Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Two Virginia Weidler B-Movies: THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION (1943) and THE ROOKIE COP (1939)

Virginia Weidler was a child star, mostly remembered today as Dinah Lord in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. Her performance in that film is remarkable, and sadly, at the age of 13, that appears to have been the peak of her short film career. She was fine in a handful of earlier films (MRS. WIGGS, THE WOMEN) but did not grow into teen parts well and she quit films altogether in 1943. THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION, from MGM, was her next-to-last film, and a rather drab second-feature affair it is. She plays the president of a high school autograph-hound club. Half of the movie concerns the club's attempts to get autographs and there are several star cameos: Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Greer Garson, Robert Taylor, and, in a don't-blink moment at the end, William Powell. The other half of the movie has Weidler thinking, mistakenly, that her father is cheating on her mother, so she gets a circus strongman to pretend to flirt with her mother to make her father jealous. Yep, it's about as dumb as it sounds. Aside from the fun cameos of Taylor and Garson, the only other notable thing here is Edward Arnold playing a benign father. I'm used to seeing him as a bad guy or a cold industrialist, so it was a bit weird to see him as basically a sitcom dad. Only three years after her career peak as Katharine Hepburn's kid sister, Weidler looks awfully plain and acts awkwardly; maybe she needed good direction, because I thought she was great in STORY. There's a cute reference to the Andy Hardy movies, when Weidler complains that her father isn't behaving very much like Judge Hardy, and Arnold yells back, "I'm NOT trying to act like Judge Hardy!!" Otherwise, totally forgettable.

I've also recently seen THE ROOKIE COP, another B-film that she did a couple of years before PHILADELPHIA STORY, this one for RKO. The real star of this oddity is Ace, the Wonder Dog. Tim Holt is a young policeman who is trying to get his chief to accept the use of dogs in police work. Of course, Holt thinks that his dog, Ace, would be a good candidate for such work and the whole movie consists of Holt getting into and out of trouble with Ace. Weidler plays Holt's kid sister; she is OK, and has a couple of cute bits. The very first scene involves Weidler being saved from an attack by Ace, and toward the end, she gets to shoot an water pistol filled with onion juice into the eyes of a bad guy. I enjoyed seeing a poster for another RKO B-movie, PACIFIC LINER with Chester Morris, prominently displayed in the background of an action scene.

No comments: