The Age of Consent
Cast & Crew
After his girl friend, Betty Cameron, makes a date to go driving with the campus playboy, Duke Galloway, sophomore Michael Harvey heads for Tolers, the college cafe, where pretty waitress Dora Swale comforts his bruised ego. When Mike finds Betty with Duke outside of the cafe, he angrily confronts her, not realizing that she had come to call off the date. Hurt by his insinuations, Betty chases after Mike and forces an apology out of him in the men's bathroom. Confident now that they love each other, Mike and Betty become engaged. Mike, not wanting to wait two years for his graduation, contemplates leaving school to marry immediately but, at a school dance, is counseled by David Mathews, his biology professor, to finish college, advice that is endorsed by Betty. With his sexual frustrations mounting, Mike heads for Tolers, while Betty seeks out her own confidante, Barbara, David's former fiancée. Dora, sensing Mike's longing, invites him to her house, where he drunkenly makes love to her. Caught later by Dora's father, Mike is charged with seducing a minor and is forced by Mr. Swale to agree to marry Dora. After tearfully breaking the news to Betty, who has since changed her mind about waiting to marry, Mike returns to the Swales with David. Before the judge arrives, David receives a phone call informing him that Duke and Betty have been in a serious car accident. At the hospital, Dora witnesses Duke's death and, seeing the love between Mike and Betty, announces to her father that she has no intention of marrying. With the blessing of David and Barbara, Mike and Betty wed and head for California.
Pandro S. Berman
D. A. Cutler
J. Roy Hunt
Sarah Y. Mason
David O. Selznick
H. N. Swanson
Age of Consent (1932)
Early in The Age of Consent, we're introduced to a group of young university students who seem intent on taking advantage of all the freedom that "being away at college" offers. Some of the boys are rather obvious about their intentions: The flashy Duke Galloway (played by Swedish-American actor Eric Linden) is always trying to lure comely young co-eds into his shiny roadster. Others, like Richard Cromwell's Michael Harvey, are more serious about their studies, but that doesn't mean they're uninterested in girls. Mike has his eye on Betty Cameron (Wilson), among the prettiest and most vivacious of the students on campus. Betty likes Mike, but she finds him a little dull. She informs him, just as she's about to go off for a ride in Duke's fancy car, that she's a modern woman and wants to have fun. Mike finds a way to humiliate her, publicly advertising what he believes are her loose morals. Betty is upset, although the two eventually make it up: In a rather extraordinary sequence, she follows him into the men's room of a local diner, where the two engage in some hot-and-heavy kissing that's steamy even by pre-code standards.
The road to true love isn't easy for these two, and after further misunderstandings, temptation arises in the form of saucy diner waitress Dora (played by the flirtatiously appealing Arline Judge). The movie's ending does take the safe route. (The screenplay was adapted from a play by San Francisco playwright Martin Flavin, Cross Roads; Flavin also wrote the play on which the 1931 film The Criminal Code, directed by Howard Hawks, was based.) But for long stretches of its fairly brief runtime, The Age of Consent stresses the reality that young people with a healthy sex drive are very likely to give into temptation, and an act of premarital sex actually does occur in the film. La Cava doesn't show it, of course, but it's very obviously, if tactfully, suggested. In general, there's something bracingly direct about the way the film deals with sexual desire outside the bounds of marriage, particularly in terms of its women characters: It's not always the men who make the first move.
The Age of Consent, released the same year as La Cava's first real box-office hit The Half Naked Truth (with Lee Tracy and Lupe Velez), received decent reviews. "It is unlikely that modern students will recognize themselves in the sub-sophomoric specimens of college men and women in 'The Age of Consent,'" wrote the critic for The New York Times, though he then went on to temper his criticism: "But the problems are real and the film presents them with some understanding." Wilson navigates all of this deftly, especially for a first-time actress, walking a fine line between playing her character as a virtuous figure and a young woman who's excited to be living in the modern age. The performance attracted some attention: "Wilson turns out to be a highly interesting young type, suggesting in appearance a flapper Norma Shearer," wrote the critic at Variety. "The part of a college co-ed does not call for any histrionic fireworks, but the newcomer reveals a remarkable aptitude for natural acting." Consequently, Wilson was named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1932: The annual promotional campaign, dreamed up by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers, honored groups of up-and-coming starlets believed to have a shot at becoming Hollywood's next big stars. (Other honorees that year were Ginger Rogers and Gloria Stuart.)
Wilson did continue to appear in films through the 1930s, though she never became a big star, a prize she perhaps never really wanted, anyway. While she was making Eight Girls in a Boat (1934), she met screenwriter Lewis R. Foster, whom she married in 1936. A few years later, she gave up movies for good, settling down to raise a family, though her husband, of course, continued to build his career as both a writer and a director: He won a screenwriting Oscar for his work on Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Wilson's final role was a small, uncredited part in the 1943 Red Skelton vehicle Whistling in Brooklyn -- she never returned to acting. She died in 1998 at age 88, and is reported to have said that she wasn't really cut out to be an actress and never intended to do it for very long. At the very least, she had a Hollywood adventure - one that was probably a lot more fun, and more lucrative, than slogging it out in the steno pool.
The New York Times
Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: Gregory La Cava
Screenplay: Martin Flavin (play); Sarah Y. Mason, Francis M. Cockrell (screenplay); H. N. Swanson (treatment; uncredited)
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Music: Oscar Levant, Max Steiner (both uncredited)
Film Editing: Jack Kitchin
Cast: Dorothy Wilson (Betty Cameron), Richard Cromwell (Michael Harvey), Eric Linden (Duke Galloway), Arline Judge (Dora), David Matthews (John Halliday)
[black and white, 72 minutes]
By Stephanie Zacharek
Age of Consent (1932)
The play opened in New York City, New York, USA, on 11 November 1929 and had 28 performances. In the cast were Sylvia Sidney, Franchot Tone and Dennie Moore.
The working titles of this film were Crossroads and Fraternity House. Dorothy Wilson, who, according to Motion Picture Herald, was "discovered" while working as a stenographer at RKO, made her screen debut in this film. Richard Cromwell was borrowed from Columbia. H. N. Swanson, who is billed as the film's technical advisor, was a former editor of College Humor. The Variety review also credits Swanson with writing the film's treatment. In a letter to David Selznick, Jason S. Joy, Director of Public and Studio Relations of the AMPP, recommended a number of changes and deletions in order to assure the film's censorship approval. One strongly advised alteration was the deletion of the word "damn" in the dialogue. While Joy's more emphatic suggestions apparently were taken, several questionable lines and sexual moments were left in the final film. Although it can be inferred from watching the film that Dora and Mike actually have sex, it is also possible that Dora's father pressures them to marry because he mistakenly believes that they had a sexual encounter. According to modern sources, Betty Grable was a cast member.
Released in United States 1932
Released in United States October 2000
Released in United States 1932
Released in United States October 2000 (Shown at American Film Institute (AFI) Los Angeles International Film Festival (Special Screening) October 19-26, 2000.)