Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just ten baby fingers and ten baby toes--Troubles? Scandal?--Gosh--Nobody Knows

Bachelor Mother (1939)

My first encounter with the beautiful, talented Ginger Rogers was as a little girl watching the 1965 version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella.  (No.  I was not alive in 1965.  At least, not in this lifetime.)  I remember being enamored with this elegant, blonde woman playing the Queen.  I also recall my mother telling me that she had been a very famous dancer.  Famous dancer, indeed.  Rogers was 54 at the time.

Bachelor Mother (1939) is the first non-musical I ever saw Ginger Rogers in.  All of her big roles up until Stage Door in 1937 had primarily been in musicals, initially those of the Busby Berkeley variety, and later, her famed films with Fred Astaire. It's fascinating to watch her incredible skills as a brilliant comedienne in this witty comedy, knowing that only a year later she would win the Oscar for the title character in the drama Kitty Foyle (1940).

Directed by the fantastic Garson Kanin, Bachelor Mother tells the story of Polly Parrish (played by a sparkling, sensational Rogers), a woman who loses her seasonal job at Merlin's Department Store (akin to Macy's) after the holidays.  While out and about searching for a new job, she happens upon a foundling outside of an orphanage (umm, Merry Christmas?) which everyone, of course, assumes is actually hers.  Complications ensue when David Merlin (played by David Niven), Polly's former boss, finds out he's recently fired a single mother with a baby, and decides to give her her job back.  Things really get out of control when Merlin's father, J.B. (Charles Coburn), thinks that the baby has been fathered by David. 

Still with me, there?

While there are some excellent performances by the fantastically dapper David Niven (who is an excellent comedian in his own right) and Charles Coburn, it's clear that this is Ginger Rogers' movie.  This events that happen in this film are so unlikely, and yet because Rogers is so endearing, you believe all of it.  Rogers knew how to play realistic, street-smart working girls, but she always imbued them with class.   She's not only beautiful and charming in this film, but funny and intelligent. Ginger Rogers is at the top of her game here -- absolute perfection. 

The Memorable Quotes:

  • "Hey, hey.  Take your finger out of your mouth.  You want your teeth to grow crooked?" - Polly.  To an infant.
  • FREDDIE: (upon seeing the baby) Well, what did it do, crawl through the wall?
    POLLY: Oh, don't be silly.
    FREDDIE: Is it, uh, is it yours?
    POLLY: No, it's not mine!
    FREDDIE: Well, where'd it come from?
    POLLY: I got it for Christmas.
    FREDDIE: Well, this Christmas or last Christmas?
  • "Goodbye, baby.  You certainly are cute!" - Polly
  • "Ha-ha." - Polly
  • DAVID: Well, how'd you like her?
    LOUISE: She's not bad for a fill-in.  Personally, I'd just as soon go stag.
    POLLY: You could, too, with those shoulders.

The Favorite Scenes:
  •  The dance contest at The Pink Slipper.  It's always nice to see Ginger Rogers strutting her stuff, but the real treat here is watching David Niven cut a rug. 
  • The scene where David tries to convince Polly to rub oatmeal into the baby's navel is COMEDY GOLD. 
  • The New Year's Eve scene sparkles with razor-sharp wit.  Polly's "Swedish" is priceless.

The "Miscellaneous Other":
  • Shout-out regarding the appearance of Dennie Moore in the role of Polly's co-worker at Merlin's.  1939 was good to Moore -- that year, she also played the role of Olga, the blabbering manicurist, in the film version of Clare Booth Luce's The Women.  
  • Another shout-out to my homie Frank Albertson as Fred.  Albertson is best-known to audiences as Sam Wainwright in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) ... HEE-HAW!

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