9 February 2015 | hotangen
Constance wants a baby
Constance Bennett brings vim and vigor to this soppy story of maternal longings. In Bennett's most recent hit movie, What Price Hollywood, she said, "I can't have a baby in every picture", but in that film, and in Rockabye, no kidding, there's a baby. In Bennett's private life, as all fan mag readers knew, between marriages Bennett had adopted a baby and was raising it as a single, working mom. This was unusual in 1932, but as fan mag readers also knew, Bennett did as she pleased. In Rockabye, Bennett, a celebrated Hollywood star with an adopted baby, plays Judy, a celebrated stage star adopting a baby. A case of art imitating life. Did Bennett's femme fan base vicariously see themselves in Bennett's character, a lone woman with child? Not likely, as Judy did not struggle alone to raise an adorable tyke but had multiple hands assisting - namely a nanny, nurse, governess, cook, and her own mother, plus a male presence in the person of her doting manager. Did Bennett's femme fan base wonder why Bennett didn't marry first and then pursue motherhood? Did the adoption agency wonder? Did audiences wonder why Bennett, at the peak of her Star Power, insisted on making this never produced and unproducible play?
Bennett is fabulous and gives a wonderful and lively performance. In films prior to What Price Hollywood Bennett was passive, even lethargic. In Rockabye she kicks up her heels, sings in a speakeasy with the pals of her youth, gets frisky with scrambled eggs and balloons, and has a rollicking good time with her new love. I suspect Bennett was playing herself, a free-spirit who thumbed her nose at conventions. Bennett too is believable in the script's hard-to-swallow scenes of sorrow and sacrifice. Variety's reviewer wrote, "This actress is one of the few who can somehow achieve conviction in just such stagey things" and "She is accountable for practically all its merits."
How did the public respond to Rockabye? After the opening in New York, Variety predicted it would do well, as all Bennett films had done. Bennett's biographer wrote that it was a colossal box-office flop. TCM wrote that RKO records showed it was a respectable hit and grossed slightly more than the very successful What Price Hollywood. So it was a flop and a hit? Maybe it was both. After a disastrous preview of Rockabye, the film was remade with a new director and costars. This would have doubled production costs and resulted in a loss, regardless of grosses. RKO then wised up - in future, no more babies.
10 stars for Bennett. 0 stars for story.