Yes Sir, That's My Baby (1949)
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Don does one impressive elaborate solo tapdance routine, in a Laundromat setting, which looks like a warm up for his future roles in bigger budget films at MGM and Fox, including "Singing in the Rain", "I Love Melvin", "Call Me Madam", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". Like contemporaries Judy Garland and Martha Raye, for example, Don was born into a vaudeville family and began performing on stage at an early age. Paramount used him as a child actor.Universal then signed him for a series of low budget teen-oriented musical comedies, mostly costaring Peggy Ryan as a dancer and Gloria Jean as songstress.He remained with Universal, mostly doing straight comedies, with the occasional musical comedy. His 'Frances the talking mule' series were popular and profitable, if a waste of his musical talent, which later was mostly utilized by other studios.
Gloria DeHaven, the same age as Don, was also the offspring of a theatrical family, and was signed at an early age by MGM, where she mostly was relegated to second tier musicals and other films. In the mid '40s, she had 2 children and did little film work. Now, she was returning to the occasional role in musicals, but wold not go on to become a big star. She had a good singing voice(I occasionally play one of her CDs) and passable dancing and acting talent.
Gruff Charles Colburn plays the combo football coach and biology teacher at this small college. His feud with one time romantic partner Professor Sophia Boland(Barbara Brown) provides additional fuel for the 'battle of the sexes' theme. Don's 'Mr. Fix-it' attempt to get these two old confirmed singles back together predictably ends in disaster. Anyone who has seen a good sampling of late '30s through '50s films will instantly recognize the charismatic Coburn, who usually played some sort of fatherly authority figure.
You can currently see this film in its entirety on You Tube.
So, when Piggy is making the audience laugh with jokes about how important it is to be the man of the house while simultaneously falling to pieces at the sight of a newborn baby, the movie is pretty cute. And to be honest, the first few times the husbands boast about their babies' accomplishments like wives usually do-Donald O'Connor says his son was born with a tooth-and struggle with the laundry and walk down the street with a pack of strollers are funny. There are definitely some sequences that get too silly, or too dated, for this movie to be a treasure I'll want to watch over and over again. Overall, it was enjoyable, especially when compared to some really stinky battle-of-the-sexes movies from that era, but mostly because of Charles Coburn's class and comedic timing. Donald O'Connor gets to show off his dancing skills with a memorable routine in the laundromat. With all those backflips and acrobatic moves, it's no wonder he was cast to play Buster Keaton in the following decade!
The film has a sense of cavalier about its presentation of former servicemen going to college on the GI-bill. It was a tougher time for those vets who still had to work to put food on the table. Another movie, made a year earlier, captured the spirit of the times and situation quite well, using humor and drama. William Holden, Jean Crain and Edmund Gwenn starred in "Apartment for Peggy."
The acting just isn't that good here, and despite a good cast, the film is flat and not very interesting. For one thing, the plot tries to cram too much into the story. A battle of the sexes theme intermingles with couples with babies, the guys in college on the GI Bill, the men having been football players, and a coach and teacher antagonists. I don't know how it fared as the movies, but I suspect that "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" wasn't a big hit in its day.
About the only thing that seemed authentic in the plot was the Quonset hut housing. The only line I could see that might have elicited laughter in its time was one from O'Connor's Bill Winfield. He says, "Too bad a fireplace doesn't go with this early Quonset." Five stars is a generous rating for this film. I give the film that for the courage of the cast in taking on such a dull, hokey screenplay.
While I'm usually an avid fan of Charles Coburn (The More the Merrier, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), his appearance here could have been replaced by an entirely different type without any loss.
About 34 minutes in, O'Connor does a very good dance, showcasing his grace and athleticism, and making interesting use of his non-dancing male extras.
I'd probably buy this title just for those 4-5 minutes. Universal needs to publish O'Connor's movies on DVD, or at least create a compilation of his musical numbers.