I’ve seen Bachelor Mother at least twice before but didn’t remember the most salient feature of the film. I even forgot what a big part Donald Duck plays in it (though I did remember David Niven’s watching the clock to wait to say “good afternoon” as opposed to “good morning”).
No, what I forgot was the romance between Niven and Ginger Rogers. It’s the most important thing in Bachelor Mother. The baby Rogers gets stuck with through the bullheadedness and “altruism” of others is secondary.
It’s a lovely romance mostly because it’s so unexpected to the characters. Niven and Rogers are, at best, friends when they go out and discover their attraction. Their friendship scenes are also wonderful, as Niven tries to help Rogers raise this baby he’s unknowingly saddled her with.
He gets his comeuppance at the end (the third act is mostly about him identifying, avoiding, then wanting than comeuppance) and it’s just fantastic.
Kanin’s direction starts off incredible–the first shot is outstanding–then it runs into some problems as it becomes clear he didn’t have enough coverage for editors Henry Berman and Robert Wise (or they just did a terrible job of it). It eventually resolves itself, with the shots matching a lot better after about twenty minutes.
Rogers and Niven are both great, Charles Coburn is hilarious as Niven’s father and Frank Albertson is good.
The film has a brilliant narrative structure (the present action is a few days) and it moves fluidly.
Directed by Garson Kanin; screenplay by Norman Krasna, based on a story by Felix Jackson; director of photography, Robert De Grasse; edited by Henry Berman and Robert Wise; music by Roy Webb; produced by Buddy G. DeSylva; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring 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), Ernest Truex (Investigator), Leonard Penn (Jerome Weiss), Paul Stanton (Hargraves), Frank M. Thomas (Doctor), Edna Holland (Matron), Dennie Moore (Mary), June Wilkins (Louise King) and Donald Duck (Himself).