Tuesday, 14 November 2017
These Dangerous Years (1957)
I watched this one primarily for Carole Lesley (*sighs*) When one character is shown a photo of her, he sniffs 'there's dozens like her in Liverpool' Believe me, there ain't! Worst luck.
The lovely Lesley (a blonde bombshell of many a '50s and '60s British movie, who sadly died of a drug overdose at the age of 38 in 1974 when fame proved elusive) plays the love interest to Frankie Vaughan and These Dangerous Years is definitely a vehicle for the then popular Liverpudlian crooner. The plot tells the story of Dave Wyman, a young delinquent played by Vaughan, and his gang of 'Dingle boys' whose territory is the south Mersey foreshore known as the 'Cassy' (the Cast Iron Shore); the rust-red sands at Dingle Point, which has now been redeveloped as Otterspool Promenade. This being the late '50s, England still has its National Service and it isn't long before Dave is conscripted into the forces to do his bit.
Can the army tame this bad boy?
Well initially it seems like they can, as Dave defies all expectations and proves himself a natural soldier, despite his refusal to have his teddy boy haircut shaved off. He's soon promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal, much to the chagrin of Michael Ripper's barrack room bully who sets out to discredit Dave, with tragically fatal consequences. Facing court martial and possibly even the hangman's noose, Dave flees camp and returns to Liverpool, relying on his girl (Lesley) and his fellow tearaways (including Eddie Byrne and Kenneth Cope) for help or maybe even hindrance. But can the regimental Padre (George Baker), who believes in Dave, catch up with him and persuade him to face the music and prove his innocence?
These Dangerous Years is quite a bit of fun to be honest, and if you're a fan of Vaughan's musical career I imagine it would be even more fun. I'm not really, so I may have fast forwarded through at least one of his shoehorned numbers, but the story surrounding it stands up rather well - indeed, they could have removed all the opportunities to showcase Vaughan's singing and it would have worked fine. The juvenile delinquency storyline is wonderfully evocative of the 1950s (all greased back quiffs, leather jackets, chain smoking and coffee bars) and is one that probably meant a lot to Vaughan who, as a kid, did run around with gangs in Liverpool before finding an outlet in the local boys' club and music. His commitment to ensuring others had the same escape as he did saw him establish the Easterhouse Project in Glasgow in the late '60s in an attempt to secure peace between the warring juvenile gangs of the Scottish city.
Vaughan's acting may not be award winning, but he equips himself rather well in carrying the film and he's ably supported by the aforementioned Lesley and George Baker, who he shares top billing with, as well as Jocelyn 'Jackie' Lane (once touted as Britain's Brigitte Bardot, she went on to star opposite Elvis in Tickle Me, before retiring from acting in 1973 to marry Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg), John Le Mesurier, Katherine Kath and, all too briefly, Thora Hird.