Bundle Of Joy (1956)

NORMAN TAUROG

Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5

USA, 1956. . Story by , Screenplay by , , . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by .  Production Design by , . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Fifties movies that sell a pristine morality are torture to watch now, though this one is especially so thanks to listless direction by the usually more reliable Norman Taurog.

An opening number in a department store promises an abundance of charm but it’s sadly one of the few highlights of the piece, introducing us to the singing talents of the film’s two stars, as the son of the store’s proud owner and as a top salesgirl in the millinery department.

It’s the Christmas rush but that doesn’t stop the bosses from firing Reynolds for overselling, apparently too many of her customers return the merchandise after being strongarmed into buying it. Going for a walk to the unemployment line on her last day on the job, she spots a baby abandoned on the front step of a social welfare office and picks it up to prevent its falling onto the sidewalk. She’s quickly mistaken for the child’s mother and when she protests the fact, is assumed to be ashamed of her desire to give it up, at which point the charity’s staff speak with her employers and convince them to take her back and give her a raise.

Now stuck with a baby she’s never seen before (a situation that is infuriating to behold), Reynolds makes things worse the more she tries to straighten things out, roping her landlady () and the annoying stockboy at work who won’t stop hitting on her () into her troubles, then eventually gets Fisher entangled before his personal interest in making sure he does right by this single mother prompts the two of them to fall in love. One last complication must occur, however, and that’s when Fisher’s father () assumes that Fisher is the baby’s father and is elated to be a grandfather.

This remake of Garson Kanin’s 1939 Ginger Rogers-David Niven vehicle Bachelor Mother was not a success when it was released and put an end to any plans for Fisher going on to film stardom; in reality he hated the material and hadn’t wanted it as his feature film debut, and it shows. That he isn’t David Niven is forgivable, but no one ever looked less comfortable in front of a camera, he is practically smirking directly into the camera every time he loses his place, his only good moments coming when either crooning with that lovely velvety voice, or in his scenes with his, at the time, real-life wife, as their natural chemistry puts him somewhat at ease.

There are no outstanding hits in the score but the tunes are pleasant and a welcome relief from the rest of it, which plods along under the mistaken assumption that the pretty sets and bright cinematography will allow us to excuse the script’s preposterous whims.

Fisher only ever made one more film in a substantive role, in a supporting part in Butterfield 8 with his next wife Elizabeth Taylor, while Reynolds, who was pregnant with the great Carrie during filming, doesn’t let the painfully bland trappings diminish her artistry, and continued her career undaunted.

Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Debbie Reynolds)

 

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