“Babies for Sale.”
Few film titles have made me chuckle as much as this 1940 B-movie did.
But the movie starring Glenn Ford and Rochelle Hudson is not a comedy but a crime drama about organizations posing as charitable adoption agencies who are actually selling babies for thousands of dollars.
The film prefaces with:
“Producers of the film are sympathetic with the 95-percent of the charitable organizations dealing with adopted children. These institutions are honest and worthy of all support. This picture is presented as a warning to all parents and to all who plan to adopt children. That some unsupervised private institutions do exist where babies are sold for cash. Where helpless mothers are victimized and where foster parents may find lifelong tragedy instead of happiness. This is a story of one such institution and victims.
What happens in this story could happen to you?”
What’s it about?
Ford as Steve Burton is a reporter who gets the scoop from Dr. John Gaines (Joe De Stefani) about fake adoption agencies. Gaines tells Burton that families pay anywhere from $50 to $10,000 for a child. Single women who go to these agencies to have their babies have to work there and earn $1,000 to get their baby.
After writing the story that uses phrases such as “Selling babies by the pound” and “Thousands of babies sold for cash,” Burton faces backlash and the editor is going to retract the story. Believing what he did is right; Burton quits but doesn’t give up investigating the case.
Then the audience gets a look inside one of these agencies.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Anderson (character actor John Qualen and Helen Brown) are facing Dr. Rankin, the owner of the adoption agency. The couple’s child has defects and will never be well. Rankin says the baby was perfectly fine when he gave them the baby they paid $10,000 for—Basically making it sound like he sold the couple a car. Desolate Mrs. Anderson runs in front of a train with the baby after they leave.
We meet pregnant Ruth Williams (Rochelle Hudson) whose husband died in an automobile accident.
Ruth has to work at the agency while she is pregnant to pay for her child once it’s born. During this time, Rankin tries to convince Ruth to give up her baby.
“We have to make sacrifices for the ones we love,” he tells her.
“I won’t give away my baby!” she demands.
Once her baby is born, Rankin tells Ruth that it was a stillborn, but she knows he adopted it to another family.
With the help of Burton, Ruth finds her baby through the use of baby foot prints taken after birth. They find Ruth’s baby with a friendly wealthy family who help put Rankin out of business.
The back story
“Babies for Sale” was recently shown for the first time on Turner Classic Movies while the channel was celebrating the career of actor Glenn Ford. Ford was 24 and “Babies” was his fifth film.
It was Ford’s third film with Rochelle Hudson- who also starred in “Imitation of Life” (1934)- and Columbia Pictures was working to make the two a screen team but it never panned out, said TCM Primetime Host Robert Osborne.
Studious also worked to make Ford and Evelyn Keyes a screen team, starring in six films together, but their screen chemistry didn’t explode either. It wasn’t until Ford starred with Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” (1946) that he found his match.
Many of Ford’s early films were similar to “Babies for Sale,” with crime and corruption. “Babies” wasn’t made to be a box office sensation but to be shown during a double feature, Osborne said.
Also early in his career, Bruce Bennett can be spotted as a police officer.
What I thought
Though the title made me laugh, “Babies for Sale” is an entertaining movie. B-movies get a bad rap for being inexpensive, but they are some of my favorite films. The plot line are sensational using lines like “The mother had no right to keep her baby,” and the story can be told in just a little over an hour.
Ford showed potential even early in his career giving a solid performance and coming off as very likeable.
Next time you come across it, give it –and other B-movies- a chance. It will be a pleasant way to spend 65 minutes.
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