Sunday, August 16, 2009


At 8:00 AM ET on August 17, the Fox Movie Channel is showing a movie with an interesting, but sad, backstory: Five of a Kind.

The ostensible stars of the movie are the Dionne quintuplets, born in 1934 and the world's first known surviving quintuplets. For reasons not entirely clear (although it was the Depression, and the Dionnes, being French-Canadian Catholics, had a very large family), the Province of Ontario stepped in and made the quints a ward of the province. The province then proceeded to treat the quintuplets as some sort of freak show, exhibiting them to a populace that was eager to see this miracle of modern medicine. Indeed, the province probably made a pretty penny off the kids by having them "star" in movies such as this, as Fox are alleged to have paid $100,000 for the use of footage of the Dionnes.

As for the movie itself, it's a fairly anodyne romantic comedy, about a pair of rival reporters (Claire Trevor and Cesar Romero) who each find out that there's a set of quintuplets out there, and both want to get the story. The Dionnes appear at the end, in what is pretty clearly tacked-on newsreel footage. That having been said, there's one other interesting thing, which is the presentation of that newsreel footage. The province, in one of its few smart moves, would only let Fox film the quints at their home, and so they couldn't have either reporter bring the quints to the big city, which the plot of a movie like this would normally call for. Instead, the audience at the big city theater is shown the footage of the girls courtesy of a "live television hookup". Despite the fact that this was only 1938, television had already been invented, although it wasn't in very wide use at all; and, thanks to the onset of World War II, it would take several years, until after the end of the war, until television could really begin to take off.

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