Posts Tagged ‘Garson Kanin’

My Classic Movie Pick: Bachelor Mother

For a light-hearted romance comedy, one couldn’t pick a better  movie than 1939′s Bachelor Mother, which stars Ginger Rogers, David Niven, and Charles Coburn.  The true subject matter, that of an abandoned baby, is a serious one but deftly handled in this film.  Bachelor Mother Rogers portrays Polly Parrish, a hard-working and clever shopgirl for the John B. Merlin and Son Department store in NYC.  The need for employees is great as the Christmas shopping season is right at hand, yet Polly has just learned that her position will be cut once the holiday is past.  On her lunch break, she sees an abandoned baby placed on the steps of an orphanage and she rushes to stop the baby as it is about to roll down the steps and land in the street.  At that moment, a worker at the orphanage opens the front door, and seeing Polly with the baby, assumes that  she is the mother.  Polly protests that she is not the mother and walks away after handing them the baby.  The workers decide to track down Polly and they find out she works at the department store.  While looking for her there, the “Son” in the store’s title, David Merlin(David Niven) is told about this unwed mother shopgirl and decides to find out how the store can help her out in her situation.  He arranges for Polly to keep her job.  Polly’s landlady gets involved when she offers to babysit the baby while Polly is at work, so being unable to convince anyone that she is not the baby’s mother, Polly decides to take the baby in and become his mother.

Polly learning to care for and love the baby.

Polly learning to care for and love the baby.

Polly denying that she is the mother.

Polly denying that she is the mother.

The comedic part of the film is that the store’s owner, J. B. Merlin(Charles Coburn), is tired of his playboy son’s ways and wants him to settle down and get married and provide him with some grandchildren.  David’s character undergoes the most change as we see him in the film’s beginning content with his playboy lifestyle until he meets the wise and pretty Polly.  It is fun to see the impact her character has on his and how this starts the wheels in turning him away from his carefree existance.  There are mistaken identities, a disgruntled stock clerk who wants to use Polly’s predicament in order to blackmail David Merlin and all of these shenanigans add up to a fun movie viewing experience.

J. B. hoping that this baby is really his grandson!

J. B. hoping that this baby is really his grandson!

David checking in on Polly and the baby.

David checking in on Polly and the baby.

Bachelor Mother was distributed by RKO Studios.  It cost the studio $500,000 to make the film and it earned almost $2,000,000 in box office profits.  Directed by Garson Kanin, screenplay by Norman Krasna, which actually came from a 1935 Austrian-Hungarian movie, The Little Mother, written by Felix Jackson.  Bachelor Mother is available via Amazon.com, there are several scenes including a fine summing up of the movie’s plot by a fan on Youtube, and on Saturday, August 24th, Turner Classic Movies will air it at 4:30 pm(ET)/3:30 pm(CT).

A second Bachelor Mother publicity still.

A second Bachelor Mother publicity still.

Publicity still for Bachelor Mother

Publicity still for Bachelor Mother

My Classic Movie Pick: My Favorite Wife

My Favorite Wife

My Favorite Wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What would you do if you were in this predicament?  Your lovely wife was on board a ship that was lost at sea.  Seven years pass and during that interim you’ve been working hard at your law career  and you’ve met a new woman to be a wife and mother to your children.  Seven years is the legal amount of time that has to pass before you can have someone missing declared legally dead, so you go to a judge you know and have your first wife declared legally dead.  Now you are free to marry your new lady love, and you do so.  On the afternoon of your wedding day, right before you and wife #2 are to leave for your honeymoon, guess what?  Wife #1 appears!  She’s alive and well, and was stuck on a deserted island for these past seven years!  What would you do?  This is the plot for a delightful comedy called My Favorite Wife, released in 1940, by RKO Studios.

Cary Grant plays Nick Arden, our hero-lawyer of the movie, and Irene Dunne is Ellen, wife #1.  Gail Patrick is Bianca, wife #2, and Randolph Scott portrays Stephen Burkett, a handsome man who also survived the same shipwreck as Ellen, and was on the deserted island with her.  A fact that Ellen humorously tries to keep Nick from finding out about.

Nick has a major problem on his hands; wife #1 isn’t dead, so legally they are still married, yet he has just married a second wife, who has no idea that Ellen has resurfaced.  He has to find  a way to break the news gently to Bianca, who is puzzled as to why they haven’t left for their honeymoon yet, so she calls in a psychiatrist, Dr. Kohlmar,  to come out to Nick’s house and try to talk with him about his reluctance to get on with the honeymoon!

Ellen, meanwhile, doesn’t want Nick to know about Stephen, her island buddy, so she recruits a mild-mannered, shy shoe salesman to pretend to be Stephen so Nick won’t feel jealous.  However, an insurance adjustor contacts  Nick and tells him that there is a rumor going around town that Ellen wasn’t alone on that deserted island and that she and her island buddy called each other, “Adam and Eve”.  Nick decides to track down this  island buddy and discovers for himself that Stephen Burkett is strong, athletic, and quite handsome!  Nick, while dealing with Bianca and Dr. Kohlmar, has a new problem crop up when the police arrive at his home to arrest him for bigamy!

This film is what is termed a “Screwball Comedy” as the situations that the characters find themselves in are so funny and utterly unbelievable.  The film was directed by Garson Kanin, produced by Leo McCarey, and written by Leo McCarey, Samuel Spewack and Bella Spewack.  It was loosely based upon a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Enoch Arden”, about a sailor lost at sea, who survives on a deserted island for seven years, only to be rescued, returns home to find his wife remarried to his best childhood friend, and with a new child by the new husband.  The poem has a sad, yet noble ending.  Fortunately for us  the movie has a better ending; the entire movie  is a delightful romp of comedy and romance.  It did earn a big box office profit  for RKO, and it was nominated for 3 Academy Awards: Best Story, Best Musical Score, and Best Art Direction.

Cary Grant displays his comedic timing to perfection in this film, trying to keep all the plates spinning, so to speak, before they all come crashing down.  Irene Dunne is  great as Ellen, trying to convince her husband that she still loves him, despite being stuck on a deserted island with the very handsome Stephen.  The supporting players all do really well with their parts, portraying their characters with sincerity, and believability.

The film was such a hit, that in 1962 Twentieth Century Fox began filming a remake, titled Something’s Got to Give, with Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, and Cyd Charisse reprising  the roles.  Monroe was eventually fired for not showing up to film her scenes, Martin quit when the studio attempted to refill Monroe’s part, and the project was shelved.  After Monroe’s death, the studio recast the movie with Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen and retitled it Move Over, Darling, releasing it in 1963.  It is a funny movie too, in color,with songs by Doris Day  but for my taste, I prefer the original with Cary and Irene.

So pop up a big batch of popcorn, grab a soda and a comfy spot to sit.  My Favorite Wife is available for sale at Amazon, it will be  shown on Turner Classic Movies on February 12th, and it is available to rent from Netflix.

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