Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Rock-A-Bye Baby

rock a bye baby indexJerry Lewis stars in this remake of The Miracle Of Morgan Creek which could have been called “A Man And Three Babies” if it wanted to accurately describe events. It’s one of those times where the idea of it being a remake is something of a stretch too, it takes a very minor element of Preston Sturges film but goes off in its own direction where a woman finds she’s pregnant and tries to get a man to help her out, but how she does so and the circumstances surrounding it are very different.

In Sturges original after getting very drunk with a bunch of soldiers in what’s a quite unpleasant implication consent wise the lead finds herself pregnant and then asks a local boy who’s madly in love with her to marry him. This is very different though, in that actress Carla (Marilyn Maxwell) finds herself pregnant but her husband, a bull fighter, is killed the day after they wed, and so that her reputation isn’t ruined she asks an old boyfriend from her home town to look after the child when it’s born – the twist being that she has three daughters that she asks him to father and she isn’t planning on sticking around to help.

Said ex boyfriend is Clayton (Jerry Lewis) who is sort of vaguely dating Carla’s sister Sandy (Connie Stevens) but is still in love with Carla even though they haven’t seen each other in years. Carla initially feels guilty but only very briefly, and then before we know it Clayton ends up with the three babies though he needs parenting assistance from Sandy and Sandy’s racist caricature, oh, sorry, I meant to write Italian father (Salvatore Baccaloni).

Said Father is more Italian than every character in a Scorsese mob film combined with the Dolmio family from those annoying adverts, and it’s an element which is a bit unfortunate as otherwise this is quite the hoot. Lewis has a lot of fun attempting to be a great dad to the kids while also working, and there’s lots of slapstick and amusing stunts with Lewis ending up covered in soot or soaked to the skin thanks to various bouts of silliness which impressively amuse each time.

Sometimes it’s a little forced and the daftness is of the variety you could only get away with in the nineteen fifties, but that’s no bad thing and even if Lewis pretending to be various characters behind a screen-less tv is implausible if you’re happy to go with the flow it’s very funny. There is the odd bit of dodginess and I wish he hadn’t attempted impersonating a Japanese weatherman, but it’s not too hideous and not meant to be intentionally mean in any way.

There’s also some “Of it’s time” sexism relating to the idea that men shouldn’t bring up children without a female in their lives, but hey, at least it’s challenged in the film as Lewis proves such an idea is nonsensical. There’s a number of songs which show that Lewis has quite a nice singing voice, and while the romantic element is perhaps a little forced it leads to a sweet ending, all of which makes this a surprisingly endearing affair which is easily the best of any of the remakes of Preston Sturges’ work, and is a rare case where it’s better than the original.

★★★3/4

Alex Finch.
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