A Child Is Born (1939)

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A Child Is Born (1939) Poster

A maternity ward, staffed by sympathetic nurses, serves mothers-to-be from all walks of life. These include a happy mother of a large family; a secretly-married teenager who thinks their ... See full summary »

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9 March 2015 | blanche-2
6
| birthin' babies was sure different back then
"A Child is Born" is a remake of "Life Begins," which was precode. This film is from 1939 and features many Warners contract players, hoping to move up, and some more established: Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gladys George, Jeffrey Lynn, Gale Page, Spring Byington, Nanette Fabray, Gloria Holden (of Dracula's Daughter), and Eve Arden. John Litel plays a doctor.

First of all, back in 1939, women didn't look pregnant at all when they entered the hospital to give birth. Apparently you knew when you were about to go into contractions and just went into a hospital, got into bed and waited. This ward had women who had given birth and women who hadn't. Maybe they were having contractions, and that was as verboten as showing pregnancy.

The story centers around a woman in prison (Fitzgerald) married to Lynn, who comes into the hospital to have her baby. We're given to believe the homicide she's imprisoned for was justified, and that in two years, she has a chance at a pardon. If she has a chance for a pardon in two years, why can't she get one now? Gladys George plays part of a performing team who is expecting twins against the wishes of her husband/partner, and evidently herself. She's sneaking booze and pretending it's water. When one of the baby needs "the mother's milk" the nurse gives it to her. I wish the infant luck. He or she will be in a twelve step program before kindergarten.

Fabray plays an underage girl, married without the knowledge of her parents, and about to give birth. The parents find out and according to the husband, they're en route. Thus, the trials and joys of those in a maternity ward.

Fitzgerald enjoyed a long career in films and television; Arden, Byington, and Fabray had film careers but found their greatest success in television; Gale Page got married and retired; Jeffrey Lynn ultimately went into real estate; Gloria Holden worked through the '50s, starring in B movies, supporting in top films, and later on, uncredited. Gladys George had already had a fine career and worked until her death in 1954.

An interesting film for the treatment of pregnancy back then, soapy-ish but still entertaining and poignant because of the performances.

Times have changed. As Lucille Ball once said, "You used to not be able to show a woman pregnant. Now you not only see it, but how she got that way." But birth still remains part of the circle of life.

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