Monday, September 10, 2012

Mommy Kay

In 1938's My Bill, Kay Francis plays Mary Colbrook, the widowed mother of four children.  3 of her little darlings are rude, selfish, graspy creeps.  But then there is Bill (played by Dickie Moore), who for some unexplained reason calls his mother "Sweetheart", and who is the only sensible member of this family. Though Kay was left some money on her husband's death, she has wasted every cent of it providing the selfish bunch with piano lessons and new dresses.  Now, she's broke. So the obnoxious 3 leave her (after she squanders more money on cabs and flowers); Bill remains, begins a paper route, and takes on the job of "Man of the Family" to support his mother.

I think it would be fair to call this an odd movie. It's based on a play (from 1928), but really the biggest problem is the character of Mary.  By the end, we get a lot more back-story (which does make her story more interesting), but she is such a scatterbrain that one wonders how she has survived as long as she has. Bill, however, is a stand-up young man, and Dickie Moore plays him with verve. Bonita Granville, Anita Louise and Bobby Jordan as the other three nightmarish offspring bring obnoxious to new heights. And Elizabeth Risdon as Aunt Caroline confirms they are from the correct gene pool.

This film came out the same year that Kay got labeled "Box Office Poison" (along with Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich); it's obvious it was less her and more some of the parts she was being given.  She does the best she can, but in a sense, this IS Dickie Moore's movie.  And he kinda runs with it.