Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1956. Columbia Pictures. Screenplay by John Fante, based on his novel. Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.. Produced by Fred Kohlmar. Music by George Duning. Production Design by William Flannery. Costume Design by Ed Ware. Film Editing by Charles Nelson.
It’s a very rare sight to see in the mid-fifties, a studio film concerned with the vulnerabilities of being pregnant that doesn’t couch the situation within a clever comedy framework. Instead, the script allows for an uncomplicated and, for its time, realistic view of life unfolding, which at times works against it as diverting entertainment. Judy Holliday and Richard Conte are expecting the birth of their first child, she’s eight months pregnant and experiencing emotional instability as she prepares her home for their new arrival. Conte is a writer who gets his work done in a little shack behind their beautiful suburban home, his peace interrupted when he hears a loud noise and finds his wife fallen halfway through their kitchen floor. Dry rot and termites have caused the problem and they can’t afford the quotes being given to them by contractors to fix it, so Holliday suggests they ask his stonemason father (Salvatore Baccaloni, who was only ten years older than Conte) to do the job instead. Conte resists, having been estranged from his disapproving, traditional Italian parents for a long time, but eventually he agrees it’s the only affordable solution. They take a train ride out to Sacramento where they spend a few days reconnecting with his parents, before poppa joins them on the ride back, moving into their house and spreading his old-world ways that clash with his son’s modern ideas. It’s days before he even starts on his construction project because he becomes far more obsessed with horning in on his son’s marriage and lecturing them about how they plan to raise their child. Holliday, who has been reading about semantics out of a desire to expand her mind before becoming a mother, treats her father-in-law with equal curiosity, seeing what she can take from his attitudes about life that can be useful for her own. It’s not a fascinating film but it has an attitude of honesty that works in its favour, Conte and Holliday make a believable couple and there’s a genuine sympathy to the way that the script treats this little family, particularly in respecting the stress that accompanies the excitement of their impending arrival. Holliday herself is magnificent, forced to avoid her usual brilliant command of comedic timing and proving herself just as electrifying with a less manipulative form of dramatic expression.