It's a Wise Child
Cast & Crew
Robert Z. Leonard
Founded in 1855, Trivers City lies in the heart of the dairy country and boasts a population of 20,000 adults and a "bumper crop of children." Word travels fast in the small town, so when Mrs. Stanton's daughter Joyce ignores bank president G. A. Appleby, to whom she is engaged, and begins dating Roger Baldwin, Appleby's new bank clerk, her brother Bill worries that he will lose his promotion at the bank as a result. Steve, a lawyer and the trustee of Joyce's estate, is a longtime friend of the Stantons, plays mentor to Joyce while hiding the fact that he is in love with her. When Joyce tells him that she is in love with Roger, he demands to inspect the young man before approving of the affair. Joyce refuses to abide by his request and tells him that she will not allow him to pick out her husband as he once picked out her clothes when she was a child. After Joyce accepts Roger's proposal, she tells him that she will have to break off her engagement to G. A. Appleby. Roger is shocked to learn that she was engaged to his boss and fears that he will lose his job after Joyce spurns him. One evening, while passing by Shea's roadhouse during a police raid, Joyce and Roger espy Annie Ostrom, the Stanton's maid, being arrested and Bill Stanton, Annie's secret sweetheart, fleeing from the scene. At the police station, Joyce tries to prevent Annie's prosecution, but Appleby, certain that Annie was carousing with Cool Kelly, her former beau, insists that the only proper thing to do is have Cool marry Annie. When Joyce lies to Appleby, telling him that she too was at the roadhouse, he worries about the bad newspaper publicity that might result if rumors spread and decides to have Annie dismissed with a ten dollar fine. Later, Annie confesses to Joyce that she can not marry Cool because she had secretly married Bill four months earlier and is pregnant. Joyce tries to help Annie by having Steve annul her marriage so that she will be free to marry the now-reformed Cool, and by employing the services of Mrs. Curry, a professional nurse who specializes in maternity care. Chaos ensues when Appleby's gossipy sister Jane sees Joyce with Mrs. Curry and tells Mrs. Stanton that Joyce is pregnant. Mrs. Stanton immediately accuses Appleby of fathering Joyce's child and instructs him to marry her, but he denies the charge. When rumor of Joyce's pregnancy reaches Steve, he tells Joyce that she should marry the father right away. Meanwhile, Appleby fires Bill, who then gets drunk, arms himself with a gun and decides to find the man responsible for humiliating him and his family. Bill forces Roger to the Stanton house at gunpoint, and Appleby fires Roger. Roger blames Joyce for ruining his career and accuses her of having an affair with a third man, Otho Peabody, her stepcousin. Joyce, who has had no idea that the subject of conversation has been about her pregnancy, is shocked to learn that three men, Otho, Roger and Steve have all been suspected of fathering her child. Joyce immediately denies being an expectant mother but refuses to explain why she was at Mrs. Curry's for fear of getting Bill in trouble. Steve nobly lies for Joyce and claims that he is responsible for Joyce's pregnancy. In the end, Joyce realizes that Steve is the only man who really loves her and admits that he is the only man she wants to marry. Also, Annie finds love in Cool, and Otho saves the family from financial ruin.
Robert Z. Leonard
The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that, between May and September 1930, a number of studios, including Universal, Paramount, RKO and Tiffany, informed the Hays Office that they were interested in adapting Laurence E. Johnson's stage play to the screen and sought the opinion of the Hays Office on the matter. For the most part, the studios were discouraged from making the film because the Hays Office had "apprehensive concerns about the pregnancy of the maid and the reported pregnancy of daughter." On 28 Aug, when Tiffany inquired about the property, MPPDA official Maurice McKenzie informed the company that the play had not been approved by the agency and was on its "tentative list." The same reason was given to Universal, when McKenzie told the studio to "drop" its $50,000 offer for the property. A Hays Office memo indicates that in August 1930, M-G-M approached the Hays Office to secure clearance for purchasing the property, but decided instead to withdraw its request, and "prepare another story with a new title and without any reference to the old title." The Variety review states that "Metro's It's a Wise Child should not have been placed on the screen, but even with its obnoxious subject matter it's not a box office picture."