Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Dairy Executive's Wife

If I said I was going to recommend a movie starring Cary Grant and Loretta Young, your reaction might be, "Oh, good! They're going to show The Bishop's Wife again!" You'd be wrong. The movie I'm thinking of is Born to Be Bad, airing at 10:30 AM tomorrow on the Fox Movie Channel.

Loretta Young, who was about 21 at the time she made this, plays Letty, a single mom with a kid Mickey who seems much too old to be Young's kid, although it is mentioned at one point in the movie that Letty became a mother at 15. Letty makes her way in the world by being an escort, which is a high-class way of saying that she spends her evenings with men and walks away with their money. This means she isn't able to look after Mickey too well, who as a result becomes a truant and a mischief maker. At least, until he tries to hitch a ride on the back of a truck and gets hit by a milk truck. The milk truck is being driven by dairy company executive Malcolm Trevor (Cary Grant), who believes that he should spend at least a little time doing each of the various jobs in his business, and it was just his rotten luck to be driving the milk truck that day. He offers to help out with Mickey's medical expenses, but Letty and her crooked lawyer friend see dollar signs. They file a bogus lawsuit against Malcolm, which gets thrown out because Malcolm was smart enough to hire detectives to film Mickey perfectly healthy after the accident.

So, Mickey gets sent to reform school since Letty is clearly an unfit mother. Malcolm feels bad for the kid, and offers to become a foster parent, since he's also got a wife to look after the kid. He's even generous enough to let Letty see Mickey whenever she wants. Letty, having gotten one bad idea with the lawsuit, goes from one bad idea to another and figures she can use Mickey as a way to Malcolm's heart, which should lead directly to his wallet. But Mickey has begun to appreciate what good parenting can do for him....

Born to Be Bad is another great example of the pre-Code movie, having been released about two months before Joe Breen and company really decided to clamp down on enforcing the Production Code. Loretta Young might be at the most brazen I've ever seen her. Cary Grant had already made She Done Him Wrong, which really thrust him into the spotlight, but he hadn't quite reached the level he would by the end of the decade. As for the supporting roles, Henry Travers plays the owner of a bookshop where Letty worked when she first gave birth to Mickey (and the cradle is still in the back of the bookstore). He's the one guy who keeps a sane head about him throughout the proceedings. Born to Be Bad only runs a little more than an hour, which means the the story changes and end a bit abruptly. But it's still an interesting little movie.

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