Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Something of an urbanized, upscale version of Peyton Place, Vincent Sherman's The Young Philadelphians is a glossy adaptation of Richard Powell's bestselling novel The Philadelphians that revels in melodrama. The film opens strongly, with a lengthy 1924 prologue. Socialite Kate Lawrence (Diane Brewster) jilts impoverished lover Mike Flannagan (Brian Keith) in favor of wealthy William Lawrence (Adam West). On their wedding night, William drunkenly announces that he's impotent and commits suicide (this scene should fascinate Batman fans). Returning to Mike, Kate has a child by him, Tony. The boy grows up amid an atmosphere of dire poverty, which imparts him with a relentless drive for success. Flash forward to 1952: the out-of-wedlock kid, Tony, has grown up (now played by Paul Newman) and still doesn't know that he was an illegitimate child. Tony attends Princeton Law School, and falls in love with rich girl Joan Dickinson (Barbara Rush). Via the doings of Joan's father, wealthy Gilbert Dickinson (John Williams), Tony ends up taking a cushy job in a law office, at the expense of the relationship. The heartbroken Joan marries Carter Henley (Fred Eisley) on the rebound, who is conveniently killed in Korea. Tony then begins spending a prodigious amount of time with Carol Wharton (Alexis Smith), wife of attorney John Wharton (Otto Kruger), so that she will persuade John to find Tony a better job. Soon it's Tony's turn to fight in Korea; when he returns, the opportunity arises for Tony to redeem himself for his past misdeeds. Watch for Richard "Mel Cooley" Deacon in a bit as a hostile witness.
ambition, lawyer, greed, materialism, upward-mobility, wealth, career, murder, moral-conflict