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"He's too tough for tears...because he had to grow up too fast! Here's the story of a teenager who tried to make it the hard way...with all the odds against him!" and "BORN AT 17... (He'll be lucky to make twenty!)" were some of the taglines used to promote Columbia Pictures' The Young Don't Cry (1957), directed by Alfred L. Werker. The screenplay was by Richard Jessup, based on his book The Cunning and the Haunted, and the film starred Sal Mineo, James Whitmore and J. Carrol Naish.
Sal Mineo was seventeen and already a teen idol when The Young Don't Cry went into production, thanks to a strong performance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). In fact, Mineo's popularity with teenage girls proved to be a headache when the cast and crew went on location to Savannah, Georgia. Girls swamped the Hotel DeSoto, where the cast was staying, forcing the police to keep a few officers at the hotel to throw them out for disturbing the guests. The location itself was, in James Whitmore's words, "a rough shoot. Very physical, but Sal never complained once. What a mess with the bugs, the snakes, the swamp and the girls hiding behind trees to catch a glimpse of him." Apart from the swamps, filming took place at the Bethesda Home for Boys, which filled in for the orphanage where Mineo's character, Leslie Henderson plots his escape and gets mixed up with a chain-gang criminal, played by Whitmore, who forces the boy to help him flee.
The location shooting also proved to be difficult for director Alfred L. Werker, who was ill during production and the hot, humid Savannah weather kept him in his air-conditioned trailer except when he was shooting. Werker, who was a good studio director although he never made the pantheon of great Hollywood auteurs, had made a name for himself with films like The House of Rothschild (1934) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939). Sal Mineo said of Werker, "His quiet urging and sound advice were something I'll never forget." The Young Don't Cry would be Werker's final film.
The Young Don't Cry was Sal Mineo's second film with James Whitmore, his Crime in the Streets (1956) costar, who described Mineo as being self-assured and having great instincts about acting, although he lacked formal training. "He was a kid with a youthful energy about him, a little innocence and a little wickedness. He had already developed a keen sense of the power over people that celebrity handed him. He could be suave and gentlemanly with the girls and he could smoke and curse and be a little tough guy around the fellas. I could sense a reckless streak in him. I believe he had gotten by on his wits from an early age."
The film premiered in late July 1957 at the Palace Theater in New York, where Mineo appeared at a matinee showing of the film and 1400 screaming girls nearly caused a riot. The critics didn't have the same reaction, but The New York Times reviewer called it "a good little picture [...] which director Alfred L. Werker and his camera man, Ernest Haller, have imbued with semi-documentary flavor [...] It's not always easy, in fact, to distinguish the professionals from the real Georgians--a score or so were used. It is a high compliment indeed for an interesting picture, whose components never quite attain its rightful sum."
Producer: Philip A. Waxman
Director: Alfred L. Werker
Screenplay: Richard Jessup
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Music: George Antheil
Film Editing: Maurice Wright
Cast: Sal Mineo (Leslie 'Les' Henderson), James Whitmore (Rudy Krist), J. Carrol Naish (Plug), Gene Lyons (Max Cole), Paul Carr (Tom Bradley), Thomas A. Carlin (Johnny Clancy), Leigh Whipper (Doosy), Stefan Gierasch (Billy), Victor Throley (Whittaker), Roxanne (Mrs. Maureen Cole).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Erickson, Hal. "The Young Don't Cry." Rovi
Ferguson, Michael. Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies
Michaud, Greg. Sal Mineo: A Biography
"Screen: An Orphan's Life; 'The Young Don't Cry' Opens at the Palace", The New York Times 27 Jul 57
Smith, Fran. "Movies of the Month: A Big Year for Mineo." Boys Life , Sept 1957