Summer Under the Stars: Bachelor Mother (1939)

TCM’s star of the day is Ginger Rogers, and my film pick for the actress is Bachelor Mother, which airs today at 6:15 P.M. (EST).

Salesgirl Polly Parrish (Ginger Rogers) is mistakenly presumed to be the mother of a foundling after discovering an abandoned baby on the steps of an orphanage. Though initially dismissed from her temporary job at the department store as the holiday season comes to a close, the store owner’s son David Merlin (David Niven) offers Polly a job, but only if she takes responsibility for the child. Unable to convince anyone that she is not, in fact, the mother, and desperate for work, Polly accepts his offer and takes care of the baby. But as Polly begins to spend more time with David, suspicions begin to rise on the child’s paternity.

As many film buffs know, the year 1939 is often proclaimed as “the greatest year in the history of Hollywood”. Of course, some of the most famous movies ever made were released in this very year, but among the big names such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, there are a number of hidden gems to be found, including this fun screwball comedy starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. Fortunately, the movie didn’t get completely lost in the shuffle at the time of its release and was a big hit for RKO, and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Story (it lost to another famous 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).

In between the musicals she made with Fred Astaire throughout the 1930s, Ginger Rogers kept herself busy and starred in a number of successful films, including 1937’s Stage Door with Katharine Hepburn and 1938’s Vivacious Lady with James Stewart. Bachelor Mother actually followed the release of what was presumed to be her last pairing with Astaire in the 1939 biopic musical The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (their last film together came 10 years later with The Barkleys of Broadway, their only film in Technicolor). As the decade was coming to an end, Rogers was building up to a career that was separate from her famous partnership, wanting to show she was a capable actress on her own. Her work ethic leading into the 1940s proved to be successful, as just a year after this film was released, she starred in Kitty Foyle as the title character, earning her one and only Oscar for Best Actress.

While the film has a holiday setting, taking place just after Christmas and past New Year’s Day, Bachelor Mother is a good movie to watch anytime of the year. It features one of Ginger Rogers’ best comedic, nonmusical roles, and equally wonderful work from David Niven, as well as Charles Coburn in a supporting role as his father. This is one of the most enjoyable films to come out of the screwball comedy genre, showing the life-changing effects of mistaken identities.

I wrote this as a part of the 2017 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon, where bloggers are celebrating the channel’s honorees and movies playing throughout the month. Click the banner below to read more posts!

 

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