The Flaws and Charms of ‘Bachelor Mother’ and its remake ‘Bundle of Joy’

In Hollywood nowadays, remakes are more common than superhero movies and that’s saying something. But, of course, they made remakes even in the good ol’ days and the films I want to discuss are a prime example. Those films are the 1939 screwball comedy, Bachelor Mother, and its 1956 musical remake, Bundle of Joy.

During December, TCM showed all the great holiday movies and these two were included. I had already seen Bachelor Mother a few years ago when I went through my whole Ginger Rogers obsession. Bundle of Joy, on the other hand, was a new discovery. When I started watching it, I didn’t realize it was a straight-up remake with singing.

If you’re unfamiliar, both Bachelor Mother and Bundle of Joy follow Polly Parrish, (Ginger Rogers and Debbie Reynolds, respectively), a department store clerk. On Christmas, she gets fired. While looking for a job, she sees a baby on the doorstep and after picking it up for a moment, is mistaken as its mother. No matter what she does, she can’t seem to convince anyone that it’s not her baby. Then David Merlin (David Niven and Eddie Fisher, respectively), the heir to the department store, gets involved and their screwball romance begins.

So, in honor of Debbie Reynolds and because I can’t get enough of Ginger Rogers, I thought it’d be fun to compare and contrast the two films, both their flaws and their charms:

Casting, Casting, Casting

Polly Parrish

In the original film, Ginger Rogers played the Polly Parrish role. Rogers was apparently unsure when signing on to the film, afraid that the film lacked a “dramatic honesty.” After being assured that was not the case, she took the leap and the film grew on her.

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Her hat! Anyone else obsessed?

Debbie Reynolds was just 24 years old when she took on the part and she was both married and months pregnant. Still, that didn’t stop her from giving the part her all. Her appeal is what makes the remake worthwhile.

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So true! ALWAYS ENCHANTING!

The Young Mr. Merlin

David Niven played the young David Merlin in the 1939 film while Debbie’s beau and famous crooner, Eddie Fisher, took on the part in the remake. For Niven, the film marked his first romantic leading role and he is fantastic in it! His sophisticated British sensibility makes for fun when he’s a bumbling, foolish man in love.

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OH, David Niven. ❤ ❤ ❤

On the other hand, Eddie Fisher is quite unremarkable in the remake. Beyond being a handsome guy and having a great voice, his acting leaves a little something to be desired.

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lol, they couldn’t say much for his acting though…

Additionally, Charles Coburn, who I discussed in my article about The More the Merrier, plays the senior Mr. Merlin and as usual, steals the show!

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You tell ’em, Charles!

The Scripts/Music

So, Bachelor Mother was penned by Robert Krasna, but was actually adapted from a story by Felix Jackson. Although the concept is quite ludicrous, the quippy dialogue is what brings the film to life! You’re willing to go along with it because the characters feel true and you’re too busy laughing to think about how nonsensical it is, not to mention, a bit misogynistic (I mean, c’mon, it’s okay that she keeps the baby because she’s now got a man! Hmph!).

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Ginger’s expressions are also HILARIOUS.

On the other hand, even though Bundle of Joy did have a script penned by Robert Carson and Arthur Sheekman, I wonder that they even went through the effort. Robert Krasna is also given a writing credit, which makes sense, considering it’s the EXACT SAME SCRIPT. I’m not kidding. Beyond adding new musical numbers, this remake did nothing to change the way the story unfolds. The dialogue is verbatim.

But, some of the songs are not bad and this one may be its best.

The Direction

Garson Kanin, who had a hand in great screwball comedies like The More the Merrier and Adam’s Rib, directed Bachelor Mother. Perhaps because of those films, he understood the sensibility better. The film flows and is first and most importantly, an entertaining ride.

Norman Taurug, who directed Bundle of Joy, also had an impressive resume with Mad About Music, which was a Deanna Durbin film, and Girl Crazy. Perhaps the real reason the remake is lesser than the original is because it was conceived as a star-vehicle. Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds had just married and Reynolds gave birth to Carrie around the time of the film’s release. It provided a way to sell the film, but not much seemed to go into creating something original and unique, which Bachelor Mother certainly was.

The Final Report

No question, Bachelor Mother is by far superior. It was made in 1939, which is objectively one of the greatest years in film. Ginger and David carry the film with ease and you go on their journey, buying into it and feeling happy to be there!

