Cast & Crew
When three young girls escape from the Elmview Corrective School for Girls, the institute's psychiatrist, Dr. John H. Jason, is ordered to resign. The three escapees, Jane, Jackie and Loretta, are former runaways who have been sent to the school for rehabilitation. Thinking of his first day on the job, Jason reflects over his entire tenure at Elmview and tries to determine what he could have done to prevent his dismissal: Soon after his arrival at Elmview, Jason finds that the institution is demoralizing the girls rather than helping them, and that the girls are desperate to escape. When Dolores Guerrero, who was sent to the school on vagrancy charges, tries to make a break from Elmview, she is caught and promptly returned to school. Dolores then tells Jason that she is being tormented by her teacher and some other students. Jason's proposed reforms are met with disapproval by other staff members at Elmview, including Miss Ruth Levering, who opposes his work and claims that he is making promises to the girls that he cannot keep. Later, Jason is disturbed by Jane and Jackie's claims that they were recently sent to solitary confinement for attacking a supervisor, and are being forced to work ten hours a day. When Jason discovers that none of his recommendations have been carried out, he complains to Riggs, the head of the institution, but Riggs merely defends the school's strict disciplinary policies. In a private meeting with Jason, Miss Levering shows sympathy for Jason's efforts and confesses that she has compromised her beliefs by working within the school's corrupt framework. Another severe punishment given by Riggs results in the girls's attempting to burn down the school down. Their attempt is squashed, however, and they are punished by the sadistic Mrs. Beuhler, who turns a high-powered fire hose on the helpless girls. News of the punishment soon reaches Jason and Miss Levering, who rush to the girls's aid. Determined to put an end to the school's tolerence of such actions, Jason threatens to report Mrs. Beuhler, but Riggs persuades Jason into reconsidering his actions. Instead of filing the complaint, Jason strikes up a deal with Riggs that will allow Riggs to stay employed with Elmview and would give Jason the power to make policy decisions for the school. Shortly after taking over Riggs' duties, Jason implements his new program, which includes new classes, recreation time and other freedoms, and the girls show remarkable improvement. Time passes, and with new budgetary difficulties setting in, Riggs decides to stir up trouble for Jason in the hope that the school board will fire him. A rumor is circulated by Loretta, one of the girls, that Miss Levering is having an affair with Jason, and when Loretta taunts Miss Levering with the claim, she loses her temper and strikes the girl. Jason witnesses the incident, and although Miss Levering submits her resignation over the matter, Jason refuses to accept it. One day, Dolores is found dead of a hanging and Jason is immediately suspended. Mrs. Beuhler is put in charge of running the school, at which point Loretta, Jane and Jackie steal a truck and try to escape. Unable to come up with the answer to his question, Jason's thoughts drift back into the present, and he leaves Elmview disheartened. Later, Jane, finds Jason and Mrs. Levering and tells them that Mrs. Beuhler was responsible for Dolores' suicide. Jason and Miss Levering deliver this information to the board members, but as Jane and other girls have been intimidated by Mrs. Beuhler and Riggs, their accusations go unconfirmed. Jason and Miss Levering's hope for justice seems lost until Jackie, who has been on the run until now, bursts into the meeting and reveals the truth. Justice is delivered to Riggs and Mrs. Beuhler, who are placed under arrest, and Jason and Miss Levering celebrate their success with marriage vows.
Edward J. Danziger
Harry Lee Danziger
Hon. Milton A. Gibbons
Sal Scoppa Jr.
Robert W. Stinger
So Young, So Bad
The idea for So Young, So Bad came from director Bernard Vorhaus after he read a newspaper account of abuses at a girl's reformatory. Working with writer Jean Rouverol, he visited several institutions for story ideas. There was some studio interest in the film, but the director and writer's questionable political leanings (both would be blacklisted before the film's release) eventually scotched that. Instead, they sought independent financing. Sources are unclear as to who optioned his script first, actor Paul Henreid or entrepreneurs Harry and Edward Danziger, but a deal was struck for Henreid to star and assist in the production in return for 50 percent of the profits and an assurance that his role as a crusading prison psychiatrist would be expanded.
