Rockabye is full of pre-code fabulousness. That was one reason I had to see the film the other because it is the third of four films pairing Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea. It was an over dramatic story to say the least but a few scenes between Bennett and McCrea completely make up for the dramatic scenes.
Judy Carroll (Bennett) is a Broadway star. Her star is in jeopardy when she defends her gangster friend Al Howard (Walter Pidgeon in a very small role). The prosecutor attacks Judy left and right and hits her right in the gut when he insinuates that a baby she is trying to adopt is a baby she had with Al. Furiously Judy jumps up saying that is not so. Nothing she says can help Al and he is sentenced to jail.
When she returns home the first Judy does is play with the little girl she plans to adopt. Judy loves the little girl and the little girl loves her. That very same day two people from the welfare home where the girl comes from arrive at the house. Judy thinks they are there with the adoption papers instead they are there to take the girl away because her name is associated with a gangster. Judy and the little girl are heartbroken.
To get away from everything Judy and her mother go away to Europe for eight months. When Judy gets back she tells her agent she wants to do a show called Rockabye. The play is very similar to her own life and at first her manager forbids her to do it. Judy meets the plays writer Jacobs van Riker Pell (McCrea). Jake says that Judy cannot play his main character. She hears this and starts screaming and yelling. This leads Jake to see that she can play his main character. Judy tells Jake she is feeling low and wants to go out somewhere. She takes Jake to the places she went as she was growing up downtown before she was an actress. They have a great time together. Judy tells Jake to come to her house after they have been out drinking so they can eat something (**will be explained**).
Judy and Jake have fallen in love. Jake is in the middle of a divorce and promises as soon as the divorce is final he will marry her. On the opening day of the play Jake is nowhere to be found, no one has been able to get in touch with him. At a party at Judy’s house an older woman asks to speak to her. The woman is Jake’s mother. She tells Judy that when Jake’s wife has just had a baby and she never told Jake since they had separated when she had found out. The mother pleads with Judy to let her son go so he can be a father to his own son. Judy is upset and refuses.
Jake comes to the house. Judy puts on a show in front of him saying she is going to marry her manager (who the whole time as been in love with her). Jake is upset with her he still loves her and still wants to be with her. Judy tells him they cannot be together anymore since he has a son now.
So much pre-code wonderfulness in this film I do not know where to begin. First off, Constance Bennett’s character is defending a gangster which would later be a great big no, no. I love the insinuation by the prosecutor that the baby Judy was trying to adopt was her baby with Al Howard. The best scenes were the kitchen scene between Bennett and Joel McCrea and the one the following morning. The kitchen scene was so great. The two of them were playing around chasing each other when McCrea pushes Bennett into a cabinet, she then slaps him back. This whole scene plays out for a minute or two and they just push and slap harder. Next Bennett throws a pie in McCrea’s face, he grabs her, pulls her down to the floor, and they role around together. The next day McCrea has filled Bennett’s room with dozens of balloons. They hear her manager at the door and she tells McCrea to get into her bed as a joke. Since the manager is in love with Bennett he is none too happy to see McCrea in bed with Bennett. I think I nearly died with these scenes I loved them so much and they were seriously very sexy for an old film.
Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea were perfect together. I love their chemistry in all their films. Bennett was great but there were times when she overacted. Her best scene was when she was with the little baby again on a picnic with McCrea. She and the baby were pretending to talk on a play phone. I cannot even begin to tell you how adorable that was and how fantastic Bennett was. McCrea really did not have too much to do in the film. He was outrageously handsome. There were some scenes where he was a little hammie too but all is forgiven because he is such a good actor.
Rockabye is not one of the best pre-codes but it is a very good example of such films during the time period. This is definitely a film to catch on TCM if they ever air the film again (it aired over the summer when Joel McCrea was part of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars and this month for Constance Bennett as the stations Star of the Month) if you love pre-code and are a fan of Joel McCrea and Constance Bennett and their pairing.