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#SWOON

Bundle of Joy, while certainly extremely flawed, is still worth watching, if only to see Debbie Reynolds at 24, singing and dancing and living with grace, poise, and grit. The songs don’t always make sense, but they’re entertaining too.

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There are moments when you’re like, “Aw they’re so cute together.” Then, you remember that two years later Eddie dumped Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor and you’re just MAD.

Vintage Trailers Below:

 

Bachelor Mother and Bundle of Joy Gifs property of RKO Pictures.

Re-examining ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

This past weekend, I watched Ron Howard’s wonderful new documentary about the Beatles during their touring years, Eight Days a Week. As a huge Beatles fan, I saw A Hard Day’s Night several times in my adolescence, never quite understanding all the things the film was, but enjoying it nonetheless.

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BEATLEMANIA…#ThoseGirlsAreCray

After watching the documentary, I felt like I had a little more context for the film. A Hard Day’s Night was made in 1964 and was meant to capitalize on the Beatlemania which was sweeping the world. Director Richard Lester was brought in to make a film which was a comedy, a documentary, and a musical film all in one.

When mentioning this film to other young people, I found that most people thought it was an actual documentary or they simply had never heard of it which is a MAJOR BUMMER cause this film is fantastic!

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Lennon being Lennon… 

So, without further adieu, here are just a few reasons you need to watch A Hard Day’s Night:

The Script

So, I know many of you out there might be like, “What script? There was a script.” Because of the naturalistic style of the film, many don’t realize that the film was almost one-hundred percent scripted. The only one who ad-libbed was John Lennon, who let’s face it, probably couldn’t help it.

Alun Owen penned the script after spending time with John, Paul, George and Ringo. He listened to the way they spoke and tried to put words in their mouths that would sound natural for them to say. He also used the script to satirize television, the press, and The Beatles’ own celebrity.

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Love me some 1960s insults. #SUCHADRAG

The Comedy

Really, to me, this is what makes the film more than just one long music video. Even though the film was fully scripted, it doesn’t feel like it. The camaraderie between the boys is effortless and hilarious. Their cheekiness is everything.

They picked great character actors for the smaller bit roles and it helped to make the film feel like it had a real narrative we were following. Paul’s grandfather (NOT REALLY HIS GRANDFATHER) is hilarious…and very CLEAN.

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THOSE GLASSES THOUGH. 
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The BEST joke. 

The Direction

Director Richard Lester’s only real experience before A Hard Day’s Night was in television. Two years ago, during the 50th anniversary’s BFI screening, Lester was interviewed by NME where he said,”The idea of the film came from the film department of United Artists at the beginning of 1964, and they said they’d only do it if it was cheap and in black and white and if we could get it done by July. They thought The Beatles were going to be a spent force by the end of the summer (Lester, NME Article).” Lester went on to direct The Beatles’ second film, Help! as well as Superman II and Superman III.

His direction brims with enthusiasm and energy, possibly due to the fact that he was not much older (Lester was just 32!) than The Beatles themselves. Oh, and the fans that you see in the film…they’re real. He just let them do whatever they wanted to do. So, of course, they went NUTS.

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Genuine NUTSO Beatles fans…

The Music

The music is EVERYTHING. You have to remember, this was before MTV or TRL (which honestly are references that are both kind of before my time). There was no such thing as music videos and I can imagine, being a young person during that time and seeing this film must have been like a dream come true, like a private concert for Beatles fans around the world. And the music is SOOOOO GOOD.

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You can’t buy love, man. If the Beatles say it, it must be true. #RealTalk

The Characters

This film’s strength very much rests on the wonderful character actors. Wilfrid Brambell was cast as Paul’s grandfather and his performance makes the film, IMHO. He had been in a popular BBC show called Steptoe and Son where he’d apparently been called a dirty old man, which is where the big joke came from, “He’s very clean.” Norman Rossington and John Junkin were also wonderful as the band’s fake managers. Comedian Anna Quayle (of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame) was also thrown in for good measure.

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Weirdos…

And of course, THE BEATLES!!

The Beatles’ fame and fandom was unlike anything or anyone up until that point. United Artists thought they were a passing fad. Little did they know that their influence on culture would stand the test of time, or at least the next fifty years. Their chemistry, both as musicians and friends, make A Hard Day’s Night a joy from start to finish. You should have a smile on your face throughout. Or…at least I did!

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#SWOON

Trailer below:

Gifs and Main Photo property of United Artists.