Why’d I Buy It?: Came in the Paul Newman Box set I ordered (Last One!)
Why Haven’t I Watched It?: I thought It might be a little dry. When you read the below section you will realize how ridiculous that is.
How Was It?: AWESOME. There are panting Melodramas. And then there are melodramas which come with a coat and an extra pair. The Young Philadelphians is a hot tranny mess of a film (Dignity here at TTDS. Always Dignity). Supposedly about the young Paul Newman as a bright young lawyer continuously pushed into the upper crust of Philadelphia (and really isn’t being a part of Philadelphia’s aristocracy like being the smartest man in Turlock?), by his well meaning but social climbing mother. The Young Philadelphians gloriously revels itself to be one of those uber melodramas where in everything is happening all the time. Its not about anything as much as it is about packing in as much smut into a fifties picture as a mainstream audience could stand and still bare to call itself respectable.
Why the first five minutes alone feature Alcoholism, Closeted Homosexuality, or this being the fifties a rather euphemisimtastic light in the loafers lavender fellow (Portrayed by Adam West!!!!), Suicide, Sweaty Passionate out of wedlock Irish sex, illegitimate birth and other assorted awesome. And this is before a shirtless sweaty Paul Newman shows up to beat the tar out of a brute in his very first scene.
Now even Tenessee Williams would agree that’s a little overstuffed.
But the movie is, like Al Pacino before he gets the Hoo Hahs going, just getting warmed up. Before the runtime is over it will feature, murder most foul, lovers kept apart by dread circumstance, the Korean War, more suicide, adultery, more alcoholism, cougar fucking, more controlling dowagers, trials before a jury in defense of an innocent man’s life, black mail, more implied repressed homosexuality, Brain Tumors, and a little dog named Carlos.
It’s the type of movie where when the idyllic interludes do come you look greedily at your watch knowing something truly dreadful can’t be more then five minutes out.
Paul Newman is magnetic and hot enough to fry several eggs on. He’s matched by a game cast and Vincent Sherman, who is some how manages to keep this overheated mess from boiling over.
The Young Philadelphians, is one of those films like Picnic, or the films of Douglass Sirk that is as much fun to watch for the way it subliminates its subject matter as much as anything that makes it onto the screen. Not since I saw Dorthey Malone jack off an oil derrick in Written On The Wind have I seen the strength of trashiness strain so valiantly against the bonds of respectability. Repression might not be healthy, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Something like The Young Philedelphians carries a whiff of the forbidden that’s all the stronger because the people who made it actually did believe that some things where better left unsaid. That’s something in rather short supply these days. “They don’t make them like this anymore.” Is a phrase that’s tossed around an awful lot. And I’m as guilty of it as anyone. But in The Young Philadelphian’s the phrase is depressingly literal. No one outside of this time period, circumstances and mores could make this film. And I can’t help but feel it’s a little bit of a shame.