BACHELOR MOTHER (Garson Kanin, 1939)

Borrowing the ”Lubitsch touch” and an altogether Continental air, Garson Kanin’s charming, lovely, droll Bachelor Mother delights as it unwinds a tricky plot.  Polly Parrish is mistaken for an unwed mother abandoning her infant when she is caught holding the precious bundle on the steps of the foundling home where it has been left. Polly was intending, simply, to deliver the anonymous little stranger to the agency; nevertheless, those in charge at the foundlimg home insist she must be the mother. Therefore, they send her and baby packing, and even go so far as to enlist the aid of Polly’s boss at the department store where she is a Christmastime clerk, who makes her seasonal job permanent and gives her a modest raise to help her raise the baby. Meanwhile, poor Polly guesses wrong the gender of “her” child, because Hays forbid she should take a peek!

This wonderful comedy, brilliantly written by Norman Krasna from a
story by Felix Jackson, proceeds by misunderstandings. Just as David Merlin, the boss, misperceives Polly to be the mother of “John,” his father, who owns the store, mistakes David for the father of the baby—but, by this time, Polly has grown to love the child and won’t give him up to anyone, including Grandpa Merlin, who insists the baby looks just like him. However, a happy ending is brewing; for, by this time, David has fallen in love with Polly, who isn’t averse to David, either.

Along the way, the film offers shrewd glimpses of capitalistic arrogance and presumption, class collision, and the weight of the Depression on ordinary lives.

David Niven is at his nimblest as David, Even so, the film’s principal asset is the warm, sparkling acting of Ginger Rogers as Polly. Damn! No right-winger appeared in more leftist films than Ginger, who, when Polly is jitterbugging in a dance contest, flashes her fabulous legs as she never did with Fred Astaire.

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