So Evil, So Young (1961): Godfrey Grayson’s Reform School Prison Drama, Starring Jill Ireland

Godfrey Grayson directed So Evil, So Young, an offbeat, grim British reform school prison film, starring Jill Ireland and Ellen Pollock.

Lucy (Jocelyn Britton) and Claire (Bernice Swanson) hack into the safe behind a picture, with jewels inside. Claire warns Lucy to leave, but Lucy says the home-owners are vacationing.  However, the butler is there, and when spotted, Claire whacks him on the head.

The police come to Anne’s house and ask her if she knows of any stolen jewelery; Lucy has told them that she was an accomplice. Anne denies, but the police find the necklace in her coat pocket. She is sentenced to three years in Wilsham, a prison with no window bars.

The harsh warden of the girls, Miss Smith, is hated. Lucy starts to pit all the girls against Anne, except for Marie, who has served four years in Wilsham and is getting out in one week.

The girls plan a party for Marie, but in the morning, they find out that Marie has hanged herself. One thing leads to another, and a major riot, led by Lucy, takes place, hurting Miss Smith’s arm and trashing the place. All the girls are sentenced to punishment, except for Anne, who had not participated, but she asked to get the same punishment.

Meanwhile, Dear Old Margen, the pawn shop owner, reveals that Claire had pawned the jewels. He calls the police who bring Claire into the station. When Lucy finds out that Claire had pawned the jewels, she becomes outraged, and confesses to the police.

Producers Danzigers reshuffled elements of So Young So Bad (1950) , with the “wrongly accused protagonist” plots of Sentenced for Life (1960) and Man Accused (1959), which makes So Evil, So Young derivative–except for its novelty of shooting in Technicolor.

By standards of the time, the harsh cruelties of reform school were realistically exposed. Of the three main women, it’s Jill Ireland (Charles Bronson’s future wife), who gives the most effective performance.

Jill Ireland as Ann
Ellen Pollock as Miss Smith
John Charlesworth as Tom
Jocelyn Britton as Lucy
Joan Haythorne as Matron
Olive McFarland as Jane
John Longden as Turner
Sheila Whittingham as Mary
Colin Tapley as Inspector
C. Denier Warren as Sam
Bernice Swanson as Claire
Annette Kerr as Workroom Wardress
Gwendolyn Watts as Edna
Constance Fecher as Cell Wardress


TCM showed the movie on June 10, 2021.