Bundle of Joy

Bundle of Joy (1956) is a Technicolor musical remake of the comedy film Bachelor Mother (1939), which starred Ginger Rogers. It stars Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (who were married in real-life at the time), and Adolphe Menjou. An unmarried salesgirl at a department store finds and takes care of an abandoned baby. Much confusion results when her co-workers assume the child is hers and that the father is the son of the store owner.

Bundle of Joy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNorman Taurog
Produced byEdmund Grainger
Written byRobert Carson
Norman Krasna
Arthur Sheekman
Felix Jackson (story)
StarringEddie Fisher
Debbie Reynolds
Adolphe Menjou
Music byHugo Winterhalter
Walter Scharf[1]
CinematographyWilliam E. Snyder
Edited byHarry Marker
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • December 19, 1956 (1956-12-19) (US)[2]
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States


Polly Parish (Reynolds) works in the Millinery Department at J.B. Merlin & Son's department store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She is summoned to the office of the store manager, who informs her that she is fired because she is overselling hats, which creates too many returns and too much work for the accounting department. After work, Polly walks home and wonders what she will do to make ends meet.

On a step, she finds an abandoned baby in a blanket and instinctively picks it up to comfort it. As she bends over, the door behind the step opens and a woman ushers Polly and the baby inside. Polly has not noticed the sign that indicates the door belongs to an orphanage. When she denies the baby is hers inside, the staff disbelieve her, having experienced countless women ashamed to admit that they bore a child out of wedlock. Polly explains that she has just lost her job at J.B Merlin & Son's and insists there is no way that she will care for a baby that is not hers.

After she leaves, the head of the orphanage decides to intervene on her behalf, knowing the Merlins to be charitable. He convinces the firm to hire Polly back, and she is summoned to a meeting with Dan Merlin (Fisher) the son of the titular owner. Dan informs her that she will be hired back at $10 more per week and that a gift will be delivered to her apartment later that night. When the baby arrives, Polly is flabbergasted. She convinces a friend to help her deliver the baby back to Dan at his home on East 63rd Street.

They leave the baby in the care of Dan's butler, whom Dan enlists to help him return the baby to Polly. They track her down to a dance hall where she is hoping to win a prize. Dan gets into a scuffle and gets thrown out. So he goes to Polly's apartment and waits for her there with the baby. Forced to care for the baby, Polly makes do and grows fond of him. She names the child John, and Dan checks in on her from time to time.

On New Year's Eve, Dan is stood up by his date, because he had forgotten to call her earlier. He arranges for Polly's landlady to watch John while they go out together. He takes her to the department store to get an outfit for a night out on the town. When he drops her off back at home, he jokes that she is fired so that he can kiss her.

Meanwhile, J.B. Merlin has been misinformed that he is a grandfather, mistaking John to be Dan's son. He begins to make arrangements for Dan to have full custody of the child. Polly panics at the thought of losing John. So she pretends that her landlady's nephew, who is visiting from Harvard, is John's real father. Dan produces a store employee to pretend he is the father. The ensuing confusion leads to a full confession of love from Dan and a happy union for the new family, and J.B. is convinced the boy is his grandson.



Music by Josef Myrow and lyrics by Mack Gordon;

  • Bundle of Joy
  • All About Love
  • Some Day Soon
  • I Never Felt This Way Before
  • Worry About Tomorrow
  • Lullaby in Blue



The original narrative of Bundle of Joy was produced by Joe Pasternak who had developed a winning formula in Universal Picture's Berlin division. His second picture with Henry Koster (director), Felix Jackson (writer), and Franciska Gaal (actress) was Kleine Mutti (Little Mother, 1935) about the orphan Marie who raises a foundling and ends up marrying a banker. The German-language film was remade in English as Bachelor Mother three years later. Bundle of Joy is a musical adaptation of Bachelor Mother, and Jackson retains story credit on both pictures.[3]

RKO Studios had ceased production after Howard Hughes sold it. The new owners announced a program of 11 films costing $22,500,000; The First Travelling Saleslady, Back from Eternity, Tension at Table Rock, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Stage Struck, Bundle of Joy, A Farewell to Arms, Cash McCall, Misty, The Syndicate and Is This Our Son?[4]. (Not all these films would be made by RKO and come were not made at all.)


Filming started in June 1956.[5] It finished in August.[6]

"I know I"m not an actor but I haven't had too much to worry about," said Fisher.[7]

Carrie Fisher tells the story in her memoir and subsequent documentary film Wishful Drinking (2010) that Reynolds was pregnant with her during production of this film as well as Tammy and the Bachelor.[8]

During production, director Norman Taurog was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Very little was known about the illness at the time, so Debbie Reynolds and the rest of the cast and crew "just coped with" his unexplained memory losses and constant repeated instructions.[9]


The movie's premiere was given at the Capitol Theatre in New York on December 19, 1956. The event doubled as a fundraiser for refugees of the Hungarian Revolution, which had ended only a month earlier. George Jessel was the master of ceremonies.[10] Archduke Leopold of Habsburg and his sister were notable guests along with other celebrities and executives of RKO pictures. The event raised $21,000 for CARE and First Aid for Hungary, which was formed on October 29, 1956 in order to "bring aid to the hundreds of Hungarian Freedom Fighters who had been forced to seek refuge in neighboring Austria and had thus cast an enormous burden upon that country".[11][12]

Eddie Fisher later wrote that he "tried my best to do a good job in" the film. "In fact, both Debbie and I worked so hard that we didn’t even go home during the last few weeks of shooting. We stayed in a bungalow on the lot." When he saw the final cut he said "As bad as I was, the picture was even worse, a bomb... Bundle of Joy laid a financial egg, the songs disappeared without a trace and Debbie’s was the only movie career that managed to survive. "[13]

See also


  1. http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=51773
  2. "Bundle of Joy: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  3. Dassonowsky, Robert von. Austrian Cinema: A History. McFarland, 2007. p. 67
  4. RKO Returns to Full Scale Movie Making Chicago Daily Tribune 29 Jan 1956: g12.
  5. Drama: Madison Acquires 'Well of Living Waters;' Wald Deal With 20th Rumored Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 6 June 1956: A7.
  6. EDDIE 'COULDN'T BE HAPPIER!' Fink, John. Chicago Daily Tribune 11 Aug 1956: c4.
  7. A Town Called Hollywood: Singer Eddie Fisher Still Doesn't Think He's an Actor Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 19 Aug 1956: E2.
  8. Fisher, Carrie. Wishful Drinking. Simon & Schuster, 2012. p. 28.
  9. Reynolds, Debbie (2013). Unsinkable: A Memoir. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-06-221365-5.
  10. Pryor, Thomas M. "REPORTS DENIED OF END TO R. K. O.; Production Executive Says Studio Will Not Be Used for Industrial Purposes Four Pictures Planned Of Local Origin, The New York Times. December 19, 1956.
  11. Register of the First Aid For Hungary, 1956-1958. Online Archive of California. Collection No. 57014
  12. "Movie Aids Refugees. 'Bundle of Joy' Raises $21,000 for Hungarian Cause". The New York Times. December 20, 1956.
  13. McClelland, Doug (1989). Hollywood Talks Turkey - The Screen's Greatest Flops. Starbrite.
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