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In the 1943 comedy The Youngest Profession, Virginia Weidler plays Joan Lyons, a New York City teenager with an endearing flair for the melodramatic. Joan serves as president of a movie fan club whose members collect movie star autographs. When Joan learns that Greer Garson is in town, she and best friend Patsy (Jean Porter) set out to meet the actress and get her famous signature. The giddy pair of bobby-soxers enjoys an assortment of fun adventures as they encounter several other MGM stars along the way. Meanwhile, Joan tries to fix her parents' seemingly troubled marriage thanks to some malicious tongue wagging from her gossipy governess Miss Featherstone (Agnes Moorehead).
The Youngest Profession was both a way for MGM to show off its cavalcade of major stars and a way to provide a showcase for juvenile actress Virginia Weidler. She had been a notable child actress, co-starring in numerous high profile MGM projects including The Women (1939) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). However, Weidler never became popular with the movie-going public, and the studio had a challenging time finding parts that suited her particular talents. MGM had originally purchased the rights to Lillian Day's 1940 novel The Youngest Profession as a potential vehicle for Judy Garland, but it was eventually determined that Garland was too mature for the part. The Youngest Profession proved to be Virginia Weidler's second to last film that she ever made before abandoning show business altogether.
Although Weidler is a joy to watch, The Youngest Profession is really all about the MGM stars sprinkled throughout. Lana Turner, Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Taylor and William Powell all make appearances as they have memorable encounters with the young autograph seekers.
Banking on the star power of the high profile cameos alone, MGM decided to premiere The Youngest Profession at the glamorous Radio City Music Hall. It was a lavish affair for what was essentially a lightweight, but charming, film. Despite a tepid critical response, The Youngest Profession found a solid audience and made MGM a tidy profit upon its initial release.
Producer: B.F. Zeidman
Director: Edward Buzzell
Screenplay: George Oppenheimer, Charles Lederer, Leonard Spigelgass; Lillian Day (book); Jan Fortune (contributing writer uncredited)
Cinematography: Charles Lawton
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: David Snell
Film Editing: Ralph Winters
Cast: Virginia Weidler (Joan Lyons), Edward Arnold (Burton V. Lyons), John Carroll (Dr. Hercules), Anne Ayars (Susan Thayer), Marta Linden (Edith Lyons), Dick Simmons (Douglas Sutton), Agnes Moorehead (Miss Featherstone), Jean Porter (Patricia Drew), Raymond Roe (Schuyler).
by Andrea Passafiume