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Monday, April 14, 2014

RKO Attempts a Saucy Mix


"America's New Sweethearts" In 1956's Bundle Of Joy

RKO listed five reasons in trade ads why Bundle Of Joy would do "capacity business" for Christmas 1956. I'll not cite them all, but chief was Eddie Fisher, white-hot off TV, making his star screen debut as duet with wife Debbie Reynolds, "America's New Sweethearts" as anointed by fans and press. And what better basis for showmen to tie-in with local merchants than Bundle being set in a department store during holidays? That's essential charm of this otherwise labored comedy, 50's consumerism dressed in Technicolor an irresistible parlay. Premise had served Ginger Rogers seventeen years before as Bachelor Mother, a title which of itself drew patrons in hope a Code would be violated, which of course it wasn't. Still, this seemed a yarn worth remaking, but think how few years the situation had left to shock. Unwed motherhood as basis for social outrage got airing the same season, but on serious terms, with MGM's These Wilder Years, but maybe RKO had a better idea playing it for laughs and music as here.


Fifty-eight years is a long time in which to forget how popular Eddie Fisher was at prime. His Coke Time was a network hit and Eddie/Debbie merged for 50's mindset to something like Doug/Mary in idolatry of yore. Ebay-bid a '56 fan mag and chances are they'll be in it. Seven songs were cleffed for Bundle Of Joy, and RKO centered selling around them. Fisher got what Army Archerd called a "fabulous" deal: publishing rights for all the tunes (there'd be a soundtrack LP) and 35% ownership of the film. Coca-Cola was solidly aboard for promotion, Fisher closely associated with the soft drink thanks to his ongoing TV stint. Coke would festoon thousands of delivery trucks with Bundle Of Joy banners, this a "precedent-breaking move" on the corp's part, according to pic publicity. Two-million was production budget set by RKO, a more than generous figure for the troubled firm. Summer shoot for Bundle Of Joy saw a largest ever number of requests for star photos, Fisher alone or Fisher/Reynolds, 11,262 letters received during one record-shattering week. Richard Dix and Helen Twelvetrees, of former RKO employ, never had it so good in long-gone 30's.


Hard to believe there were once 6,000 Eddie Fisher fan clubs active. We think of him now, if at all, as somewhat the heel who made enemies of ex-wives and those he'd defame in scathing memoirs. Does anyone listen to Eddie on CD? I liked his tuning for Bundle Of Joy, and there's a boyish quality opposite better screen-experienced Debbie, she a grizzled vet beside newcomer husband. Reynolds was like Grace Kelly in that both were pledged to MGM, but loaned out to Leo's considerable profit, in DR's case, to RKO and also for Tammy and The Bachelor at Universal-International. Bundle Of Joy is banquet for speculation among those who'd tear masks off H'wood hypocrisy, "arranged" marriages, and perfect couples who were anything but. A best approach might be to read some of  scorched earth books written since Bundle Of Joy, then watch the movie. Warner Instant has been streaming a gorgeous HD transfer in 1.85.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mike Cline said...

Hmmm...sounds a bit like THREE MEN AND A BABY.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Considering Fisher's later drug habit, "Coke Time" seems a prescient title.

4:40 PM  

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