Monday, March 30, 2015

Life's Guilty Pleasures: Classic Hollywood Edition

As a classic Hollywood fan, I have fallen in love with many excellent films from the early years of cinema. On The Waterfront and East of Eden are two examples. However, there are also motion pictures I adore, whichhow can I say this nicely?are not exactly Oscar contenders. 

One such film is Bundle of Joy (1956), starring real life husband and wife (at the time),
Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (parents of actress Carrie Fisher from Star Wars). 

Bundle of Joy is a kitschy, musical remake of the 1939 film, Bachelor Mother. It is about a department store clerk, Polly Parrish (Reynolds), who finds an abandoned baby on the doorstep of a foundling home and is unable to convince people that the baby isn't hers. Eddie Fisher plays the department store owner's son, Dan Merlin. Dan also believes the baby is Polly's and tries to help her. A romance develops between them.

Turner Classic Movies airs Bundle of Joy every year on Christmas Eve. The film is set during Christmas/New Year's. I caught it on television about six years ago and have loved it ever since. Now it's a tradition of mine to watch it every Christmas Eve.

Debbie and Eddie were the most popular celebrity "power couple" of the 1950s, so RKO Pictures wanted to capitalize on their relationship by putting them in film together. It should be noted that Eddie Fisher was not an actor. He was a singer, a crooner, (think Frank Sinatra but for 1950s bobbysoxers), which makes this idea all the more ludicrous. But, in my opinion, it's also part of the film's appeal. It does, however, result in random musical numbers inserted into the film clearly for the sole purpose of appeasing Eddie's rabid fan base, not advancing the story.

To add to the movie's hype, Debbie became pregnant (with Carrie) just before filming began, and she was born around the time the film premiered. The studio couldn't have paid for better publicity! 

Critics blasted the film. Years later, so would Eddie and Debbie. So why do I love it?

The romances between Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, James Dean and Pier Angeli, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, and the fictional romances between Natalie Wood and James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, and Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront inspire me.

Sure, Janet and Tony, Debbie and Eddie, and Jimmy and Pier eventually broke up (Natalie and Robert also divorced, but remarried less than ten years later), but in the first years of their relationships, the media portrayed them as the perfect Hollywood couples—which appeals to the hopeless romantic in me. 

Bundle of Joy delivers exactly what I want in a film starring one of my favorite classic Hollywood couples: a fun story featuring great romantic chemistry between the two leads. Generally, I'm not a fan of musicals, but I enjoy the musical numbers in this one. I also think Eddie Fisher is adorable in the picture.

In 1959, Eddie left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor after Liz's husband, Mike Todd (also Eddie's best friend), died in a plane crash. Is your head spinning yet? Well, prepare yourself. Because in 1963, Liz left Eddie for Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. Yikes!

Eddie Fisher's popularity plummeted on account of the scandal. Most people sided with Debbie, who was seen as a sweet and innocent girl-next-door compared to Liz's femme fatale image. At the time Bundle of Joy was made, however, Eddie and Debbie were the quintessential Hollywood couple and at the top of their respective professional fields. 

So, yes, despite its many pitfalls, Bundle of Joy will always remain one of my favorite motion pictures.

I'll leave you now with one of my favorite musical numbers from the film. Here is Eddie Fisher performing "All About Love." If you're reading this post via an email notification, you will most likely have to go to my website in order to view the video.

Share your own favorite guilty pleasure film in the comments section below!

1 comment:

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