These Wilder Years

These Wilder Years is a 1956 American drama film directed by Roy Rowland and starring James Cagney and Barbara Stanwyck. It is the story of a businessman who tries to find the illegitimate son he gave up to an orphanage many years ago.

These Wilder Years
Directed byRoy Rowland
Produced byJules Schermer
Written byRalph Wheelwright (story)
Frank Fenton
StarringJames Cagney
Barbara Stanwyck
Walter Pidgeon
Music byJeff Alexander
CinematographyGeorge J. Folsey
Edited byBen Lewis
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 17, 1956 (1956-08-17)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$877,000[1]

The film marked the first and only onscreen pairing of Hollywood stars Cagney and Stanwyck.


A Detroit business tycoon, Steve Bradford, tells his board of directors without explanation that he is taking a leave of absence. He travels to his small hometown, where it turns out that his goal is to find a son he put up for adoption 20 years before.

Steve turns to Ann Dempster, who runs an orphanage, explaining how he has achieved success in life, but feels a void left by his absent and unknown son. Ann explains that she is ethically required to conceal the identity of foster children and parents. Steve tries charming her, cajoling, even bribing, to no avail, then brings in his lawyer, James Rayburn, to seek other ways of finding the boy.

Although he has befriended Ann, he betrays her with a charge of fraud, resulting in a courtroom hearing that could cost her both her vocation and reputation. A furious Ann digs up records that prove how Steve specifically expressed no wish to ever see his child 20 years before.

At the orphanage, meantime, he strikes up an acquaintance with a young lady, Suzie, expecting a baby, abandoned by the child's father. Steve takes a personal interest in the girl, particularly after she is involved in an auto accident and needs surgery that she fears could endanger the baby.

With the case dismissed and overcome with guilt, Steve goes bowling. He is approached by a young man named Mark Nelson, who turns out to be his missing son. Nelson claimed he had been following the progress of the trial. They have a heart to heart talk and part with no plans to be in each other's lives. Steve believes that this seemingly coincidental meeting was privately arranged by Ann,out of the goodness of her heart, which turns out to be true. Steve adopts Suzie so she doesn't have to give up her child. Suzie names her son after him.


Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $572,000 in the US and Canada and $305,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $600,000.[1]

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.

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