Henreid had only recently finished his starring contract at Warner Bros. and was still in demand in Hollywood when he signed with the Danziger brothers. His agent tried to talk him out of it, warning him that "you take a chance with these fly-by-night outfits." (quoted in Henreid, Ladies Man, 1984). He was right about one thing - the Danzigers had no track record as filmmakers. They had inherited an amusement park and sold it to get into film production. Their only previous credit was Jigsaw (1949), a low-budget mystery starring Franchot Tone and distinguished primarily by the presence of Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, John Garfield, Burgess Meredith and Everett Sloane in cameo appearances.
As one of his producing duties, Henreid helped audition 300 young hopefuls for roles as reformatory inmates. He clearly had an eye for talent, as the film gives "introducing" credit to Jackson, Rita Moreno (billed as Rosita although she had already appeared on Broadway as Rita), Enid Pulver and Anne Francis, who had already played bit roles, most notably as one of the school girls viewing Joseph Cotten's painting of Jennifer Jones at the end of Portrait of Jennie (1948). Although such credits have come to be considered a jinx in Hollywood folklore, in this case three of the young women would go on to stardom, Jackson on stage, Francis in films and on television and Moreno in just about every medium she's tackled (she was the first performer to win an Oscar®, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy).
The young actress' roles added a socially progressive slant to what might have emerged as stereotyped characters in a Hollywood production. Francis' blonde sexpot is revealed to be a child of abuse who has learned to trade on her sexuality as a survival mechanism. Moreno, as the prison innocent, is also a victim of racism. The film takes the implied lesbianism of Jackson and Pulver's prison pals to a new level, with Jackson clearly assuming the masculine role in what appears to be more than just friendship. Unlike more traditional narratives in which the "butch" character ends up either dead or branded as evil or both, Jackson actually risks her own freedom by returning to jail after a successful escape to help save Henreid's career.
So Young, So Bad was shot for very little money on locations in Yonkers, Manhattan, Long Island and Connecticut. A Jewish home for the blind and the elderly in upstate New York stood in for the fictional Elmview Corrections School for Girls. In many ways the low budget and location shooting proved to be assets. Even in its more contrived moments, the film has a realistic look. Cinematographer Don Malkames captured images that often outshone the dialogue. When the matrons punish the young inmates by turning a fire hose on them, the camerawork takes on a documentary feel that makes the sequence particularly harrowing, an effect you wouldn't find in Warner's more expensive Caged.
Critical reaction to the film was tepid. It suffered from comparison to Caged at a time when independent productions were rare and their virtues less appreciated. In addition, the title So Young, So Bad was ripe for abuse at the hands of wisecracking reviewers. With its sensational subject matter, however, the film made money domestically and even scored a lucrative international distribution agreement. Contrary to his agent's warnings, Henreid would report that his 50 percent stake in the picture made him more money than any of his other films.
Producer: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger
Director: Bernard Vorhaus
Screenplay: Jean Rouverol, Bernard Vorhaus
Cinematography: Don Malkames
Music: Robert W. Stringer
Cast: Paul Henreid (Dr. Jason), Catherine McLeod (Ruth Levering), Anne Jackson (Jackie), Enid Pulver (Jane), Anne Francis (Loretta), Rita Moreno (Dolores).
by Frank Miller
So Young, So Bad
According to an February 11, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, star Paul Henreid and Bernard Vorhaus were originally planning to make this film through their company, Monica Productions (named after Henreid's daughter Monica), under the title Runaway. On June 17, 1949, before the property was acquired by Individual Productions, Inc., Hollywood Reporter reported that Monica Lewis was being considered for a role, but her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. A copy of the film's cutting continuity deposited with the copyright records lists the title as Escape If You Can; according to a Daily Variety news item, the title was changed to So Young, So Bad in March 1950. A July 1949 New York Times news item noted that the first scenes of the film were shot in Yonkers, NY, and that additional location shooting was set to take place in Manhattan, Long Island and Connecticut. The film marked the motion picture debut of actress Anne Jackson. Reviews commented on the similarities between this film and the 1950 Warner Bros. film Caged, and the Variety review pointed out that several sequences were the same. A September 1952 Hollywood Citizen-News article reported that the parents of a missing twenty-year-old Italian girl named Marisa Biffignandi identified their daughter from an Italian movie magazine still photograph of the film's dormitory scene. During a special screening arranged for the girl's parents, they identified their daughter as an extra. The girl's mother then made a public appeal on an NBC radio program for her daughter to return home. The outcome of the search is not known.
Released in United States Summer May 26, 1950
Released in United States Summer May 26, 1950