While finding its way into our DVD player via a Marilyn Monroe box set, As Young As You Feel comes before Monroe had earned screen legend status, making this one of the few Monroe films that isn’t really a Monroe film.
When a 65 year old printer is made to retire, he poses as the head of parent company Consolidated Motors to enforce a change of policy – the barmiest scheme to enact a change in the printing industry since those people who tried to buy The Times through crowdfunding.
Looking at the process of ageing, this is a surprisingly touching farce comedy thanks to Monty Woolley’s performance in the lead role as John “Grandpa” Hodges, a piccolo playing eccentric who lives with his younger relatives.
The screenplay is well structured, managing to give the supporting characters in John’s family a stake in the outcome. It bears thematic similarities to Death of a Salesman – the idea of a hard worker outliving their usefulness, but diverges into something more closely resembling a doppelganger comedy like Dave or The Great Dictator.
The main difference is that John doesn’t actually bear a physical similarity to the person he’s impersonating, but thanks to the fact the only way you knew what a person looked like back then was if you’d met them, they’d starred in a film you’d seen or someone took a picture and showed it to you, this makes it much easier for him. Nowadays he’d be on YouTube in ten minutes.
The film is in part a satire of the corporate world that’s just as relevant today, with a message underpinning it not dissimilar from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – the only area where the two films cross over. Monroe gives a completely acceptable if unnecessary performance as a secretary, but luckily this film has enough good humour and likeability to make it a worthwhile watch regardless of whether it happened to feature a future megastar.