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  • NOBODY'S BABY is the only feature film to star the short-lived comedy team of Patsy Kelly and Lyda Roberti. (They also starred in two shorts.) Roberti replaced the late Thelma Todd as Kelly's partner. Viewing the delightful chemistry between Patsy and Lyda, one regrets this team never had the chance to work again after this picture. (Roberti died soon after.) They provide amusing personalities that smoothly play off each other: Roberti as a well-meaning but bumbling ditz and Kelly as a hard-boiled wisecracker exasperated by the messes her partner inadvertently embroils them in. Lyda brings a childlike sweetness to her character, thus providing a lovable and forgivable vacuity in the best Stan Laurel tradition. Kelly's smart alecky brusqueness is humorously pungent but never abrasive, suggesting an essential amiability beneath her brassy exterior.

    The farcical plot involving mistaken identity of a newborn baby is slight but amusing. The comedy material is generally unexceptional but Roberti and Kelly elevate it with their appealing personas. Kelly exhibits her tap dancing skills and Roberti her singing talent in a comedy number that unfortunately is too brief. Rosina Lawrence as the romantic ingenue also gets to sing and dance. She proves herself a gifted musical performer with an affecting winsomeness, but she comes across as too subdued for "star" potential. For additional musical entertainment, The Avalon Boys and the Rhythm Rascals each provide a pleasant if unremarkable number.

    Patsy Kelly and Lyda Roberti were talented and vivacious comediennes who could always be relied on to enliven the films they appeared in. NOBODY'S BABY is no classic, but it's a rare and rewarding opportunity to see these two gifted actresses work together as a team.
  • Hal Roach shut down short subject production and went into features. He tried each of his units: Our Gang got GENERAL SPANKY, Charley Chase got NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSE, Laurel and Hardy were already in feature production, so what was left was Patsy Kelly and Lyda Roberti -- originally it had been Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts but Thelma was dead and Zasu long gone.

    Although the two shorts that the two leads had made in 1936 were poor, a lot of that can be laid at the feet of their tiny budgets. Here, with a decent budget and a good supporting cast, the result is fairly good as the ladies meet while trying to break into show business, head off to study nursing and so forth, all structured as a series of one-reel encounters. There is a very good scene early on as the two undergo disaster after disaster in a kitchen, with the characters and gags well delineated -- a problem for the series for a couple of years. Roberti's character clearly doesn't understand the subtleties of English and this infuriates Kelly. More than good enough.

    Unfortunately, there would be no time for the team to develop. Roberti would be dead within a year, and Roach's operations would move off into other directions. Kelly's career would lead out of movies and back onto the stage.
  • Nobody's Baby (1937)

    ** (out of 4)

    After the death of Thelma Todd producer Hal Roach had think fast to try and find someone to team up with Patsy Kelly. They selected Lyda Roberti and the new team would appear in two (AT SEA ASHORE, HILL-TILLIES) shorts that were beyond awful. Roach would eventually quit producing shorts so here came the duos first and only feature as Roberti would be dead in less than a year. The story has Kelly and Roberti playing out of work artists who go to nursing school where they eventually meet a young dancer (Rosina Lawrence) who has runaway from her husband who doesn't know she's about to have a baby. Soon the girls are taking care of the baby while the mother tries to inform the father. NOBODY'S BABY is a film I'd call fair at best but when you compare it to the two shorts the ladies made you might as well call it a ground breaking masterpiece. There's no question that this isn't a very good movie but there are enough interesting moments to make it worth viewing if you're a fan of the cast and one does have to wonder what could have been done had the comedy group had time to grow. The story is a pretty weak one as it never really feels complete as it's pretty much delivered as six one-reel shorts. At first there's a skit involving the girl's trying out for radio. We then get a gag of them trying to cook. We then go to nursing school. We then flash to them getting kicked off a bus. They then meet the men in their lives. They meet the dancer. Then they get mixed up with the baby. Each of these "skits" play out just like a short and if you think too much about them then you'd probably have plenty of room to be negative. Again, considering how poor the two shorts were I was surprised to see that Kelly and Roberti were much better here. Kelly was especially better as she wasn't nearly as over bearing or annoying as she didn't go so over-the-top, which is something she often did in her two-reelers. She is pretty fun here as she delivers some great one-liners. Roberti wasn't much of an actress but she was cute either way. The supporting cast isn't all that impressive and that includes Armstrong who pretty much sleepwalks through his role. The jokes fly out pretty quickly from scene to scene and there's no question that they're hit and miss. Fans of Roach will probably want to check it out as will fans of Kelly and I certainly recommend it over the shorts they made the previous year.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Hal Roach must have had the idea that he could strike gold several more times with the success of Laurel and Hardy by creating a female version of them in his shorts, and like Laurel and Hardy, eventually moving them to features. First, it was Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd, then Todd with Patsy Kelly, and after Todd's sudden shocking death, Kelly with the Polish born Lyda Roberti. Unfortunately, Roberti's passing in 1938 ended that franchise, and Kelly ended up as the main female comic in a series of low budget features that co-starred much of his ensemble. This "B" comedy with a few song and dance numbers is nothing more than an extended short, but there are some very funny things in it, hence my deciding to raise the rating after seeing it again.

