Bachelor Mother [1939]

Ginger Rogers stars as a department store salesclerk about to be laid off after the Christmas holiday, who happens to be passing an orphanage when a woman leaves a baby on the doorstep. The orphanage assumes that Rogers is the mother, despite her protests; when they contact the department store, the owner's son (David Niven) decides to restore her job so that she can take care of the child. Before long, rumors are flying that Niven is the child's father, which fills Niven's father (the great character actor Charles Coburn) with joy. The plot expertly weaves a deliciously funny web of assumptions and denials, with Rogers, Niven, and Coburn turning in topnotch performances--Rogers, who sometimes overplays her comic parts, is brilliantly understated in what is one of her best roles. These great actors are combined with a smart script from Norman Krasna (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, It Started with Eve) and smooth direction from Garson Kanin (My Favorite Wife). Bachelor Mother is one of the most underappreciated gems of the screwball comedy era. --Bret Fetzer

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