Cast & Crew
Robert Z. Leonard
C. Aubrey Smith
Photos & Videos
Sir Basil Winterton, once a dashing young ladies' man, now lives alone at Rooksfold, his enormous Surrey, England estate, with only his servants as company. Occasionally, the tempermental old English aristocrat is visited by his friend, Doctor Frank MacDonald, who tells Basil that what he needs is the love and warmth of a family. To that end, the doctor suggests that Basil look up the addresses of his three illegitimate children, who are now adults and are living in different parts of the world, and then takes charge of bringing them to live at the manor. One of Basil's daughters, the vivacious Tony Flagg, is a dancer who has been living modestly in New York with her guardian, Mrs. Berney, and Mrs. Berney's son Dick. Tony and Mrs. Berney are shocked when Frank offers to take Tony away to live with her estranged father, but Mrs. Berney agrees because she realizes that Basil will be able to provide a better life for her. Though she knows that Basil's real daughter died twenty years ago, Mrs. Berney, believing that she is acting in Tony's best interest, suppresses the information and allows the girl to go. At Rooksfold, Tony meets her two siblings, Maria Credaro, a singer from Florence, Italy, and Geoffrey Trent. To Basil's dismay, his three children immediately engage in wild merriment. Appalled by their behavior, Basil calls them swine and regrets having invited them to stay. In response to Basil's hostile behavior, the three form a protective union and vow to stick together. When Basil tells Tony that she is not behaving in a manner befitting a woman in his social circle, Tony calls Basil hardboiled. The two bicker until Basil learns that Tony's mother is no longer living, whereupon he apologizes for his behavior and they make up. Eventually, Basil takes a liking to his offspring and allows them to stay. However, the three playfully suggest a probation period of one month before they decide if they want to stay. After meeting Basil's friend, John Ashley, Tony immediately falls in love with him and a romance ensues. Meanwhile, back in New York, Mrs. Berney is interrogated by Mr. Creswell, a lawyer intent on proving that Tony Flagg is not Basil's real daughter. When Dick, an aviator, flies his airplane to Surrey to visit Tony, he delivers a note from home that reveals the truth about her relationship to Basil. Tony, who has just accepted an engagement ring from John, is devastated by the news. She prepares to tell Basil the truth about herself, but Mr. Creswell beats her to it, thus making Tony look like an imposter. Embarrassed by the situation, Tony returns John's ring and explains to Basil that she did not tell him about the news right away because she did not want to ruin their lovely relationship. Tony then insists on flying out of England with her brother on a risky transatlantic flight, but when Dick and Basil find out about her plans, Dick is sent to stop her. Dick arrives too late, and while listening to the radio coverage of the aerial event, Basil hears the news that the airplane has crashed. Miraculously, though, Tony escapes with only minor injuries and is taken back to Rooksfold, where Basil and John argue over who will have the privilege of keeping her. Tony settles the matter by suggesting that she be Basil's daughter by day and John's wife by night.
Robert Z. Leonard
C. Aubrey Smith
The Bachelor Father
This 1931 confection was ahead of its time in subject matter, too. The Bachelor Father was adapted from a stage hit by Edward Childs Carpenter, who was noted for mildly risque comedies. His most famous work is probably Connie Goes Home, about a young woman who masquerades as a chld only to get caught in a compromising situation. The play provided the inspiration for Billy Wilder's first directing assignment, The Major and the Minor.
In The Bachelor Father, C. Aubrey Smith re-creates his stage role as an aging British philanderer who decides to look up the three children he fathered out of wedlock. Davies plays his American heir, a high-spirited girl who dreams of following in Amelia Earhart's footsteps and piloting a trans-Atlantic flight.
The Bachelor Father went into production shortly after famed photographer Cecil Beaton had named Davies one of the six most beautiful women in Hollywood, along with Greta Garbo, Dolores Del Rio, Norma Shearer, Alice White and Lillian Gish. The honor brought with it the chance to be photographed by Beaton in New York, but when she showed up in a fairly conservative dress, he complained that he had wanted to shoot her with bare shoulders. Undaunted, she grabbed a pair of scissors and cut a new neckline for the dress. It was just that wild playfulness that Gibbons had hoped to capture, and which helped make films like The Bachelor Father such fan favorites.
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Producer: Marion Davies, Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: Lawrence E. Johnson, based on the play by Edward Childs Carpenter
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cast: Marion Davies (Tony Flagg), Ralph Forbes (John Ashley), C. Aubrey Smith (Sir Basil Winterton), Ray Milland (Geoffrey Trent), Nena Quartaro (Maria Credaro), Halliwell Hobbes (Larkin).
by Frank Miller
The Bachelor Father
The original play opened in New York on 13 February 1928, with C. Aubrey Smith originating the role of Sir Basil.
Because of the subject of illegitimate children, the movie was banned in Ireland and underwent dialogue deletions in many areas, including Milwaukee, Massachusetts and Virginia.
A working title for this film was The Lion's Share. A French-language version, Le père célibataire, was also released in 1931. According to contemporary news items, C. Aubrey Smith reprised his stage role for the film. The Bachelor Father marked the American feature film debut of Raymond Milland. The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a series of letters sent between mid-June 1929 and February 1931, which indicate that the Hays Office initially objected to the production of any film based on Edward Childs Carpenter's play, due to the fact that the story concerned illegitimate children. The Hays Office called the play "unsuitable for production in motion pictures," but also stated that it might be all right for filming if "some irresponsible company does not get a hold of it." In addition, the Hays Office insisted that the title of the story be changed and called for the removal of any hint that the children in the story are illegitimate. The Hays Office went on to insist that no connection be made between the film and the play in its publicity or advertising. In February 1931, the foreign manager of the Hays Office noted that while all the English versions of the film had been released with an added scene that was designed to make it clear that the children were legitimate, the French version was released without the scene. He went on to state, however, that "for continental distribution, it is allright without any reference to the marriage status of Sir Basil. In fact, it makes it more spicy of course not to have this...I'm not so sure about England. The picture is so full of broad remarks which I imagine the English speaking world will censor." When Will H. Hays learned of the difference between the two versions, he called it a "very serious matter...to have one version for America and one version for the continent." He also raised an objection to the scene in which "Sir Basil's" lawyer implies that his client made payments to the women from his past. Following its release, The Bachelor Father underwent dialogue deletions by censors in New Zealand, Australia, Alberta, Milwaukee, Massachusetts and Virginia, and was banned in Ireland. Most of the eliminations related to the subject of illegitimate children. A biography of Marion Davies notes that the picture was filmed in twenty-two days, at a cost of $502,000, and that B. P. Fineman was the production supervisor.