So Young, So Bad was one of the first juvenile delinquent movies to hit cinema – a trend that would grow through the 1950’s. It was directed by Bernard Vorhaus and stars Paul Henreid, and was the film debut of Rita Moreno and the first major screen role for Anne Francis.
The film begins with three girls fleeing from Elmview Corrective School for Girls, a reform school. Two manage to steal a truck and escape while the third hides nearby. The next day Dr. John Jason (Henreid), a psychiatrist on staff, is told to resign by Riggs (Cecil Clovelly), the chief of staff. Dr. Jason refuses and an investigation in the psychiatrist’s methods is begun. Dr. Jason reflects on the circumstances leading up to this day and the scene changes to his arrival at Elmview.
Against the wishes of Riggs, Dr. Jason, is hired to reduce the high rate of recidivism at Elmview. He meets several of the new arrivals and naively recommends treatments for them to Riggs and the other staff, who seem to listen to his advice. Ruth Levering (Catherine McLeod) the assistant superintendent, warns him however that his efforts will be futile. When he follows up and explores the school, Dr. Jason is shocked to discover that not only is his advice not being followed but the girls are forced to work as farm hands and in a sweatshop laundry, and are punished with solitary confinement if they refuse.
When he complains, Miss Levering, who had seemed sympathetic to the girls, refuses to back him up. Frustrated and realizing his work will do no good there, Dr. Jason considers resigning, much to the satisfaction of Riggs. The film then continues until it loops round the the opening and matters are somewhat resolved.