Just prior to having his career go into overdrive with the release of Sunset Boulevard and elevating him onto the “A” list of actors about tinsel town, William Holden starred alongside Coleen Gray in this harmless bit of fun involving a parcel of orphans at the turn of the 20th century.
“Good bass weather.”
That line pretty much sums up Holden’s ambition in life after his employer and all around charlatan, Charles Winninger, is arrested for selling one of those cure all formulas that is nothing more than bottled liquor in his traveling caravan show that had Holden singing in black face no less! So with Winninger sentenced to thirty days in the county jail, Holden is off to the nearest fishing hole and hay stack for some slumber.
No sooner does he land a good feed of fish and he bumps into a cute little six year old, Mary Jane Saunders. She’s a chatterbox and before he knows it he’s sharing his catch with her and her four older brothers. None of them old enough to be considered an adult. Mary Jane quickly adopts Holden as her Uncle and he’s soon cutting wood and learning a lesson himself about life and honesty when he’s admonished by one of the boys for cheating a local store keeper out of a dollar.
Yes up until now Holden has led a carefree life away from women and the law. “I’m woman proof.” he’s quick to state.
Well that may be but when lovely Coleen Gray enters our story and wants to know just who is caring for the children, Holden steps in to play the Uncle after all to prevent the five children from being hauled off to a local orphanage and possibly divided afterwards. While romance is in the air, so might be a jail stretch for Holden when he runs afoul of the wealthy Frederic Tozere who considers the children nothing but trouble and a bad influence on his own son in the school classroom. When he verbally insults the children, Holden thrashes him about to the delight of the children and even Hank Worden who serves as the coach driver for the well to do Tozere.
Not sure who Hank Worden is? If you know the films of John Ford and by extension John Wayne then you know Hank as Old Mose Harper from The Searchers among so many other bits and co-starring turns.
Holden is in a bind. He’s taken to the children and wants to do what’s right. The problem is he’s being railroaded to jail and has a shifty lawyer in Clinton Sundberg who knows the truth about the children and if he’s too keep his moth shut then Holden is going to have to marry one of his rather plain looking sisters clearly headed to spinsterhood. Take your pick Bill. Lillian Bronson or Peggy Converse. Of course the only reason that Sundberg is putting the bite on Holden is that one of the boys is a master at the harmonica. A pint sized Mozart with a mouth organ.
If love is going to triumph than Holden is going to need some help and maybe, just maybe Miss Gray is going to provide it.
As minor an entry as this may be on the dance card of William Holden who between the years of 1950 and 1957 was on one hell of a box office tear, this comedy is light, fluffy and easy to digest. There’s plenty of amusing bits within including one where Holden needs to cut and stitch a new dress overnight for little Mary Jane and we also get the talented Sig Ruman hiring Holden as a singing waiter that proves to be a comical episode.
Yes I did say sing and I’m quite positive Holden was dubbed at various points of the movie when he’d launch into song and dance with the kids. Miscast? At times I guess but let’s not forget that until Billy Wilder cast him in Boulevard and Stalag 17, I wouldn’t exactly call Holden a major star despite his appearing on screen since the late 1930’s. But once he did get the role of Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard his career skyrocketed with “A” list productions in the next few years including not only Stalag 17 but The Bridges at Toko-ri, Sabrina, The Country Girl, Born Yesterday, Picnic and of course Kwai.
Released by Holden’s home studio, Columbia, Bachelor is rare in that it has two credited directors. Norman Foster and Abby Berlin. Foster cut his teeth on Mr. Moto films and had worked with Holden previously on Rachel and the Stranger. Berlin graduated from the Blondie series and would quickly fade into the early years of series television.
As a self proclaimed fan of William Holden I know this one will be quickly forgotten but at least it’s out on DVD from Columbia’s made on demand arm if I decide to revisit it down the road after a few more viewings of Kwai and The Wild Bunch.