Janie's The Girl We've Forgotten
There's a scene late in Yankee Doodle Dandy where a retired George M. Cohan encounters jive-talking teens who've never heard of him or his music. Spokes-girl for the kids is Joyce Reynolds, a fresh face whose Warners audition this clearly was. She would become, for a wartime's instant,
Janie came off what WB called a Seventy-Seven Week Stage Sensation. The title character was sweet sixteen and itching to be kissed, preferably by a man in uniform. Selling of Janie was what we'd call uneasy and along lines of Get Ready To Howl, You Wolves! No wonder Errol Flynn hung about high-schoolyards. Underage girls were scrubbed cleaner on then-radio faves like Corliss Archer, Junior Miss and A Date With Judy, thanks in part to vigilant sponsors not wanting protective parents up in arms. Hard to imagine the movies' Code being looser, but to some extent it was, as tender-aged Janie dons two-piece swimwear and playfully eludes soldier advances. She and friends dress grown-up and double down on cusp-of-womanhood dialogue only just removed from darker implication of juve delinquent exploiters like Youth Runs Wild and Where Are Your Children? playing just across streets from Janie.
Too many think teen pics began with the fifties, understandable considering that's when such was first customized and marketed to youth with spending empowered by a postwar's economic boom. The Janies and Andy Hardys were more about reassuring grown-ups than servicing offspring, object being to convince us high-spirited teens were manageable after all, and that parental forbearance would be rewarded with hugs and youth's promise to hereafter behave. It would have been unpatriotic to present kids as anything like a threat --- didn't the war give us enough to worry about? Revealing is fact that most wayward youth exploitation came off poverty rows, with rare exception of a Youth Runs Wild from RKO. I'm guessing the majors entered tacit agreement to chill troubled-teen themes, at least until we polished off Axis delinquents.
Delights of Janie are so myriad as to make me regret waiting years to check in. I knew it for (seeming) incongruity of Michael Curtiz behind cameras after twin events
What would become stock characters are early introduced here. The harried father, saintly mother, a kid sister more insufferable than irrepressible. Phones ring, doors slam, and misunderstandings are rife. Kids talk a language no adult (or we) can translate, slang finding its 40's level --- Janie begs her dad not to be such a "tin-type" and engages something like staccato Pig Latin with in-the-know friends. Radio's penetration into then-psyches is nicely conveyed by little sister's obsession with radio; she carries one along for a bus ride so she won't miss The Lone Ranger. It's easy to forget the hold listening had on a younger generation just ahead of television's advent. Was radio more fun than tubes that would hypnotize the rest of us?
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