Film Review of Young People: Shirley Temple in 1940 Musical Drama

by DerdriuMarriner

In the 1940 film version of "Young People," characters played by Charlotte Greenwood, Jack Oakie and Shirley Temple bring Vaudeville to Vermont.

An orphan finds comfort in being raised by her parents’ best friends.
• She grows up in the exciting, friendly world of vaudeville.
• Will her adoptive parents’ decision to live on a farm near a small town prove equally felicitous in “Young People”?

Charlotte Greenwood (June 25, 1890 - December 28, 1977), who journeyed to Hollywood by way of Vaudeville and Broadway, plays Shirley's adoptive mother in "Young People" and displays her own youthfulness -- one month shy of her 50th birthday during filming -- with her trademark high kicks and deep splits during the film.


"Charlotte Greenwood proves her agility despite the fact that she's near the half-century mark":

1940 World Telegram photo by Al Ravenna
New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection
New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection


Rocky starts can sort themselves out in Young People by writer Edwin Blum and Don Ettlinger; producer Harry Joe Brown; and director Allan Dwan.  Arthur C. Miller and Edward Cronjager; James B. Clark; and Mack Gordon and Harry Warren handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California’s Movietone City.

The film lasts 70 minutes. Its distributor was 20th Century-Fox. Its NYC-premiere and USA-release dates were August 23 and 30, 1940.


The movie begins with vaudevillians Joe and Kitty Ballantine (Jack Oakie, Charlotte Greenwood) exiting from a performance. An old lady (Mary Gordon) delivers a basket and a note. The note indicates that widower Barney O’Hara is dying. Barney leaves his infant daughter (Shirley Temple) in the basket for his friends’ care.

Joe, Kitty, and Wendy express their loving camaraderie in dancing and singing “Fifth Avenue” and “Tra-La-La-La” and in Wendy’s singing “I Wouldn’t Take a Million”. Joe and Kitty feel that the time is ripe to retire to traditional New England farming in Vermont. They look forward to 10-year-old Wendy:

  • Being educated in local schools;

  • Having friends her own age.

Stonefield’s townspeople (Irving Bacon, Sarah Edwards, Almeda Fowler, Darryl Hickman, Olin Howland, Mae Marsh, Frank Sully, Frank Swann) are not welcoming. Town matron/schoolteacher Hester Appleby (Kathleen Howard) incites everyone to be unfriendly and shun the Ballantine family. She has no problems carrying her actions and attitude into the classroom against Wendy.

Mike Shea (George Montgomery) dates Judith (Arleen Whelan), Hester’s niece. He owner-operates Stonefield’s newspaper. He serves as editor, reporter, and typesetter. He welcomes the Ballantine trio.

Joe attends town meetings because he cares about Stonefield and knows that Mike will be friendly. Mike’s interest in tourist activities impresses him. It surprises Joe when townspeople appoint him Chamber of Commerce head.

Hester likewise does not stop Wendy’s involvement in the school’s talent show. Wendy gets to:

  • Choose themes;

  • Decide costumes and props;

  • Train fellow students in vaudevillian performances.

Hester lets Wendy proceed in order to be humiliated when rehearsals end:

  • Parents describe “Young People” as inappropriate and close down the production;

  • Children taunt Wendy with being adopted.

Joe and Kitty are disheartened and exhausted with all their attempts to get along. Joe cannot fathom why:

  • Hester is cruel to a child;

  • Dakin (Minor Watson) subverts Chamber of Commerce endeavors to encourage visitors and increase resources.

They decide to leave Stonefield.

The movie ends with:

  • A hurricane devastating Stonefield the day of the Ballantine’s departure;

  • Joe getting lost children sheltered at Hester’s;

  • Joe rescuing Jerry Dakin (Robert J. Anderson);

  • The three Ballantines staying in Stonefield.


Shirley Temple - Fifth Avenue

Uploaded to YouTube on January 10, 2012 by Uba Mackay ~ URL:

Young People (1940) pt.9/9 ~ Scenes from "Young People," including singing and not-to-miss tap dancing by Shirley, Charlotte Greenwood, and Jackie Oakie to "Tra-La-La-La."

Uploaded to YouTube on June 14, 2009 by Univfoxx ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

"Young People": Rent or Buy with 1-Click® via Amazon

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Features film stills, many never-before-seen photographs, and personal snapshots of Shirley
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Shirley Temple: comfortable singing and tap dancing in a tux

Shirley Temple

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/13/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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