Aug 20, 2007

Same Script Scrutiny: Debbie vs. Ginger

Oh, how Hillary's Classic Cinema loves to roll its antiquated eyes at the very idea of film re-makes: once a good, bankable movie has been released (or even a brilliant B movie, for that matter), truly, why does the passage of a few years necessitate the re-issuing of a perfectly good film with brand-new stars? Become entrenched in classic cinema and you, too, will begin to see familiar storylines unfold in obscure old movies: character names are recycled, an identical foil in the plot is doled out with measured exactness, even dialogue may match another film's verbatim.

Surprised to find out that films like A Star is Born, His Girl Friday and even The Wizard of Oz are remakes? Don't be - that seems standard fare for classic Hollywood, where the emergence of new technologies allowed for the employment of new approaches to old stories (can you imagine the yellow brick road in sepia tones? Yeccch). In the days of the studio era, film assignments were often handed out with the same discretion and speed as lunch trays in the MGM commissary, and the actors and actresses of cinema's golden age were frequently forced to star in flicks that their predecessors had made famous just years before (unless they, like blonde beauty Betty Grable, tore up their contracts and stormed out of offices to avoid such fates).

It is with much haste, then, that I introduce a new feature here: Same Script Scrutiny, pitting two sinfully similar films against one another for a battle to wit's end. Okay, not really, but maybe you'll discover a new film to love - and that's always my aim in writing about the classic movies I love!

This edition features 1939's Bachelor Mother, remade as its opponent, 1956's Bundle of Joy, with both films telling the story of working girl Polly Parrish. When Polly finds a rollicking infant on the steps of a foundling home, she scoops it up to save it from harm, only to find herself unwittingly thought to be the child's neglectful mother. Extricating herself from the responsibilities that ensue proves mildly delightful, while romantic entanglements and the exasperations of child-rearing wear poor Polly down, and an overzealous grandpa throws his sentiments into the turmoil.

1939 1956

Ginger Rogers played Polly to David Niven's Mr. Merlin in the 1939 version; sparkly Debbie Reynolds and then-real-life-husband Eddie Fisher, lamer than a damp rag, portrayed the pair in the 1956 remake. RKO capitalized on the Fishers' own expectant status when the movie premiered, as their daughter, Carrie Frances, was born just weeks prior to the film's release.

Same Script Scrutiny: Which is the better film? You decide.

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