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Old Hollywood and young Hollywood met for this 1959 tale of sex, sin and scandal in the city of brotherly love. On one side were such veterans as director Vincent Sherman, forties star Alexis Smith and, making her first film in six years, Glinda the Good Witch herself, Billie Burke. Representing youth were hot new star Paul Newman, leading lady Barbara Rush, up-and-comer Robert Vaughn and, in his film debut, future Batman Adam West. For once, the generations blended perfectly, producing an intelligent melodrama that fed Newman's matinee idol status.
Newman was interested in lots more than that. In fact, he was forced to do the film under the Warner Bros. contract he'd signed when he first started making movies in 1955. Although he'd won an Oscar nomination the year before for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, he hadn't been happy with most of his film work and wanted to go back to the stage. The only way he could get there was by giving Warner's another film. But despite his disappointment with Hollywood, he gave The Young Philadelphians (1959) all he had, creating a memorable portrait of a young man who'd do anything to get to the top - 'including sleeping with his boss's wife (Smith).
For Sherman, The Young Philadelphians marked a return to Warner Bros. after eight years of not even speaking to studio head Jack Warner. After going freelance in the early fifties, Sherman had been out of work for four years and could not understand why Warner had done nothing to help him. He finally had to go to Europe to re-establish his reputation. Then Warner visited him on location in London and invited him back to the studio - 'at a third of his former salary. Sherman finally accepted when Warner agreed to give him a handsome bonus if he completed a film during his first year. The Young Philadelphians brought him that bonus.
Robert Vaughn came to the picture fresh from the title role in Roger Corman's low-budget Teenage Caveman (1958). He knew his meaty role - 'as a mixed-up young man who loses an arm in Korea, turns to drink, then faces a murder charge - 'could spell better things. Just to make sure it did, he launched a vigorous advertising campaign that helped him win an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The award went to Hugh Griffith for Ben-Hur, but Vaughn's performance launched him on a solid career that included The Magnificent Seven (1960) and the television series The Man From Uncle (1964-68).
Director: Vincent Sherman
Screenplay: James Gunn, based on the novel 'The Philadelphian' by Richard Powell
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.
Editor: William Ziegler
Art Direction: Malcolm Bert
Music: Ernest Gold
Cast: Paul Newman (Tony Lawrence), Barbara Rush (Joan Dickinson), Alexis Smith (Carol Wharton), Brian Keith (Mike Flanagan), Diane Brewster (Kate Lawrence), Billie Burke (Mrs. J. Arthur Allen), John Williams (Gilbert Dickinson), Robert Vaughn (Chester A. 'Chet' Gwynn). Otto Kruger (John Marshall Wharton), Adam West (William Lawrence III).
BW-137m. Letterboxed. Descriptive Video.
by Frank Miller