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Movie Recommendation #4: Young Man With A Horn

If you have been reading my past few years of posts about Cluster Bs and codependents and find them interesting, and most importantly, if you personally relate at all to those posts, I highly recommend you watch the movie I’m recommending today, Young Man With A Horn. It airs tommorow (Wednesday, March 20) on the cable network Turner Classic Movies at 11:45 AM. Set your DVRs.

There is a popular archetype of the girl who chooses bad boys and jerks over good guys, but not enough attention gets paid to the guy who chooses bitches over good girls, especially when the bitch is scorching hot. But it’s far more common than people acknowledge, and this movie touches on that. It shows how a musician, played by Kirk Douglas, who has some codependent tendencies (he’s not a doormat in life generally, but does have some abandonment issues from childhood that signify he has anxious attachment issues), and the chemistry he has with a Cluster B woman, played by Lauren Bacall. The psychodynamics between the two are incredibly well-done and true to life, and I was very impressed by the screenplay as a result.

One of my favorite scenes of the movie, if not the favorite scene, is this one where the idealization has worn off and the devaluation has set it in:

Something this movie touches on, that I haven’t gone into much detail yet on the blog but plan to eventually, is how narcissists and other Cluster Bs are often consumed with envy and jealousy of their codependents, even though on the surface they never let it show. Even the codependent himself would be shocked to realize the extent to which the narcissist is jealous of them, but this jealousy is actually a major reason for much of the abuse that comes in the relationship. In this movie, Bacall’s character is a sophisticated, spoiled intellectual with all the “right” friends, all the “right” clothes, who goes to all the “right” parties and lives in all the “right” places, but because her world is so externally-defined, she has no “core” or true value system or passions. She lives her life directionlessly and in full contempt of others who do have passions and core beliefs and real human connection. Much of her disdain for Kirk Douglas’s character comes from the fact that he has a calling, has a passion for it, pursues it relentlessly without holding anything back to preserve his ego or save face, and has real human connections.

Since she is too emotionally immature and spiritually lazy to undergo the discomfort and risk needed to achieve true growth, she needs to surround herself with people she feels she can leech that energy from. What happens instead though is she just ends up trying to destroy them instead in order to feel better. She “punishes” them for having passion and not being empty like she is. Their very existence not only fails to empower her like she hopes during the idealization stage, but it starts reminding her of what a fraud she is and how she’s not as superior as she pretends to be after all, which makes her start to abuse them during the devaluation stage.

This movie is not just good because of how psychologically rich it is; it’s also a fun, well-written and well-directed movie that’s generally enjoyable to watch just for entertainment value. I’m eventually going to do a full-scale deconstruction of this movie, so I recommend you DVR and watch it now so that you won’t be lost.

Again, it airs tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20, at 11:45 AM on Turner Classic Movies.

4 Responses to “Movie Recommendation #4: Young Man With A Horn”


  1. Hey T,

    It’s very interesting to me when I read this site and I see these deconstructions of movies like this, with all the analysis and psycho dynamics involved.

    I remember reading something you wrote about Mad Men and feeling really embarrassed because I never even realized what a Narcissist Don was! I was just watching the flash suits and fancy dialogue with no understanding of the underlying structure.

    Its interesting to me because I remember someone really smart said if you watch a scene and you feel sad, you wouldn’t feel it if the actor didn’t feel sad too. I guess also the film wouldn’t feel right if we couldn’t identify (unconsciously or otherwise) the characters as being narcissists or codependents or in some way “real”, no matter how far fetched the plot might be. I was wondering what your opinion was on scriptwriters and directors and if you felt many of them had understood and studied this stuff intellectually? Or do you think its more of an intuitive sense of people that leads to the same breathtaking results?

    It also seems like a lot of older movies have better characterization and tend to rely more on emotional drama and more in-depth portrayals of the character. Do you think that’s so or am I being nostalgic?


  2. Hi raw

    I’m on turner network now on directtv. But instead the eddy buchin story’s on.


  3. Damn, I forgot to mention eastern/Atlantic time. My bad.


  4. yeah man got to put the ET on there. I got lucky and still caught and I saw how bacall character kept chipping away at his passion for playing because of her failures to become a doctor. I remember reading the novel and how he died at the end due to his excess. I still liked the movie tho

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