Young and Willing (1943)

Six friends are sharing a New York City apartment. They’re all actors, struggling to find work. Three are men, and three are women: Norman Reese (William Holden), George Bodell (Eddie Bracken), Tony Dennison (James Brown — but not the James Brown), Marge Benson (Barbara Britton), Kate Benson (Susan Hayward), and Dottie Coburn (Martha O’Driscoll).

Dottie’s the luckiest of the bunch, not because she gets the most acting gigs, but because she comes from a wealthy family. When times are hard, she’s able to pay for the group’s apartment with the allowance she receives from her father.

The arrangement works out very well for them all, allowing them shelter and company as they deal with the struggles of trying to break into the Big Apple theater scene. But when Dottie’s squeaky-voiced old friend Muriel (Florence MacMichael) visits and is shocked by the co-ed living arrangements, she summons Dottie’s father (Jay Fassett), who suddenly wants to know just where his daughter’s allowance money is going.

From left: (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

From left: Kate, George, Muriel, Norman, Dottie, Marge and Tony (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Edward H. Griffith (The Animal Kingdom) directs 1943’s Young and Willing. The script was written by Virginia Van Upp (Cover Girl).

Young and Willing isn’t nearly as saucy as the title might lead one to think, but it is a very entertaining film.

The characters are all a bit quirky, which leads to some very funny scenes. George, training himself to be a more convincing actor, is pretending to be an apple when Muriel shows up. The landlady (portrayed by Mabel Paige) can never tell when her tenants are acting and when they’re speaking to her, so she frequently inserts herself into their rehearsals… and she’s incredibly talkative. It’s all very amusing.

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

The characters aren’t just personifications of quirk, though: all six of the roommates are likable. Bill Holden and Susan Hayward are the most recognizable faces of the bunch, but they don’t steal the show from the others. The whole gang is very fun to watch. There’s a very cute romance between Tony and Marge, and another between Norman and Dottie.

The script is quite good, too. There’s a lot of very funny dialogue, which along with the solid performances, keeps the story moving along at a good pace. When Dottie’s father shows up, she just keeps repeating “I don’t even know what a man looks like!” in attempt to convince him that no men are living with her — a small thing, but it cracked me up.

Muriel’s got some choice dialogue, too – “I suppose you’d like to be part of the harem! I supposed you’d like to live here, too, and get ripe!,” she says to Dottie’s father when he accuses her of making up stories about Dottie.

Young and Willing is nothing more than light entertainment, but it’s a real delight. It’s unusual for a showbiz comedy in that the conflict is centered around living arrangements rather than the ups and downs of auditioning, being rejected, and searching for roles. I enjoyed this one a lot. The score: 4/5

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