    The Kelly/Todd pairing was unique because it was two complete opposites: the lady (Todd) and the slob (Kelly), sort of a prequel to "The Odd Couple", caught up in some wacky situations where it was circumstances and clumsiness rather than simply being dumb that got these girls into trouble. The Todd/Kelly shorts are hit and miss depending on who you talk to, but for me, they are quite funny, and it is obvious that there is a bit of Lucy and Ethel, as well as Laverne and Shirley, in their antics. When Todd died, her part was handed off to Roberti, and she is presented as a bit closer to Stan Laurel with Patsy Kelly obviously her Oliver Hardy. Kelly has the slow burn that Hardy did, frustrated by Roberti's getting them into trouble always, and often, she even has an amusing malapropism (more because of her broken English) than her naivete. Roberti is basically an European version of "Mexican Spitfire" Lupe Velez without the temper, although in one Hal Roach musical ("Pick a Star!"), she had that temperament in spades.

    The plot here has Kelly being accepted to nursing school and oh so grateful to get away from roommate Roberti who has been driving her crazy. But unbeknownst to Kelly (but maybe not to Lyda), Roberti's been accepted in the same nursing school, and guess who ends up becoming Kelly's roommate once again. In class, Roberti's bedmaking technique has her turning Kelly into a mummy (or a mental patient with the straight jacket attached), and when Roberti ends up on the same bus as Kelly, her constant jabbering literally puts Kelly to sleep. Because of that they end up in the middle of nowhere and must hitchhike back to the city, making the acquaintance of police detective Lynne Overman and his pal, reporter Robert Armstrong, creating instant romance for the wacky pair. A night out with the boys ends up with them spotting dancer Rosina Lawrence running away from her husband/partner who wants to keep their marriage secret. Lawrence ends up in the hospital later on with a new baby, and it is up to Roberti and Kelly to keep her secret, which confuses both Overman and Armstrong who seem to think that the baby is one of theirs!

    So yes, by my 4/10, ** star rating, I don't think this is by means a great film, more about the comic moments than the soapy plot that has some maudlin moments between Lawrence and her self-centered Latin lothario husband/partner Don Alvarado. It is the personalities of the two women and their hilarious interactions, especially Kelly's often quiet eye roll or gape at Roberti's constant cheerful chattering. While made on a B budget at the Hal Roach lot at MGM (before he broke off on his own), this does get an "A" look, especially with the lavish nightclub setting. The fact that Roberti would pass away (from a heart attack due to a heart condition brought on by simply tying her shoe!) is rather sad considering the fact that she was so young and vivacious here. Kelly supported some of the great glamour girls of the 1930's (Harlow, Alice Faye, Marion Davies, etc.), but it is the two women (Todd & Roberti) from her shorts whom she will be remembered for working with, as well as her miraculous comeback in the 1970's as a scene-stealing old mugger on Broadway getting laughs simply by screaming at a vacuum cleaner (in the hit revival of "No No Nanette"). Kelly's brand of comedy might be corny, but for some reason, it doesn't date, and she seems as fresh in the 2010's as she did 80 years ago.