Young in Heart, The (1938): Richard Wallace’s Romantic Comedy, Starring Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Produced by David O. Selznick, Richard Wallace’s romantic comedy, The Young in Heart, starred Janet Gaynor, fresh off from her success in A Star Is Born, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

This was Gaynor’s final role before retiring at the height of her career; she made a brief comeback in 1957, in the 1957 Pat Boone’s romantic feature, Bernardine.

Paul Osborn’s script was adapted by Charles Bennett from I. A. R. Wylie’s serialized novel, The Gay Banditti, which appeared in  Saturday Evening Post, February 26 to March 26, 1938.

A family of con artists led by “Colonel” Anthony “Sahib” Carleton (Roland Young) and his wife “Marmy” (Billie Burke) are working the French Riviera, searching wealthy mates for their daughter George-Anne (Gaynor) and son Richard (Fairbanks, Jr.).  A former actor, Sahib passes himself off as an officer who served in India.

George-Anne flirts with Scottish suitor Duncan Macrae (Richard Carlson), who turns out not to be rich. Richard gets himself engaged to the wealthy but plain Adela Jennings. Meanwhile, Sahib cheats her American senator father at poker.

When the local police find out about the Carletons, they order them to leave the country by train.

On the train, George-Anne meets a lonely old spinster, Ellen Fortune (Minnie Dupree), who inherited a fortune from her former fiancé. The kindhearted Fortune invites George-Anne’s family to her first-class compartment, and they hope to swindle her out.  While the train derails, and they manage to extricate the old woman from the wreckage. Grateful, she invites them to stay with her at her London mansion.

Sahib and Richard pretend to look for jobs in order to persuade her and her suspicious lawyer Felix Anstruther that they can be trusted.

Richard takes a job as a mail clerk at an engineering firm, where he meets Leslie Saunders (Paulette Goddard;  he plans to take night courses in engineering. Gradually the men find the value of honest work and start to feel guilty about taking advantage of Miss Fortune.

Miss Fortune eventually learns about the Carletons’ background from her lawyer, but she reacts with compassion, planning to rewrite her will. At a dinner party, Miss Fortune collapses, and the family gets concerned about her health.  Marmy claims they do not want her money, and in the end, promise to take care of the woman.

Miss Ellen drives in her Flying Wombat to the Carletons’ house, and there two happy weddings: George-Anne and Duncan, and Richard and Leslie.

Released on November 3, 1938, the film was a commercial flop, despite decent reviews.