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College students find that romance is more complicated than their studies in The Young Lovers (1964). The film stars a young, pre-Easy Rider (1969) Peter Fonda as an art student who falls for a teacher's assistant (Sharon Hugueny). The pair is forced to grow up quickly when Hugueny becomes pregnant. An accurate reflection of social mores in the early sixties, The Young Lovers weighs the issues of abortion and marriage, allowing the students to contemplate their freedom versus taking responsibility. The story is based on a novel by Julian Halevy of the same title and was directed by Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., making the film something of a showcase for second-generation Hollywood talent with the names Fonda and Goldwyn attached.
The Young Lovers was actually Goldwyn's directorial debut and it remains the only film he has directed. Goldwyn was born into Hollywood royalty; he was the son of independent producer Samuel Goldwyn, the force behind such classics as Wuthering Heights (1939), The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Goldwyn, Jr., chose to follow in his father's footsteps, making his start in Hollywood as an associate producer on 1948's Good-Time Girl. He would earn full producer credit on his next film, the Robert Mitchum western Man with a Gun (1955). Over the years, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. has produced a variety of films from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960) to Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) to The Preacher's Wife (1996). Currently he is still working and recently produced the Best Picture Oscar® nominee Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003).
Goldwyn wasn't the only relative newcomer on the set of The Young Lovers. Peter Fonda had entered the acting game just two years earlier, appearing first in a number of television shows, before making his big screen debut in Tammy and the Doctor (1963). The Young Lovers would be Fonda's fourth film. He would later remember the picture for having "a small budget and not a lot of rehearsal." Fonda also expressed admiration for his director but thinking "[Goldwyn] was just a little bit stuck in the morals of the fifties."
Variety would agree. Their review of The Young Lovers noted that, "while the story is no longer the shocker it would have been a generation ago, the talk is frank and the switch to problems of the unwed father, rather than to mother, will stir more than usual interest and controversy." Variety also went on to highlight Fonda's performance, saying, "Peter Fonda's overall portrayal fits the character and he delivers key bits of dialogue well."
Fonda's co-star in The Young Lovers was Sharon Hugueny. Unlike Fonda and Goldwyn, who were just beginning successful careers, Hugueny made her final big screen appearance with the film. Hugueny's Hollywood story started out like a fairytale. She was discovered at age 15 and signed to a contract by Warner Bros. Her first work was on television in shows such as Colt .45 and Maverick. Hugueny made her movie debut in Parrish (1961) in which she co-starred with Troy Donahue, Claudette Colbert and Karl Malden. But Hugueny's life would soon take an unexpected turn. In 1961 she met and married the actor Robert Evans who would soon become a major Hollywood producer. The marriage was reportedly a disaster from the start and lasted less than a year. Warners had placed Hugueny on suspension after Evans' work had taken the couple to New York and Hugueny's career would never recover.
Hugueny and Fonda are ably supported in The Young Lovers by Nick Adams as Fonda's roommate and Deborah Walley as his girlfriend. Adams is perhaps best remembered from his many television appearances, including his run as Johnny Yuma on the western series The Rebel. Over the course of his career, Adams made a number of films, turning up in everything from Pillow Talk (1959) to Die, Monster, Die! (1965). He was also nominated for an Oscar® for his performance in the courtroom drama Twilight of Honor (1963). As for Walley, she had been named the Most Popular Actress of 1961 by Photoplay Magazine after endearing herself to audiences in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961). Walley would go on to join Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and to star opposite Elvis Presley in Spinout (1966).
The Young Lovers also benefited from the skills of a seasoned cinematographer in Joseph Biroc. One of Biroc's early projects was the perennial Capra favorite It's a Wonderful Life (1946). He would go on to film such hits as Blazing Saddles (1974) and Airplane! (1980). In 1974 he would receive an Oscar® for his work on The Towering Inferno.
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
Director: Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
Screenplay: George Garrett, Julian Zimet (novel)
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc, Ellsworth Fredericks
Film Editing: William A. Lyon
Art Direction: Fernando Carrere
Music: Sol Kaplan
Cast: Peter Fonda (Eddie Slocum), Sharon Hugueny (Pam Burns), Nick Adams (Tarragoo), Deborah Walley (Debbie), Beatrice Straight (Mrs. Burns), Malachi Throne (Prof. Schwartz).
by Stephanie Thames