The First Time


1h 29m 1952

Brief Synopsis

Expectant parents Joe and Betsy Bennett anxiously await the arrival of their new baby. Then after the baby arrives, they discover the unpleasant side of parenting: sleepless nights, extra bills and no more free time.

Film Details

Also Known As
Small Wonder
Release Date
Feb 1952
Premiere Information
San Francisco opening: 15 Feb 1952
Production Company
Norma Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Young married couple Betsey and Joe Bennet fly into a brief panic when Betsey announces her labor pains have begun late one night. Then Betsey settles down to enjoy a banana sandwich and stoically advises Joe that should anything unexpected happen, her will leaves him her share of the couple's debts. With encouragement from neighbors Donna and Mel Gilbert, the Bennets finally head for the hospital, knocking over their trash cans as they pull out of the driveway. Betsey's mother, the fashionable and eternally youthful Cassie Mayhew, is delighted to hear of Timothy Bennet's birth, as are Joe's parents, Andrew and Florence. Joe's enthusiasm is dealt a crushing blow when he is presented with the hospital bill, which he must pay for with a rubber check. At home, Joe borrows money from Mel and wonders how he and Betsey's careful financial planning could have been so inaccurate. Joe is further devastated to learn that the nurse the hospital has recommended to help Betsey for a month, costs fifty-five dollars a week, his weekly salary as an architect. Lured by the promise of high commission bonuses, Joe quits his job to become a salesman for the Whirlamat clothes washer company. Cassie and Florence arrive, offering to help until Betsey breaks down over having to decide which grandmother should stay or go. Nurse Salisbury then moves in and ruthlessly imposes an iron regime on the Bennets' household, which revolves around Timmy's feeding time. By the end of four weeks, Joe is delighted to see Nurse Salisbury depart while Betsey sinks into despair at having to deal with the baby alone. The Bennets stumble through a few more weeks of parenthood and are relieved when Timmy's six-week physical examination is completely positive. Hoping to get one night off together, Joe recruits a teenage babysitter, whom Betsey immediately rejects as too young. When Joe then hires the girl's grandmother, Betsey swiftly determines that the old woman is deaf and she is dismissed. Acting on a friend's advice, Joe drives to pick up a recommended sitter, but gets the wrong street corner and only after driving some way with an amorously inclined woman does he realize his error. The Bennets end up at a drive-in with the baby. One evening an exhausted Joe arrives home to find the house in shambles, no dinner available and his beer warm. Over a hastily assembled dinner of cold cuts, Joe complains that Betsey is simply inefficient as she cannot manage running the house, even though she has so little to do all day. When the "Tidy Didy" diaper serviceman appears, Joe demands to know why Betsey is not using their new Whirlamat, and she points out that the machine rips up Timmy's diapers. As Joe scolds Betsey for letting herself go to pot, she complains that he is not selling enough Whirlamats. A bitter argument ensues, culminating with Betsey's refusal to accept Joe's heatedly offered gift of a black negligee. Joe sleeps on the sofa and the next day contemplates various ways of getting back at Betsey, but simply returns home from work resigned. To his surprise, he is greeted by a multiple course dinner simmering on the stove, a pie on the table, cold beer and Betsey seductively attractive in her negligee. Betsey fawns over the astonished Joe for some moments before asking him if this is the home he expects. When Joe assents, Betsey hurls the plates at him, calls him a tyrant and storms off. Furious, Joe joins Mel for a boy's-night-out and returns home drunk. The next morning, however, after reconsidering, Betsey makes up with the hungover Joe. Later in the day, Betsey grows concerned over her sudden craving for bananas, and after visiting the doctor has her suspicions of being pregnant again confirmed. Meanwhile, Joe has received a steady list of complaints from his clients about the Whirlamat's deficiencies. He is disappointed when his boss, Mr. Leeming, refuses to take the charges seriously. During a sales promotion meeting, Joe uses the situation to demonstrate the washer's poor performance and is promptly fired. The next day, Timmy's first birthday, Joe decides he has had enough of fatherhood and being a husband and packs to leave. Cassie confides to an angry Betsey that she made a mistake by letting Betsey's father leave years before and advises her daughter not to repeat the error. Betsey refuses to tell Joe about the new baby, but when Joe knocks over the trash cans while pulling out of the driveway and spots the banana peels, he rushes back inside and confronts Betsey. Joe is delighted about the new baby and after a complete reconciliation, the older and wiser Bennets eagerly await the arrival of their new daughter.

Film Details

Also Known As
Small Wonder
Release Date
Feb 1952
Premiere Information
San Francisco opening: 15 Feb 1952
Production Company
Norma Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Small Wonder. The film is narrated by "the Bennets'" infant son "Timothy" until the final scenes, when the narration is picked up by Timothy's new baby sister.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Robert Cummings replaced Larry Parks in the role of "Joe Bennet." It is uncertain whether Parks's replacement was related to his testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in March 1951. Parks had been subpoenaed in September 1947 in HUAC's original investigation of the motion picture industry, but was labeled an "unfriendly witness" and not called to testify. Parks was subpoenaed again by HUAC on March 22, 1951, coinciding with production of The First Time. For additional information on Parks's career following the HUAC testimony, please see the entry for the 1952 M-G-M production Love Is Better Than Ever.