Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Scene stealer: Baby Quintanilla; Odd duo: Cantor and Anderson
FORTY LITTLE MOTHERS (1940). Director: Busby Berkeley.

"Maybe he has a charm we know nothing about?" Mme. Cliche

I doubt it." -- Mme. Granville

Out of work professor Gilbert Thompson (Eddie Cantor) runs into and saves a suicidal woman, Marian (Rita Johnson), unaware that she has left her little baby boy (Baby Quintanilla) in a depot. When he discovers the child later on, he doesn't know who the mother is, and takes him home to his boarding house. He finally gets a job at Mme. Granville's School for Girls, but learns that babies aren't allowed there. Another complication is that the girls, who are pining for a handsome professor who was fired, are dismayed by his replacement. "I've seen better heads on an umbrella!" says one disgruntled co-ed. They cook up a scheme to get him thrown out of the school by pretending all of them are in love with him, but when Gilbert is forced to take in the baby from the friend who was watching him, he discovers the girls may not be quite as awful as they seem. Forty Little Mothers is an unusual and charming  comedy-drama with lots of sentiment and a warm and winning performance from Cantor. It is a little astonishing that he is teamed with -- of all people -- Judith Anderson [Rebecca] as the headmistress, but these two pros (from very different disciplines) work very well together. Bonita Granville [Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble] is cast as the main "mean girl" and she is effective, although it is unlikely that she and the other cruel young monsters would suddenly develop a pleasant nature just because Gilbert shames them. Nydia Westman is very amusing as Anderson's assistant, Mademoiselle Cynthia Cliche, and Baby Quintanilla -- who was actually twin girls and not a baby boy -- is the most adorable scene-stealer since Baby Leroy. Cantor even gets to warble "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair." With her highly expressive face, Rita Johnson [Honolulu] makes a decided impression as the woman who hopes, eventually, to be reunited with her baby.

Verdict: How much cuteness can you stand? ***. 


angelman66 said...

Have never seen this one, but now I need to. Will be fun to see Dame Judith in a rare comic role!

William said...

Rare, indeed. When I first saw the credits I couldn't believe that cast, LOL!