Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

The first Monday in September is, of course, Labor Day in the United States. So let's take a look at some Hollywood movies dealing with labor -- but not the organized kind.

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. In this comedy, Betty Hutton plays a woman who gets so drunk that she gets married to and knocked up by somebody she's never met before, and can't remember who it is. Her best friend (Eddie Bracken) is forced to enter into a shotgun wedding with her. Not knowing who the father of your children is? Sounds about as funny as an episode of the Jerry Springer show -- although, as I point out in my original post on the movie, writer/director Preston Sturges does an excellent job of making the movie riotously funny.

One of the other funny things in Hollywood's stereotypical portrayal of going into labor is the daffy father who has a dickens of a time trying to get his wife to the hospital on time. TCM just showed Yours, Mine, and Ours last week; here, poor Henry Fonda sees everything around him go wrong when wife Lucille Ball goes into labor with what will be their 19th child. You'd think the idea of giving birth in a taxi or the passenger seat of a car isn't very funny. However, the possibility of it is.

Hollywood has used childbirth in some more serious movies. Spare a thought for poor Johnny Belinda. Jane Wyman's deaf-mute gets knocked up as a result of being raped, and has no idea what pregnancy even is. Thankfully, Hollywood didn't try to make this one a comedy.

A much more interesting movie about childbirth is the 1932 Loretta Young drama Life Begins, set in the maternity ward of a hospital for difficult cases. Young is good, although in all honesty the show is stolen by Glenda Farrell, playing a woman who doesn't want her kids and is completely rebellious, even filling her hot water bottle with hooch. Although the film is mostly drama, there is some scope for comedy, with the expectant fathers once again being the butt of the jokes. (Watch for veteran character actor Frank McHugh in the expectant father role.) Life Begins is unfortunately not available on DVD, although it would be a good candidate in conjunction with some of the other Warner Brothers pre-Codes.

No comments: