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In the 1932 Pre-Code RKO drama Rockabye Constance Bennett stars as Judy Carroll, a Broadway actress whose career takes a nosedive after her unsavory ties to a corrupt politician are unearthed. When she is denied adoption papers for an orphan she longs to raise as her own, the heartbroken Judy takes a trip to Europe in an effort to clear her head. While abroad she falls in love with Jake (Joel McCrea), a budding playwright whose latest work Rockabye bears a remarkable similarity to her own experiences. Judy works to help Jake, whom she plans to marry, and bring Rockabye to the Broadway stage with herself in the lead. However, when Judy discovers that Jake's estranged wife has just given birth, she must decide whether or not to give him up.
Rockabye was based on an unpublished play of the same name by Lucia Bronder that came from her short story Our Judy. Under the watchful eye of famed producer David O. Selznick, Rockabye originally had director George Fitzmaurice at the helm along with actor Phillips Holmes in the role of Jake. There was pressure on RKO to quickly deliver a fresh Constance Bennett vehicle since her recent film What Price Hollywood? (1932) had been a runaway box office hit. However, when the hastily assembled first version of Rockabye was shown to studio executives, it was deemed not good enough to release.
In an effort to salvage the film, Selznick brought in director George Cukor, who had made What Price Hollywood? a hit, to work his magic. Cukor did three weeks of extensive re-shoots using Joel McCrea to replace Phillips Holmes and actress Jobyna Howland to play Judy's mother "Snooks" Carroll, a role originally played by Laura Hope Crews.
After the new version of Rockabye had been re-assembled in the editing room under Cukor's supervision, it was finally released to the eager public. While the critics' reception to the film was cool, audiences still made it a respectable hit at the box office.
Watch for Walter Pidgeon in a small role near the beginning of Rockabye as Commissioner Al Howard.
Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: George Cukor; George Fitzmaurice (uncredited)
Screenplay: Jane Murfin (screenplay); Kubec Glasmon (screenplay, uncredited); Lucia Bronder (play)
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Carroll Clark
Music: Harry Akst, Jeanne Borlini, Nacio Herb Brown, Edward Eliscu
Film Editing: George Hively
Cast: Constance Bennett (Judy Carroll), Joel McCrea (Jacobs 'Jake' Van Riker Pell), Paul Lukas (Antonie De Sola), Jobyna Howland ('Snooks' Carroll), Walter Pidgeon (Commissioner Al Howard), Clara Blandick (Brida), Walter Catlett (Jimmy Dunn), Virginia Hammond (Mrs. Van Riker Pell), J.M. Kerrigan (Fagin), June Filmer (Elizabeth 'Lilybet').
by Andrea Passafiume