Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: So Young So Bad (1950)

Boy we have come a long way from the glory of Casablanca, Paul Henreid. Labeled by my Netflix recommendation, this film, So Young, So Bad is a ‘Gritty Independent Fight the System ‘ movie and with a synopsis like this:

Aghast at the cruel punishments handed out by Mr. Riggs (Cecil Clovelly) and his pitiless assistant, Mrs. Beuhler (Grace Coppin), at their all-girls reform school, forward-thinking psychologist Dr. Jason (Paul Henreid) tries to take control of the institution. But when an inmate turns up dead, Jason suspects a setup, and now the girls themselves must reveal the truth about their treatment. Bernard Vorhaus directs this drama.

Source: Netflix

This film has the distinction of being (1) the feature film debut of a 19-year old Rosita Moreno – who would later be known as Rita Moreno and (2) one of the earliest roles for actress Anne Francis.

So Young, So Bad is a story told in flashback by Paul Henreid’s Dr. Jason, a psychiatrist working in a reform school for girls with hopes of making a difference in their lives. In the process he gains insight into the way the girls are exploited and abused by the very system enlisted to reforming them.

Not that I am not saying So Young So Bad is an all-out classic which time has forgotten. Rather, here is a little perspective – at the time of this film’s release, there were essentially two tiers of pictures that received wide distribution: the A-film and the B-film. Because the studios were still in control of most of the film production, independent features did not have the artistic distinction or polish that many have in our modern thinking of this area of cinema.

I suppose the intent of this film was a sort of ‘message’ film. In fact, it was released one day after a very similar film with a similar message (also featured on this blog), Caged. Caged starred Eleanor Parker as a woman irrevocably hardened by the prison system.

In its own way, as the film poster indicates, this attempts to explain WHY the girls are the way they are.

On a side note, Paul Henreid made a lot of money from this film; against the advice of his advisors, he put up 50% of the financing for the film and in return, received what he said was more money than he did for any other film during his film career.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. Sounds really Interesting. I have been starting my looking back series and have been spending my lunch breaks (and a bit more) at work watching classics on lovefilm instant. So any more ideas on what to watch is always welcome!!

    Thanks my friend

  2. Patti Abbott says:

    I have never even heard of this one. Really forgotten,

  3. Fascinating choice – it was the last US film made by Bernard Vorhaus, probably best-known for THE SPIRITUALIST (aka THE AMAZING MR X), who was an inventive and energetic director but who was one of the many victims of the Hollywood Blacklist during the McCarthy witch-hunt.

  4. Interesting choice, Iba. I’ve never heard of this one, so this series is quite informative for the likes of me.

    • Glad to be of service 🙂

      • Speak of the Devil. I had been looking for this movie for a long time. Couldn’t remember the name or the stars. Saw it when I was a kid on TV. Remembered two scenes, the matron spraying the girls with a fire hose in the gym so they would fall down and hurt themselves and them cutting Rita Moreno’s hair (because she was so proud of it) and the consequences of that. My daughter found it for me. Does Netflix actually have it? The site we got it on implied there was no video of it and the sound on there site was awful

        • Hi Judy. Yes, I recently watched it on Netflix. Admittedly the picture and sound quality is not 100%, but that is mostly due to the age of the film.

  5. NOT the most flattering hand-colored image on that lobby card, though…indies such as DOA often made virtues out of having to be shot in actual streets rather than backlots, but indeed, the poverty row budgets often showed as well…

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