Bachelor Mother (1939) / Bundle of Joy (1956)
Happy New Year everyone! If you’re like me your New Year’s Eve celebration consists of some special holiday foods and a movie, or two. And I’ve got just the right choice.
Bachelor Mother (1939)
Polly Parrish works as a saleslady at Merlin & Son’s department store for the holidays. But with the end of the Christmas season she finds she has more to worry about than the loss of her job. After being mistaken as the mother of an abandoned baby and unable to do anything but keep him, she soon becomes quite attached and unwilling to part with him, especially when John B. Merlin himself decides it’s his grandchild and should be in his hands. Despite having fallen for Merlin’s son, David, Polly must find a way to prove the baby belongs to her and keep him out of the hands of the elder Merlin.
Bachelor Mother is a comedy starring Ginger Rogers as the unexpected mother, David Niven as the spoiled playboy, and Charles Coburn as the grumpy “old man”. It’s a hilarious movie about circumstances out of control and people making quick assumptions. Ginger Rogers is at her best as usual, but this is not one of her musicals. She does dance but we are not given one of the spectacular routines she is so famous for. Having a knack for comedy as well as dancing, Rogers will not leave you disappointed in this one. And neither will David Niven or any of the rest.
Though this review is written of Bachelor Mother, it is nearly the same story line and plot as its musical remake Bundle of Joy. For more on this later movie, see below.
Merlin & Son employs many men and women in their large and prosperous department store, especially over the holiday season. One of them is a young woman named Polly Parrish. Having been employed only through the Christmas season, Polly receives her last paycheck. Resigned to her fate, she starts for the employment agency and passes an foundling home on the way. She sees a woman leaving a small baby on the steps and hurries to grab the baby before it rolls off. Entering the building with the baby, Polly is mistaken as a mother unable to care for her baby, and despite everything she tries to tell them, they return the baby to her. With a final denial, she leaves the baby at the home and returns to work. But that afternoon she is called in to see the boss. Having been told where she worked, the people at the foundling home have taken it upon themselves to speak to her boss, or in this case, the bosses’ son David, and encouraged him to help her financially so that she can keep and provide for her baby. She meets David Merlin who tells her they are giving her back her job for as long as she wants it as well as a raise of salary. Stunned, Polly is incredibly grateful but she can’t understand this new and unexpected kindness. Added to all this she is told she will receive her real Christmas present when she goes home that night.
Polly makes a date to go dancing with Freddie, a fellow employee, hoping to win the prize money but that night the knock at the door is not Freddie but two people from the children’s home and the baby. She insists the baby is not hers but they leave him anyway, threatening to tell her boss of her reaction. While trying to figure out what to do, Freddie arrives. After failing to conceal the presence of the baby, Polly finally has the idea to leave the child with David Merlin, saying the baby is as much as his responsibility as it is hers. Freddie obviously gets the wrong idea but Polly doesn’t realize it. When David comes downstairs and finds the baby with the butler he is furious and chases after her.
Returning home after the dance, Polly and Freddie enter her apartment to find David and the baby waiting. Freddie makes a quick getaway, and David doesn’t waste any time in telling Polly how low-down she is. Just like the others, he doesn’t believe her when she says the baby isn’t hers and threatens to ruin her chances at ever finding a job again. Leaving her no alternative, Polly decides to tell him what he wants to hear and makes up a story about her husband abusing and then leaving her. Now more sympathetic, David gives her back her job and leaves her on better terms than he arrived.
Resigned to the baby and becoming quickly attached, Polly learns the hardships of caring for a baby, as well as the joys. She and the baby are occasionally visited by David who brings her a book on how to “scientifically” care for babies.
Meanwhile, Freddie with his mistaken ideas, tries to get Polly to get him a better position in the store since she’s in tight with the bosses son. Of course, Polly has no idea what he’s alluding to and eventually when he doesn’t get what he wants he decides to take matters into his hands.
New Year’s Eve arrives and David is stood up. So he goes to Polly’s and convinces her to go out with him. They spend the evening together and soon realize they are more than a little attracted to each other, but Polly can see that the baby is a bit of a problem for David.
The next morning, Mr. Merlin receives a note from a “friend” telling him that he has a grandson. David suspiciously runs off so Mr. Merlin follows and finds David with Polly and the baby in the park. Teary eyed, the old man asks to hold the baby. David and Polly can’t understand his emotion but suddenly, when his father leaves, they both realize what he must of thought.
David does his best to tell his father the truth but the old man won’t have any of it. He tells him he is going to take the baby and there is nothing anyone can do about it. When Polly hears this though she becomes afraid. She realizes she could very well lose her baby so she has the landlady help her get everything ready to leave. Unfortunately she is not fast enough. Both Merlin’s arrive looking for her and when David finds her he tells her how much he loves her and doesn’t want her to leave. Mr. Merlin takes this as his admitting the truth and says it’s time to take the baby home. David still believes the baby is really Polly’s but he loves her anyway. And Polly is happy to have David and her baby, and no more worries.
Bundle of Joy (1956)
In the 1956 remake, the roles are played by Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. The plot, though similar, is rearranged a bit to fit in the music they perform, and they do a swell job at it. A little more enthusiastic about life, Debbie tries to awe the business with her saleslady skills, though not quite succeeding, and Eddie Fisher takes the playboy role to all-new musical bounds.
Both versions have their good points so I can’t tell you, for once, which I like best. My recommendation? See them both. And don’t forget to tell me what you think!
Have a blessed New Year!