A book salesman sells Blondie Bumstead a set of books on child training because he has convinced her that Baby Dumplin is a child prodigy. Meanwhile, J.C. Dithers, boss of Blondie's husband, Dagwood Bumstead, rips Dagwood for altering the plans on an apartment building the construction firm is building for Abner Cartwright and, to keep his job, Dagwood must get Cartwright to sign off on the changes - the latter refuses in order to escape from an unfavorable contract. Baby Dumpling, the genius, is registered at school and Daisy, accompanying him, is picked up by the dog-catcher on the way back home and taken to the pound. Daisy is adopted by Melinda Mason, the crippled daughter of one of the town's wealthiest men. Baby Dumpling looks everywhere and can not find Daisy, and plays hooky from school the next day. Immediately, Blondie and Dagwood suspect kidnapping, and Dagwood learns that Melinda, also missing, was last seen playing with a little boy and a dog. Dagwood promptly heads for ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
BLONDIE BRINGS UP BABY (Columbia, 1939), directed by Frank R. Strayer, the fourth theatrical installment based on Chic Young's popular comic strip characters, is by far the most involved in the series with so much happening during its 67 minutes worth of family crisis.
Returning to familiar territory following their previous vacation venture from BLONDIE TAKES A VACATION, the Bumsteads encounter numerous complications at both home and at the office. The scenario this time revolves around Baby Dumpling (Larry Simms) and his dog, Daisy. A book agent (Olin Howland) comes to the front door to sell encyclopedias, and gets around Blondie (Penny Singleton) by making her believe he's there to give her child an intelligence test with the use of blocks. Because Alvin (Danny Mummert), the next door neighbor, is always showing off with his extreme smartness, and calling Baby Dumpling a "dumbbell," Blondie agrees to the examination. While Alvin does everything correctly, the agent fools Blondie into buying the encyclopedias by telling her that her son has an I.Q. of 168. As for Dagwood (Arthur Lake) , whose I.Q. is probably on a low lower, his day at the office is anything but perfect. As an architect designer, he makes changes for the betterment on the Cartwright Building, but because it fails to meet with client Abner Cartwright's (Robert Middlemass) approval, he withdraws his account, causing Mr. Dithers (Jonathan Hale), Dagwood's boss, to fire him. Returning home and keeping the bad news from his spouse, Blondie, who has come to the conclusion that Baby Dumpling is a gifted child (considering that he can recite the alphabet from "A" to"B"), that he should be enrolled in school. School days becomes dog daze for Daisy as she misses Baby Dumpling's company, awaiting outside the schoolhouse until his afternoon dismissal. Daisy is then spotted and captured by dog catchers who take her to the pound. Baby Dumpling comes home upset that Daisy is lost, and the following day, skips school to search for her. He later finds Daisy on the Mason estate playing with Melinda Mason (Peggy Ann Garner), a rich but lonely crippled girl in a wheelchair whose nurse (Grace Stafford) had adopted the dog from the pound as companion for the child. Receiving the news that Baby Dumpling didn't come to school has the worried parents report the disappearance to the police, at the same time of report of Melinda being reported, who had been wheeled away from the property by Baby Dumpling without anyone seeing them. Things start to really get involved as Dagwood tracks down his son at the Mason estate. While roaming about the grounds, the gardener (Victor Potel), suspecting Dagwood to be the one who kidnapped Melinda, sneaks up from behind, hits him over the head with a shovel, places the unconscious Dagwood in a tool shed and notifies the police. Dagwood awakens to find the tool shed he's in to be surrounded by a police squad throwing tear gas in his direction, handcuffing and placing him under arrest. Poor Blondie. Now Dagwood is missing. Paging the Lost and Found Department!
Far-fetched, amusing and slightly sentimental, this is one of the few times in the series where situations depicted are true to life, such as parents not wanting to let go of their child after sending him off with a teacher to enter a classroom; or from the little boy's point of view, returning home with a "shiner" following a fight (off camera) with another kid at school; Baby Dumpling wanting to go to school by himself and not having his mother around so he won't be made fun of by the other kids (a common occurrence more with middle school students than grammar school kids); the child's top priority in locating his missing dog by skipping school (who could blame him); and some upsetting moments for the parents as they discover the disappearance of their children, fearing the worst. Children needing companionship (doggies, too) makes this a good moral of the story.
On the lighter side, there are some real funny added bits, including the angry Mr. Dithers cooling himself off by placing his head in the shower of water, and placing himself entirely in there when reaching the boiling point. A pity the writers didn't use steam as a substance in cooling off this irritable boss. Daisy's running from and hiding from the dog catchers is another highlight.
BLONDIE BRINGS UP BABY is one of the few in the series to not be restored to its original theatrical opening and closing credits, thus, not giving credit to its supporting players consisting of: Fay Helm (Mrs. Fuddow); Roy Gordon (Mr. Gordon); Bruce Bennett (Johnson, the chauffeur); Irving Bacon (Mr. Beasley, the postman); and Helen Jerome Eddy (Miss Ferguson, the principal).
Honorable mention certainly goes to Peggy Ann Garner, years before her achievement as the teen-aged Francie Nolan in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (20th-Fox, 1945) as little Melinda. Her scenes are certainly heartfelt and natural, especially when encouraged by Baby Dumpling to get up from the wheelchair and walk. This alone is sure to leave viewers of sentimental nature with tears building up in their eyes. And speaking of eyes, there are certain characters who've obtained some black ones, Dagwood for one, Baby Dumpling another, and Mr. Cartwright with two black eyes, one from Dagwood and another punch from Mr. Dithers. Black eyes were quite common in the comic strips years before being toned down due to violence upset from readers.
BLONDIE BRINGS UP BABY, formerly presented on American Movie Classics (1996-2002), is available for viewing on either the VHS or DVD formats. Next installment: BLONDIE ON A BUDGET (1940). (**1/2)
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