Room For One More
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A moving comedy-drama about foster care, Room for One More (1952) tells the based-on-fact story of New Jersey mother Anna Rose (Betsy Drake) whose saga of the "problem" children she took into her home spawned a popular 1950 book. The screenplay was adapted from Anna Perrot Rose's novel by Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson.
When Room for One More opens Anna has just toured the filled-to-the-rafters local orphanage with a cadre of PTA women. The women all express anxiety about adopting a child but Anna is intrigued by the idea. Following a meeting with the orphanage supervisor Miss Kenyon (Lurene Tuttle), Anna is surprised when, days later, the woman drops off a troubled, suicidal 13-year-old Jane (Iris Mann) at her home "just for a few weeks." Despite three children of her own and a deeply skeptical husband, "Poppy" (Cary Grant), Anna welcomes the neglected girl into the fold. And with her gentle nurturing and the love of the entire family, the previously sullen, insolent girl becomes a beloved member of the family.
The Rose clan then undertakes an even greater challenge when they decide to foster a withdrawn, antisocial child named Jimmy-John (Clifford Tatum, Jr.) with the added, more visible handicap of legs confined to metal braces. Jimmy-John accompanies the Roses on their summer vacation but is so difficult and unlikeable the other kids initially don't balk when it looks like he will be returned to the orphanage. Though he seems beyond help, Anna again works her magic and a child who once seemed beyond saving becomes a determined, self-confident Eagle Scout and profoundly transformed child. Fifty-one San Fernando and Verdugo, California residents appear as extras in the Boy Scout Court of Honor scene where Jimmy-John attributes his success to having chosen his own parents.
A heartwarming -- if occasionally sentimental--ode to the fierce power of maternal will and love, Room for One More boasts its fair share of comedy too. Much of Room for One More's humor is provided by the baritone-voiced child actor George "Foghorn" Winslow (who plays the youngest child in the Rose clan), and whom Cary Grant discovered on Art Linkletter's television show People Are Funny. Delighted by the child, Grant pegged the five-year-old for his first film role in Room for One More.
Moderately successful at the box office, The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a delightful domestic comedy...as the father, Cary Grant offers a sock performance, witty, debonair but always real. Betsy Drake is superb as the young matron; pretty, serious and with a heart that never falters." Redbook said "it's full of the fun and heartaches of growing up, of the experiences of young marrieds in establishing a home, and of the warmth of a fine family relationship." Variety heralded the film for its "happy combination of good humor and warm drama." The New York Times' Bosley Crowther called the film "appealing movie fare." But Crowther also took issue with what he saw as the "unwholesome" way the film showed Poppy and Anna unable to find any private, romantic time away from the children, a running joke as the film goes on and the Rose clan grows. The Manchester Guardian had a strangely outraged reaction of its own, that apparently had to do with the film's very "American" child-rearing display. "The behavior of American children and the attitude at once maudlin, indulgent and puerile, which American grown-ups (on the screen) adopt toward their young are subjects which simply should not be allowed to cross the Atlantic."
While Drake (Cary Grant's third wife out of five) is charming and authentic as a pure-hearted woman who sees the inherent goodness in every child and never met a stray--animal or human--she wouldn't take in, Grant is a little harder to swallow as the amiable dad to this motley brood. In a deep Palm Springs tan, glossy hair and racy white shorts, Grant is a visual non-sequitur amidst the cozy domestic tableaux. Watching Grant flip pancakes for his children's breakfast is like seeing James Bond pick up his dry-cleaning. But Room for One More benefits greatly from the believable on-screen rapport of real-life husband and wife Grant and Drake, married from 1949 to 1959.
Grant and Drake selected the project according to W.G. Harris in Cary Grant: A Touch of Elegance after reading Anna Perrot Rose's book. "Feeling that none of Drake's previous films did justice to her talent, Grant hoped that this one would put her over," writes Harris.
In 1952 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio adaptation of the film, with Phyllis Thaxter as "Anna Rose" and Cary Grant reprising his role as "Poppy." The film was eventually shown on TV as The Easy Way and was a 1962 television series starring Andrew Duggan and Peggy McCay. The film earned a special mention in the Films for Children Fete at the Venice International Film Festival for its "positive treatment of social problems regarding childhood and adolescence."
Director: Norman Taurog
Producer: Henry Blanke
Screenplay: Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson from the book by Anna Perrot Rose
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Production Design: Douglas Bacon
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Cary Grant ("Poppy" Rose), Betsy Drake (Anna Rose), Lurene Tuttle (Miss Kenyon), Randy Stuart (Mrs. Foreman), John Ridgely (Harry Foreman), Irving Bacon (The Mayor), Mary Treen (Mrs. Roberts), Iris Mann (Jane), George Winslow (Teenie), Clifford Tatum, Jr. (Jimmy-John), Gay Gordon (Trot), Malcolm Cassell (Tim), Larry Olsen (Ben).
by Felicia Feaster