Stalking Star Game in Gotham
The Youngest Profession (1943) Is An All-Star Autograph Hunt
What was livelier escape from war news than MGM's teen scream about school girls hunting pic stars in the Big Apple? Junior Miss wasn't alone for positing adolescence as prime age for movie crazing. The studios knew their richest base was impressionable youth. Parents liked movies, sure, but it was a younger set devouring fan mags that laid for stars at train stops. Tactful handling kept followers mostly at bay, but initiative enough could score face time in hotel lobbies or stage doors if you knew celeb arrive/depart schedule, that info accessible in column space and personal app announcements. Keep up with Ebay and you'll now/again find autograph books maintained long ago by kids for whom tracking celebrities was prime goal. The best at this were fleet of foot and relentless toward the goal. How could they know grandchildren would peddle their treasure for whatever an online market would bear?
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Virginia Mayo told of being forbidden to leave the house in less than finest fettle, white gloves plus any/every accessory to emphasize celebrity. All the world was a stage in contract days. Fans being everywhere, you couldn't chance disillusioning them. It was vital for admirers to come away satisfied from a star meet. A same consideration went for fan mail. Players ignored this at extreme peril. Wise ones realized that a career otherwise dipping could be extended by weight of letters. Studio authority did notice support and kept score among addressees. The Youngest Profession comes right to that point via Lana Turner conserving off-set time for thoughtful response to fan missives. She's shown personally dictating to a secretary as messenger boys bring fresh stacks of gushing. Did Lana actually read her mail --- or even see it? Probably not ... she'd have had no time to make movies in that event ... but fans needed to know they were taken seriously by idols, and so The Youngest Profession supplied reassurance to those naive enough to buy in.
The movie-mad girls are Virginia Weidler and Jean Porter. Weidler's long-suffering father (Edward Arnold) can't understand their obsession, but stops short of calling movies unworthy of a daughter's devotion. Snooty classmates call star-love "kid stuff," but it's clear they're misguided. After all, what was healthier than enthusiasm for movies? These kids aren't creeps like stalkers today; Greer Garson, in fact, invites Weidler/Porter up for tea and cakes when dogged quest takes them to her hotel lobby. And who drops in but Walter Pidgeon, gracious enough to stay and dispense life lessons to the nubile pair (imagine Errol Flynn in such a cameo). Then there is Robert Taylor, who isn't recognized by maiden aunt Agnes Moorehead, here in virtual reprise of her "Aunt Fanny" part in The Magnificent Ambersons. Anyone who mis-ID's Bob Taylor is quite beyond hope, and it's not coincidence that Moorehead comes in for the film's most severe comeuppance.
Wartime home life is vividly enacted even as war is mostly ignored. Kid brother Scotty Beckett is a pest, but a champ for the Four Freedoms, his radio set to monitor German movement off the East Coast should that occur. He's also got the bathtub salted with defense craft to repel U-Boats. Were boys so primed for getting into action? It must have been frustration for many a fourteen/fifteen year old when peace got declared ahead of their reaching age to enlist. As in all Metro households, there is a uniformed maid and candles lit for evening meal. Offspring are precocious, but never insolent. You could switch this family with Janie's and viewers wouldn't know a difference, all the more so being Edward Arnold as Paterfamilias in both instances.
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