Yesterday, I watched Bachelor Mother (1939) while I was working on some projects. It was my first time watching it in a long time.
The basic premise, if you've never seen it, is this: Polly Parrish (Ginger Rogers) is mistaken for the mother of a foundling baby. David Niven plays David Merlin, the playboy son of the owner of the department store that Polly works at. David offers to extend Polly's seasonal position at the store into a full time job and offers her a raise so that she can keep the baby. When Polly continues to maintain that the baby is not hers, David threatens to fire her. Polly keeps the baby in order to keep her job and starts an unlikely friendship with David. Things get even more complicated when David's father mistakenly believes that David is the baby's father.
The first time I watched it, I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I couldn't wait to show it around. This time watching it, I still liked it. Ginger Rogers is, of course, brilliant. David Niven is adorable and silly. It's still very funny and there are some wonderful scenes.
However. It's harder to watch this movie than it was the first time I watched it. Maybe it's because women are so often mistrusted and not believed by society today. Maybe it's because I'm more aware of how hard it is for single mothers. Maybe it's because I read a whole book on single women in America and how they affect society and how society views them. Maybe it's because I'm older and have a better appreciation for Polly's life pre-baby. Regardless of the reason, I have a harder time watching the movie where everyone not only disbelieves Polly that the baby isn't hers, but she is bullied and pushed around until she relents and takes the baby in anyway. And even then everyone tells her how to raise the baby and what to do. It's very frustrating. The only nice thing about the situation is no one seems to judge her for being a single mother. I do like that. But from a feminist perspective, it's a very frustrating movie.
I think that one of the hardest things about growing older is discovering that movies you love don't always hold up to your scrutiny and values as you grow older. Does anyone else have that problem?
But, don't let me discourage you from watching it. It is a very funny movie and there are some fine performances all around.
Oh, and quick aside: the character of the landlady is absolutely wonderful. She's amazing throughout the story and is definitely my favorite (aside from Polly - she's a great character too). Basically, most of the women in this movie are great and most of the men are awful. So, if nothing else, watch it for the women characters. 😊