Hoodlum Girls, originally Youth Aflame (October 10, 1944)
Released on October 10, 1944: One teenage sister searches for the wild life with a boyfriend who loves nigntclubs and crime, while her younger sister tries to get her to finish high school and forget about nightclubs and crime.
Produced by J.D. Kendis
Directed by Elmer Clifton
Written by Helen Kiely and Elmer Clifton
The Actors: Joy Reese (Katy White), Warren Burr (Frank Monahan), Kay Morley (Laura White), Michael Owen (Al Simpson), Rod Rogers (Lester), Edwin Brian (Harry Ketchall), Julie Duncan (Peggy Baker), Sheila Roberts (Jitterbug dancer), Johnny Duncan (Jitterbug dancer), Ed Cassidy (Mr. White), Mary Arden (Amy Clark, juvenile police officer), Duke Johnson (nightclub manager Tom), Lindsay Bourquin (member of the novelty act One Good Turn Deserves Another), Laverne Thompson (member of the novelty act One Good Turn Deserves Another), Betty Phares (member of the novelty act One Good Turn Deserves Another), Karl Kiffe (Jive Club drummer), Don Weston (entertainer Don Weston, bartender)
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Teen Girls at the Jive Club, or Never put the Punch Bowl Next to the Window
This 1944 drama would make a fine episode of a family television show like Leave it to Beaver, or The Waltons, or whatever family show is currently popular that features teenagers and their problems of moving from childhood to adulthood. A great way to spend an idle rainy afternoon or evening. Before you watch, let me tell you about a couple of the actors.
The stars of the story are two teenage sisters, one still very much an ‘innocent’ child, and the other a wild girl who wants the fast life with the hip boys that like nightclubs, booze and crime. Before you watch, you might need a tutorial on the teenage language of 1944 when ‘hashtag’ was just a ‘pound sign’.
The teens living in Detroit need a place to spend their idle time and policewoman Mrs. Clark suggests that they set up a Jive Club for the teenagers. What is ‘Jive’ you ask? Jive is the slang word for the new style of dancing that was replacing the slow dancing, cheek-to-cheek swirls of their parents. At the Jive Club the poison ivy girls can maybe snag a stag . . . . You’re on your own for that one.
Between the dialogue of the story we will enjoy some of the nightclub entertainment of the day. First up is seventeen-year-old Karl Kiffe, a drummer who would later play for the folk who made Las Vegas famous, like Dinah Shore, Wayne Newton, Andy Williams and others. Karl's son gave me permission to share a snippet from his father's autobiography:
“In January of 1994 I heard a rumor that there was going to be a Woody Herman Alumni Concert on May 8, 1994. So I made an appointment with the director of the UNLV music department - Dr. Ken Hanlon.”
“I went to him with an 8 by 10 picture of me and Woody. He told me he had been reading a book by Bill Crow called Jazz anecdotes. He was in bed at the time and his wife had already fallen asleep. He told me that he had come to a funny, sarcastic remark I laid on Les and Larry Elgart. At a rehearsal in NYC Les Elgart said to me, "Karl, when the band starts to swing would you go to your 'Ride Cymbal?'". I said, "When the band starts to swing would you raise your hand?". He laughed out loud and awakened his wife. We hit it off well so I got the job.”
In the teenage Jive Club a teenage girl and boy display the newest rage, the Jitterbug. The 21 year old boy is Johnny Duncan. As a youngster in the Great Depression he learned to dance and would enter dance contests and teach tap dancing for enough money to save his parents’ farm. Johnny started acting, and would appear in movies with the East Side Kids, Humphry Bogart and Rita Hayworth, and later became good friends and spent his time on the weekends with Jimmy Cagney, Lee Marvin anc Clark Gable. Johnny just passed at the age of 92 this past February (2016).
There are more fascinating facts about the actors and performers in this story, but they will wait until another time. For now, it is time to pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Ed Cassidy, Joy Reese and Warren Burr
Joy Reese and Kay Morley
Joy Reese and Rod Rogers
Joy Reese and Warren Burr
Joy Reese in the hospital
Kay Morley and Michael Owen
Peter Cookson, Almira Sessions and Nestor Paiva
Kay Morley at the nightclub
Lindsay Bourquin, Laverne Thompson and Betty Phares
Mary Arden and Duke Johnson
Rod Rogers and an actress called 'Helen'
Sheila Roberts and Johnny Duncan