC)
Double Confession!

How do I know? It was on telly last night, the Gods of coincidence were in a good mood. I recorded it as it was at 2:15. It is on dvd too. It's supposed to be rubbish though.
( 13 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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