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The Delinquents

The Delinquents(1957)

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Robert Altman's onscreen credit reads: "Written, Produced and Directed by Robert Altman." The opening titles include the following written statement: "Our appreciation to the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department for their cooperation in making this picture possible." The following voice-over is heard over the opening credits: "The story you are about to see is about violence and immorality-teenage violence and immorality-children trapped in the half-world between adolescence and maturity-their struggle to understand, their need to be understood. Perhaps in his rapid progression into the material world, man has forgotten the spiritual values which are the moral fiber of a great nation-Decency, Respect, Fair Play. Perhaps he has forgotten to teach his children their responsibility before God and society. The answer May lie in the story of The Delinquents in their violent attempt to find a place in society. This film is a cry to a busy world-a protest-a reminder to those who must set an example."
       The following voice-over narration is heard over the film's closing scenes: "This is one story. Who's to blame? The answers are not easy, nor are they pleasant. We are all responsible and it's our responsibility not to look the other way. Violence and immorality like this must be controlled, channeled. Citizens everywhere must work against delinquency, just as they work against cancer, cerebral palsy or any other disease for delinquency is a disease, but the remedies are available-patience, compassion, understanding and respect for parental and civil authority. By working with your church group, with the youth organization in your town, by paying closer attention to the needs of your children, you can help prevent the recurrence of regrettable events like the ones you have just witnessed. You can help halt this disease before it cripples our children, before it cripples society."
       Several reviewers commented on the sanctimonious nature of the voice-over narration. In a modern source, Altman stated that United Artists, the film's distributor, added the spoken prologue and epilogue after the film's completion. A August 24, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that actor George Kuhn (who appears in the film as "Jay") recorded the narration at Ryder Sound Studios, thus indicating that the narration was added after the film had completed principal photography. The film's copyright registration lists the running time as 75 minutes, but the Variety review lists 72 minutes, which was the approximate length of the print viewed. The review erroneously identifies the title of the song performed by Julia Lee.
       The Delinquents was shot entirely on real locations in Kansas City, MO, and marked the feature directing debut of Altman (1925-2006). Altman, whose first work in films was in a bit role in the 1947 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (see below), went on to a long career as a director and writer. Altman received five Academy Award nominations as Best Director, as well as a special Academy Award presented to him in 2006. A modern source states that the film was shot in two weeks on a budget of around $45,000. The film was not included in a January 2001 retrospective of Altman's films at the National Film Theatre in London at which a program note stated that Altman now prefers that the film not be seen. It has, however, appeared on U.S. television. Producer Elmer C. Rhoden, Jr. was also an executive with Commonwealth Theatres, Inc, a mid-Western theater circuit. Like his father, Elmer C. Rhoden, a pioneering film distributor, Rhoden, Jr. was based in Kansas City, MO. Rhoden, Jr. and Imperial Productions, Inc. made only two other film, both teenage-delinquency themed productions. The second, The Cool and the Crazy, was released in 1958, and the third, Daddy-O, was released in 1959. Rhoden, Jr. died in July 1959 at the age of 37.
       According to a September 19, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, actress June Foray had been signed to record "several women's voices" for the film, but her participation in the released film has not been confirmed. Documents in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that in late October 1956 the PCA required cuts for violence and sexual suggestiveness before issuing a seal in February 1957. Advertisements for the film's Kansas City opening noted that several local actresses, Donna Baldwin, Jeanne Gallagher, Monica Mayes and Gail Greenwell, appeared in the film. A modern source adds SuEllen Fried and Louis Lombardo to the cast, and states that Lombardo also worked on the camera crew.