Having forsaken the notion of a wife and family in order to concentrate on making his fortune in the steel industry, middle-aged multimillionaire Cagney begins to feel the loneliness that is sure to mark his old age. To circumvent the inevitable, he launches a search for his illegitimate
son, given up for adoption 20 years before. At the adoption agency Cagney meets Stanwyck, the woman in charge of the institution. Stanwyck is familiar with the case, and refuses to help Cagney track down his son because it would violate the boy's privacy. Cagney and Stanwyck are attracted to each
other, but this does not stop her from standing firm, nor he from suing the agency for information regarding the whereabouts of his son. With the help of his lawyer, Pidgeon, Cagney continues his search while preparing for a legal battle. Cagney loses in court, but his relationship with Stanwyck
has taught him that his son's right to live without outside interference is more important than Cagney's desire to suddenly become a father. Eventually Cagney does track down his son, Dubbins, and follows him to a bowling alley where he learns that the young man is very happy and content living
with his adoptive parents. Realizing it would be a mistake to force a meeting, Cagney turns his attention to 16-year-old Keim, who's unmarried and pregnant and the girl has turned to Stanwyck for help. Cagney adopts Keim and plans to help her raise her child.
Though the story is nothing more than a sudsy tearjerker, the performances by Cagney and Stanwyck give the film a special quality. Ironically, the film marked the long-delayed pairing of the two stars, an event which almost took place back in 1931 when Stanwyck and Cagney were slated to star in
NIGHT NURSE. By the time shooting was to commence, however, Cagney had been catapulted to super-stardom in PUBLIC ENEMY and the relatively small supporting role went to another young actor on the lot, Clark Gable. THESE WILDER YEARS seemed to be in trouble from the start. Originally titled "All
Our Yesterdays," the film was to have starred Debbie Reynolds as the young unwed mother. When this deal failed to gel, the title was changed to "Somewhere I'll Find Him" with Susan Strasberg cast as the girl and Helen Hayes in the part of the adoption agency mistress. This also fell through, and
Myrna Loy was offered the Hayes role. Loy wasn't available so finally the studio opted for Stanwyck and Cagney in the leads with Keim as the girl. The title was changed again to "The Wilder Years," and again to "The Wild Years," until eventually a hybrid of the last two titles, THESE WILDER YEARS,
was chosen. Not only did the studio have trouble selecting lead players, but the director was changed from John Sturges to Roy Rowland. During all this confusion, someone forgot to take a close look at the script. The film is filled with tired situations, dull dialog, and downright maudlin
sentiment, but somehow Cagney and Stanwyck made it work through sheer professionalism and experience. The two actors enjoyed and respected each other's talent and even treated the crew to an impromptu dance routine with steps learned during their vaudeville days in New York during the 1920s.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Having forsaken the notion of a wife and family in order to concentrate on making his fortune in the steel industry, middle-aged multimillionaire Cagney begins to feel the loneliness that is sure to mark his old age. To circumvent the inevitable, he launch… (more)