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The Young Savages (1961)

A D.A. investigates 3 white teenagers accused of murdering a blind Puerto Rican kid.


John Frankenheimer


Edward Anhalt (screenplay), J.P. Miller (screenplay) (as JP Miller) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Hank Bell
Dina Merrill ... Karin Bell
Edward Andrews ... R. Daniel Cole
Vivian Nathan Vivian Nathan ... Mrs. Escalante
Shelley Winters ... Mary diPace
Larry Gates ... Randolph
Telly Savalas ... Detective Lt. Gunderson
Pilar Seurat Pilar Seurat ... Louisa Escalante
Jody Fair Jody Fair ... Angela Rugiello
Roberta Shore ... Jenny Bell
Milton Selzer ... Dr. Walsh
Robert Burton ... Judge
David J. Stewart David J. Stewart ... Barton
Stanley Kristien Stanley Kristien ... Danny diPace
John Davis Chandler ... Arthur Reardon


A district attorney investigates the racially charged case of three teenagers accused of the murder of a blind Puerto Rican boy. He begins to discover that the facts in the case aren't exactly as they seem to be. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Young and the Damned...Who Grow in the Cracks of the Concrete Jungle! See more »


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English | Italian | Spanish

Release Date:

24 May 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die jungen Wilden See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Contemporary Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


During the commentary she did for the DVD of Sunday Showcase: What Makes Sammy Run?: Part 1 (1959) Dina Merrill said that the treatment she received from director John Frankenheimer on this picture nearly drove her out of the business. He literally told her at the end of a days' filming that she was the worst actress he'd ever worked with. She said she went home in tears. It got so bad that her co-star Burt Lancaster came to her defense one morning by ridiculing the directors' "good mood" as evidenced by the fact that he hadn't insulted Dina yet. See more »


After Hank Bell is attacked by the gang in the subway car, the next shot opens with the doctor in the emergency room examining a chest x-ray that is obviously reversed. See more »


Referenced in Portraits chinois (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

Visually, emotionally, critically intense...an overlooked jewel
13 April 2011 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Young Savages (1961)

Released six months before "West Side Story," this elegant story of New York gang violence in the ghettos of uptown Manhattan is as powerful, and as beautiful. And the title makes clear that the movie is pointing to a new social problem, the immigrant gangs (Italian and Puerto Rican in this case). But in most ways "The Young Savages" couldn't be more different.

At the heart of it all is district attorney Hank Bell, previously Bellini, played by Burt Lancaster in what struck me as possibly the most subtle role in his career. That's an absurd thing to know for sure, and Lancaster is so good so often it's easier to just say he is terrific, but if you know him from some noir films or from "Birdman of Alcatraz" or "Judgement at Nuremberg" you might know a more overtly dramatic actor. Here he is restrained in a perfect way, his pauses and his turned head adding depth to his apparent struggle with how to get at the truth as the events and the witnesses start to swirl out of control. A virtuosic performance.

The themes are hot topic issues layered with good old fashioned love and loyalty. Mostly we have first and second generation immigrant trying to define themselves, to stake out a place in the city, and to fend off competing immigrant groups and sometimes invade their territory. Bell's own Italian-American background makes him understand the problems of youth violence from the inside, but he has avoided being identified as Italian, and even his wife doesn't quite accept him as an immigrant, but wants to see him as more like her, a Vassar girl. Which he is not, even if sometimes he passes as a Yankee or as an old stock New Yorker.

Much of the movie is that wonderful quite and deliberate investigation of the crime, the facts, the witnesses, the evidence. And we see this through Bell's eyes. The last long section is pure courtroom drama, and it's as good as courtroom dramas get, gutsy and tense. In the biggest sense, real justice is achieved, even at the expense of some reputations or expectations around the D.A. (who of course is supposed to always want and get the death penalty). By the final turns of events, you see the story is really about a single man who struggles against his own bias and does the right thing, and does it well. Director John Frankenheimer once again pulls off a movie with social significance that doesn't forget it's roots in theatrical drama.

Cinematographer Lionel Lindon is an old pro, starting with some 1940s boilerplate movies sprinkled with some gems ("The Blue Dahlia" is a great one) and then scores of television shows. And the next year, 1962, he shot "The Manchurian Candidate" which succeeds partly for its amazing visual pizazz. Here, there are both moments of beauty and of cacophony. The fight scenes, and the dazzling murder that starts the movie off, are mini-masterpieces. But even quiet moments are given anxiety and drama by shooting at sharp angles or by moving in close. It's quite a beautiful experience to watch this, even as the events are tumultuous.

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