Cast & Crew
E. E. Clive
Leaving work after she has been dismissed from her job at Merlin's department store, salesgirl Polly Parrish happens upon a woman leaving an infant on a foundling's home doorstep and is pounced on by the attendants as its mother. After furiously protesting that she is not the baby's mother, Polly leaves the orphanage, but the officials from the home track her down at work. Feeling sorry for the "unwed mother," the boss's playboy son, David Merlin, intercedes to get her a better position in the toy department. When Polly still refuses to keep the infant, however, David threatens to fire her, and she reluctantly accepts motherhood. Polly quickly develops a maternal love for the boy, whom she names Johnnie, and David's compassion for mother and child also ripens into love. Matters reach a climax when disgruntled shipping clerk Freddie Miller sends a note to J. B. Merlin claiming that Johnnie's father is none other than his own son David. Anxious for a grandson, J. B. threatens to take the baby from Polly. Desperate, Polly convinces her landlady's son to pretend to be the baby's father, and as she visits J. B. to introduce him as the baby's father, David appears with Freddie, claiming that the shipping clerk is Johnnie's real father. Confronted by two fathers, J. B. remains unconvinced of the baby's parentage. As Polly prepares to flee, David proposes, and all ends happily as Polly and David plan to marry and adopt baby Johnnie.
E. E. Clive
Elbert Coplen Jr.
Frank M. Thomas
Hal K. Dawson
Jean De Briac
B. G. Desylva
Robert De Grasse
Van Nest Polglase
Richard Van Hessen
Vernon L. Walker
Best Writing, Screenplay
The story by Felix Jackson had been filmed once before, in German, as Kleine Mutti (Little Mother, 1935). It would be re-made in 1956 as Bundle of Joy, starring the then-married Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Screenwriter Norman Krasna, who adapted the story as Bachelor Mother, was already a master of romantic comedy, and specifically, romantic comedy based on mistaken identity, such as The Richest Girl in the World (1934), in which heiress Miriam Hopkins pretends to be her own secretary. Garson Kanin, a successful Broadway director who had gone to Hollywood two years earlier, was chosen to direct. It was his fourth film, and his first major production.
Scottish-born David Niven had been languishing in supporting roles for several years. Under contract to Samuel Goldwyn, Niven had recently done excellent work in the thankless role of Linton in Wuthering Heights (1939). RKO borrowed Niven to play Rogers' boss, the department store heir who falls for the "unwed mother" and her baby. It was his first romantic comedy lead, and he proved more than equal to the task. Also outstanding was veteran character actor Charles Coburn as Niven's father...one of the few actors who could steal a scene from a baby.
Together, this team produced a sparkling farce that became one of RKO's biggest box-office champions, in that championship year of 1939. Critics seemed surprised that such shopworn material could be made so fresh and charming. Variety's summary, "story itself is a rather ordinary Cinderella yarn, gaining substance and strength through adroit direction, excellently tempoed lines and situations, and top-notch cast performances," was typical. And the reviews for Rogers and Niven were nothing short of ecstatic. "Ginger Rogers, who has become one of the finest actresses on the screen, dominates the proceedings from beginning to end with her radiant personality and fine acting," according to the New York World-Telegram. The New York Post said that Niven, "expanding the promise of his less important roles, gives the best performance of his career."
After Great Britain declared war on Germany in September of 1939, Niven went home to enlist. Bachelor Mother was playing in London, and he was greeted with posters for the film, calling him "the star who came home to join the RAF." But the publicity made little impact within the venerable men's club Boodles, where Niven was approached by an elderly member one day. He looked vaguely familiar, the clubman told Niven. Had they met? Unlikely, Niven replied, he'd been abroad for six years, doing pictures.
"Really? Watercolours or oils?" asked the man.
Producer: B.G. DeSylva, Pandro S. Berman
Director: Garson Kanin
Screenplay: Norman Krasna, based on a story by Felix Jackson
Editor: Henry Berman
Cinematography: Robert de Grasse
Costume Design: Irene
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Carroll Clark
Music: Roy Webb
Principal Cast: Ginger Rogers (Polly Parrish), David Niven (David Merlin), Charles Coburn (J.B. Merlin), Frank Albertson (Freddie Miller), E.E. Clive (Butler), Elbert Coplen, Jr. (Johnnie), Ferike Boros (Mrs. Weiss).
BW-83m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
Of course he talks! Why, he can recite the first line of Gunga Din!- David Merlin
I don't care who the father is, I'm the grandfather!- J.B. Merlin
Where did it come from?- Freddie
I got it for Christmas!- Polly
This Christmas or last Christmas?- Freddie
The working titles of this film were Nobody's Wife and Little Mother. Felix Jackson's story was first made as Kleine Mutter, a 1935 Universal production filmed in Hungary. Jackson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story for his work on the 1939 film. According to the New York Times, Cary Grant, James Ellison and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., were considered for the male lead in the picture. According to materials contained in the RKO Production Files at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, background locations for this film were shot at Times Square and Central Park in New York city. A mechanical Donald Duck appears in the scene in which Ginger Rogers is demonstrating mechanical ducks in a department store toy department. In a modern interview, producer Pandro Berman said that Rogers was suspended because she refused to appear in this picture. According to Berman, she hated the picture even after it was done, although it was a big hit for her and the studio. In 1956, RKO remade the story as Bundle of Joy, starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and directed by Norman Taurog.
Released in United States 1939
Released in United States March 1979
Released in United States May 2001
Released in United States on Video December 27, 1989
Shown at Cannes International Film Festival (Retrospective) May 9-20, 2001.
Remake of the screwball comedy classic, "Bachelor Mother" (1939), which starred Ginger Rogers, David Niven and Charles Coburn.
Broadcast over TNT (colorized version) September 20, 1990.
Released in United States 1939
Released in United States March 1979 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Bring the Kids) March 14-30, 1979.)
Released in United States May 2001 (Shown at Cannes International Film Festival (Retrospective) May 9-20, 2001.)
Released in United States on Video December 27, 1989 (colorized version)