Sunday, June 01, 2008
cinema obscura: Norman Taurog's "Room for One More" (1952)
Cary Grant made a lot of films in his lifetime and perhaps the only one that stands as a truly lost movie is Norman Taurog's charming 1952 family comedy, "Room for One More," which teamed Grant with his adorable wife at the time, Betsy Drake.
Based on a memoir by Anne Perrot Rose, with a screenplay written by Rose and her husband Jack, the film warmly chronicles what happens when the independent-thinking Anne (played by Drake in the film) decides to add to her family by fostering a troubled teenage girl (Iris Mann) and an embittered little boy with braces on his legs (Clifford Tatum Jr.) - much to the chagrin of "Poppy" (Grant), as the Rose's three biological children (George Winslow, Gay Gordon and Malcolm Cassell) call their father.
Given the recent popularity of such large-family remakes as "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Yours, Mine and Ours" (both pretty bad), it's surprising that Warners has not only ignored this property but inexplicably buried it. When the film went into syndication in the 1960s, it was given a new title, "The Easy Way," so as not to confuse it with the Warners TV series adapted from it in 1962 (starring Peggy McCay and Andrew Duggan in the Drake and Grant roles). The series lasted only one season but the film has been saddled with the replacement title ever since. It has never been released on home entertainment in any form and now it's even disappeared from television. It was last broadcast on Turner Classics several years ago - with "The Easy Way" superimposed over the original title in the credits.
"Room for One More" is an effortless mix of comedy and pathos, incredibly warm and poignant. Drake in particular shines with her brusk line-readings. It's evident to me that the sporty British tomgirl persona that Julie Andrews and Emma Thompson both exhibit comes directly from Drake. She was the template for this screen type. Andrews even appropriated Drake's "look" for "The Sound of Music."
As for Grant, he was always great with children on screen, as evidenced by "Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House," "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" and "Houseboat" and he's entirely memorable, entirely Cary Grant here.
Incidentally, Drake came up with the idea for "Houseboat" and even wrote the original screenplay, but by the time the film was made, she was no longer Mrs. Grant; the script was rewritten and Sophia Loren was cast in the female lead.
If there's any way you can track down "Room for One More," by all means do. See it and savor it. Hopefully, Warners will find it on some studio shelf, where it's been long forgotten, dust it off and release it on DVD.
Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.
(Artwork: Variety ad for trade-show screening of "Room for One More" in 1952)
Posted by joe baltake at 7:59 PM