Films of Emil Sitka: AND BABY MAKES THREE (1949)
by Saxon E. Sitka
Although he was working once again for Columbia Pictures, Emil's 50th career film role took him away from their short-subjects department. AND BABY MAKES THREE is a romantic-comedy feature film starring Robert Young and Barbara Hale, long before they became household names as television stars. Young and Hale play a couple who have recently divorced but suddenly discover she's pregnant with his baby. Naturally they both begin to wonder if they're truly prepared to part ways after all. Unfortunately, they're each about to get married to other people, and the plot revolves around the many antics and predicaments that accompany their process of reconciliation.
Robert Young appeared in scores of movies going back to the early 1930s, and he worked with many of Hollywood's biggest names including Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, Lionel Barrymore, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck and dozens of others. He was also in several films with Three Stooges originator Ted Healy. Young of course later became famous as a television star in Father Knows Best, a TV series fondly remembered by baby boomers that ran from 1954 through 1960. Then, after a decade of little activity, Young resurfaced in the title role of another very popular TV series, Marcus Welby MD, which ran from 1969 to 1976 and co-starred James Brolin.
Barbara Hale similarly went on to earn significant television fame after this move, for her portrayal of "Della Street" opposite Raymond Burr in the extremely popular Perry Mason series that ran from 1956 until 1965. Hale likewise made many feature films prior to her television career and worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Joel McCrea, James Cagney, Charleston Heston, James Stewart, Anthony Quinn, and numerous other major stars of the day.
Joining Young and Hale in the cast of AND BABY MAKES THREE is Billie Burke, who played the "Good Witch of the North" in THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) and with whom Emil had worked several times in comedy shorts. Robert Hutton, Janis Carter, Nicholas Joy, Lloyd Corrigan, Howland Chamberlain, and Melvin Cooper round out the credited cast. Emil is one of the film's many uncredited bit actors, as is fellow veteran Three Stooges supporting actor Vernon Dent. AND BABY MAKES THREE was produced by by Robert Lord and directed by Henry Levin from a screenplay by Lou Breslow and Joseph Hoffman, each a veteran professional with a long list of credits.
The plot is convoluted and complicated, taking many odd twists and turns before resolving itself, but Emi's role is part of the story so we'll attempt to explain it.
Barbara Hale plays "Jackie," a young woman very recently divorced but also about to get re-married, that is, until she suddenly discovers she's pregnant with her ex-husband's child. In fact, she faints during her own wedding and the ceremony is postponed. Robert Young plays "Vernon," her ex-husband, who discovers soon enough that he's going to be a father.
After recovering, Jackie decides to go through with her marriage, as well as to seek full custody of the baby-to-be. Motivated by spite as much as anything else, Vernon decides to fight for custody. To support his argument that he'd make a good father and to show he can provide the baby with a mother and a good home, he proposes to his ex-girlfriend "Wanda" (played by Janis Carter).
Jackie and Vernon then battle for the baby through a series of outlandish and absurd legal actions that seem motivated simply to aggravate one another. This goes on until Jackie discovers by chance that her reason for divorcing Vernon in the first place, for being unfaithful to her, was entirely untrue. Jackie's feelings suddenly change, and she decides she would rather attempt a reconciliation with ex-husband Vernon.
Deciding to sabotage Vernon's hastily announced engagement, she plots to discourage Wanda with the story that not only is she pregnant but she lies and tells her she's actually going to have triplets.
Now, Wanda's only desire is to have the handsome and dashing Vernon for herself. She's not really interested in mothering even one infant, let alone three, and so she reacts predictably by pulling out of her engagement with Vernon. This now makes him available for Jackie to move in and pursue her former husband. Just as things start to shape up, Jackie's doctor informs her that there's been a mistake, and she's not really pregnant after all.
I warned you it was a complicated plot, but in the end everything turns out okay. Vernon and Jackie get back together even though she's not pregnant, and Wanda takes a sudden interest in Jackie's well-to-do former fiance "Herbert" (played by Robert Hutton).
Emil's role is a small bit part with only a few lines, but it provides a minor yet important element to the development of the plot. Playing a character designated simply as MAN, Emil is part of a group of people who are standing outside on a sidewalk watching a baseball game appearing on a television set in a store window just as Jackie happens to walk by. The scene occurs at the moment Jackie's trying to figure out a way to thwart ex-husband Vernon's marriage to Wanda.
As Jackie strolls by the crowd (including Emil), we hear the TV's baseball announcer excitedly call a triple play, a rare event in baseball where three runners are ruled out in one play. As an avid baseball fan clearly thrilled by the triple-play, Emil turns to the nearest person, which is Jackie, and exclaims, "Did you hear that, lady? The Bums made a triple play! A triple play!"
At first, Jackie is unimpressed and continues to walk on, but as she thinks about what Emil just said an idea comes to her and she pauses. This is the moment she formulates the "pregnant with triplets" part of the plot. She's sure that the prospect of mothering three crying babies will send Wanda scurrying off, thus scuttling Vernon's wedding plans and leaving her free to attempt a reconciliation, as depicted in the script page below.