From director/actress/generally kick-ass lady Ida Lupino comes 1949’s The Young Lovers (also released as Never Fear), a film which spins a tale of disease and romantic melodrama.

Before being diagnosed with polio, is a promising dancer. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Before being diagnosed with polio, Carol is a promising dancer. In the scene captured here, she and her fiance are rehearsing for the big show. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Carol Williams (Sally Forrest) is a young woman who seems to have everything going for her. She’s beautiful, she’s a talented dancer, and she’s become engaged to her dance partner, Guy Richards (Keefe Brasselle).

But when Carol learns that she’s contracted polio and becomes crippled by the disease, Carol shuts down. Pushing away her fiancé who wishes to stay by her side and support her, Carol grieves the loss of her former way of life. Will she ever be able to come to terms with her illness and find fulfillment again?

According to an opening title card, “This is a true story. It was photographed where it happened.”

The Young Lovers is somewhat of a misleading title, as the synopsis above may have clued you into. The title suggests either an unremarkable, familiar romantic drama or a mildly corny piece of juvenile-delinquency craziness. With Ida Lupino at the helm to direct this one, though, I had a hunch that it would be a cut above the expectations caused by the title.

The film begins a bit slowly, spending a little less than 15 minutes simply letting the audience observe the sweet, deeply caring relationship shared by Carol and Guy. This portion of the film isn’t slow to the point of boredom and it does serve a good purpose since Carol’s attitude changes so dramatically after her diagnosis, so I can let a few slow minutes slide here.

Carol pushes everyone away after the diagnosis. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Carol pushes everyone away after the diagnosis. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

And speaking of that attitude change, Sally Forrest’s performance as Carol is pretty fantastic. It would be so easy for her to have given an over-dramatic performance, playing up her character’s reaction to the diagnosis to such an extreme that the film would become a parody of the issue, but she does nothing of the sort. There is not a single moment (at least not that I saw) when her delivery or emotion over-stretches the realm of believability.

The music is a bit much sometimes during highly emotional scenes, but this was obviously not the fault of the actors.

The Young Lovers is a film with a lot of emotional impact and an unexpectedly engrossing story of the psychological struggles caused by illness. Recommended for Ida Lupino enthusiasts and fans of medical melodrama. The score: 4/5

The Young Lovers is available for viewing on Amazon (free for Prime members, $2.99 rental for those who don’t have Prime). The print available on Amazon has its flaws (some distortion, apparent missing frames, sound fluctuation), but I think this is the best way to watch it as it’s (shamefully, along with many of Ida’s films) never been given a proper restoration.