Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Young Marrieds Odyssey, Part Four by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood dedicated his final film to documenting the sex lives of the younger generation.

Ed Wood's last stand as a feature film director.
This week, I am again turning my attention to Ed Wood's last-known feature, a hardcore pornographic film from 1972 called The Young Marrieds. There's a lot to talk about here. For instance, I've already discussed the movie's various releases on home video as well as some of its Los Angeles filming locations. This time, however, it's the movie's very title that concerns me.

Every now and then, that rather odd turn of phrase—"young marrieds"—piques my curiosity and sends me on a search. This particular pairing of words remains sparsely used in the English lexicon, with most appearances clustered from the mid-1960s through the early '70s. It is quite uncommon today even to see "marrieds" used as a plural noun. But, half a century or so ago, the term "young marrieds" popped up in a fair number of newspaper articles and ads and was even used as the title of a 1961 novel by Judith Heiman.

Back then, the press identified young marrieds as a large and promising consumer base, marked by their increased likelihood of possessing college educations and their subsequently enhanced earning power. Having come of age during the postwar Populuxe era of the 1950s, these youngsters seemed poised to buy even more than their parents' generation had. The natural flip side to this acquisitiveness—and a theme commonly addressed in the popular literature of the time—is that young marrieds would accrue debt beyond their means. And so they did, but not before Ed Wood named a movie in their honor.

Never a man with great financial acumen, Ed typically throws socioeconomics to the wayside in The Young Marrieds, instead exploring the sexual hang-ups of the new generation, whose members were far better situated in those permissive times to explore their sexuality than their more conservative forebears. 

Judging by these 1960s clippings, "young marrieds" were the millennials of their day.

Title card from the ABC soap opera.
All of this is mere preamble to a surprising discovery I made only recently: from 1964 to 1966, ABC ran a black-and-white soap opera called (you guessed it!) The Young Marrieds. Depending on which source you believe, the series lasted either 380 or 382 half-hour episodes. I suspect this connection had already been made by other Woodologists but had somehow slipped past me, unnoticed or unreckoned, until just now.

Be that as it may, the now-forgotten show ran mostly in late morning time slots (plus a few afternoons) on ABC affiliates across the country. It was a spin-off, in fact, of the massively popular General Hospital, which still airs today as one of the last surviving soaps on network television.

The Young Marrieds took place in the fictional town of Queen's Point, a suburb of GH's mythical Port Charles. Still to this day on General Hospital, the occasional character hailing from Queen's Point will pass through Port Charles. Otherwise, once it was cancelled, The Young Marrieds seems to have entirely disappeared in the ether of the pop culture, never to be re-aired. The UCLA Film and Television Archives holds a mere seven episodes, likely all that remains of the series. When Ed Wood made a movie called The Young Marrieds in 1972, the ABC series of the same name would have been just barely visible in the nation's rear view mirror.

By 1973, however, this new generation of young marrieds was already beginning to decline as a sociological and economic force, their higher divorce rates and lower birth rates foiling the hopes of the corporations. The term would all but disappear from use by the mid-'70s, and those same corporations would adapt by learning to profit from debt, a proven business model as it remains sustainable to this day. 

It seems of little sociological significance, in retrospect, that an aging pornographer appropriated the term "young marrieds" for his final, ignoble feature. More telling, perhaps, the title could explain the crazy scene in Ed's movie in which frustrated housewife Ginny (Alice Friedland) masturbates while watching a soap opera in her living room. The fact that there really was a soap opera called The Young Marrieds makes this scene an irreverent inside joke. And, given this Wikipedia summary of the series, there seems to be yet another direct link between the TV show and the movie, since both feature characters with the surname Garrett. To wit:
The Young Marrieds focused on the conflicts between three married couples in the suburban community of Queen's Point. Dr. Dan Garrett and his wife Susan Garrett, commercial artist Walter Reynolds and his wife Ann Reynolds, and Matt Stevens and Liz Stevens, a young couple who were engaged and ready to begin their married life together. 

Featuring just a handful of actors whose names are still recognizable today—including Charles Grodin, Ted Knight and Lee MeriwetherThe Young Marrieds ended its abbreviated run on ABC with an unresolved cliffhanger. This is appropriate, since Ed's film, too, ends on a note of uncertainty. Namely, would-be suburban swinger Ben Garrett (Dick Burns, aka Louis Wolf) has to decide whether to engage in homosexual activity at an orgy or just walk away.

We'll never know Ben's ultimate decision. What's your guess?

P.S. This 1964 ABC promo reel includes some footage from The Young Marrieds. And keep an eye out for Ed Wood regular Timothy Farrell (Glen or Glenda, The Violent Years, Jail Bait), appearing on the likewise forgotten Day in Court