Jan 20, 2009
Donald Duck and Ginger Rogers
Ginger at work, winding Donald. Check out the version wearing what looks like a sombrero behind her.
Lovers of classic film often double as lovers of everyday items from the same era--clothes, magazines, housewares--or toys. Watch enough films of the 1930s and occasionally a famous face will spring out from the prop settings : Betty Boop, Snow White, Bugs Bunny, etc. It's always a treat to see something that would be a vauluable collectible now featured then as what it was meant to be in the first place--an inexpensive child's plaything. There are many examples. This might be the most extensive: in a really fine comedy from a great year for movies, Garson Kanin''s 1939 film "Bachelor Mother" has terrific performances from Ginger Rogers, David Niven, the incomparable Charles Coburn--and Donald Duck.
It's quite a display of product placement: Disney providing numerous sizes and permutations of Donald Duck toys for their distributor, RKO. And one particular windup waddling, quacking Donald has a crucial role throughout--right up to the denoument of the story. Curiously, although the Duck is in the film as part of a large department store's toy department stock, I've spotted no glimpses of Mickey or any other Disney characters on the set. It's all Donald--dozens and dozens of him.
Bachelor Mother is such a well-written and cleverly plotted comedy--one of the very funniest of its era. That it could be made at all well after the Production Code was in full effect is a testament to--well, I don't know what, but it has some really wild double entendres (and some flat out jaw-droppers), unsurprising as the story is one of an unwed mother--albeit a mistaken one. It just works, squeezing comedy out of every opportunity, as well as some charming if improbably screwball romance.
He even features in a brief, slightly hallucinogenic montage
The screen caps here (only a few of The Duck's scenes represented) are from a colorized version on YouTube; it was made in glorious black and white and should be seen that way. Look for it on Turner Classic Movies.
Your trivia for the week.