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Life Begins (1932)

Passed | | Drama | 10 September 1932 (USA)
At a maternity hospital, future fathers pace the corridors while their wives wait for their babies either anxiously or happily. Efficient and compassionate nurse Miss Bowers keeps the ward ... See full summary »


James Flood, Elliott Nugent (co-director)


Mary M. Axelson (play) (as Mary McDougal Axelson), Earl Baldwin (screen adaptation)


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Complete credited cast:
Loretta Young ... Grace Sutton
Eric Linden ... Jed Sutton
Aline MacMahon ... Miss Bowers
Glenda Farrell ... Florette Darien
Clara Blandick ... Mrs. West
Preston Foster ... Dr. Brett
Frank McHugh ... Ringer Banks
Walter Walker Walter Walker ... Dr. Tubby
Hale Hamilton ... Dr. Cramm
Vivienne Osborne ... Mrs. McGilvary
Dorothy Peterson ... A Patient


At a maternity hospital, future fathers pace the corridors while their wives wait for their babies either anxiously or happily. Efficient and compassionate nurse Miss Bowers keeps the ward running smoothly. Things liven up when Grace Sutton is transferred from the prison where she is being held for murder. Most agree that the man she killed deserved to die, and Nurse Bowers sympathetically allows Grace's concerned husband Jed unlimited time with his wife. On the ward, the women have varied feelings about motherhood. Mrs. West, mother of six children, thinks babies are what give meaning to women's lives. In contrast, Florette, a showgirl, just wants to get rid of her twins as soon as possible. Miss Layton has decided opinions about child rearing and has no intention of being a doting mother. While the women debate their various theories, a woman who wants a baby so much that she has become demented wanders in from another ward. An Italian woman quietly sobs when she learns that her ... Written by Daniel Williams

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

10 September 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Give Me a Child See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was banned in London. See more »


Version of A Child Is Born (1939) See more »


Pretty Baby
(1916) (uncredited)
Music by Tony Jackson and Egbert Van Alstyne
Played during the opening credits
See more »

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User Reviews

A Labor of Love
12 January 2013 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

LIFE BEGINS (First National Pictures, 1932), directed by James Flood, co-directed by Elliott Nugent, is a hospital melodrama set mostly in the maternity ward. Written by Mary McDougal-Averson, it's something of a forerunner to the many hospital related themes in later years, ranging from the "Doctor Kildare/Gillespie" film series for MGM (1938-1947); to various television adaptations whether being daytime soap-operas or evening hourly shows. The film itself should be commented for its originality, by 1932 standards anyway. The assortment of familiar Warner Brothers stock players is highly impressive to say the least with the slightly blondish Loretta Young heading the cast. While essentially the central character, co-stars Eric Linden and Aline MacMahon stand out for their natural performances, real enough for any viewer to shed a tear or two along the way.

The opening credits start as the camera pans through the nursery of crying babies before cast and crew are screened and titled as the orchestration underscores the popular tune of "Pretty Baby." Set in an un-named hospital at an undisclosed location (probably California), the plot introduces several expectant mothers (without looking pregnant) leaving their nervous husbands as they're escorted to the maternity ward. Miss Bowers (Aline MacMahon), the head nurse, aside from seeing that everything goes accordingly to rule, also becomes involved in the lives of her patients. Noticing that Ringer Banks (Frank McHugh) is upset and worried that his wife, Gladys (Gloria Shea) might have a miscarriage as she did the first one, sends him out on an errand long enough for he to forget his troubles. Mrs. Greydt (Clara Blandick) awaits for the birth of her sixth child while Florette LaVerne (Glenda Farrell), a showgirl drinking snuck-in liquor from her water bottle, learns from Doctor Tubby (Walter Walker) she's to become the mother of twins. Not wanting anything to do with her babies, she makes arrangements to have them adopted for a price. Jed Sutton (Eric Linden), a youthful father-to-be whose case happens to be different from all the others, enters the scene. It is revealed his wife, Grace (Loretta Young), sentenced to life in prison for murder, is to arrive at the hospital escorted and handcuffed to a stern prison matron (Helena Phillips), and returned to prison after having her baby. As situations begin to resolve themselves, Jed is approached by Doctor Cranin (Hale Hamilton) to make a very tough decision regarding both his wife and unborn child.

While basically a woman's movie with a majority of females in the cast, male actors contribute to the story as well, including Preston Foster (Doctor Brett); Gilbert Roland (Tony, an Italian father); Walter Walker (Doctor Tubby) and Paul Fix (The Crying Father). The uncredited Mary Phillips has a sizable role as Nurse Pinty, while Dorothy Peterson adds some tension and emotion as the mentally-unbalanced patient wanting a baby of her own, even to a point of sneaking out a new-born from the nursery without being noticed. Also seen in smaller roles are Vivienne Osborne and Elizabeth Patterson. Released prior to the production code enforcement, LIFE BEGINS can be credited for its honesty and bluntness of certain situations, especially with one of the expectant mothers addressing herself as MISS Laughton (Ruthelma Stevens) rather than concealing the fact she's not married.

As with most Hollywood themed originals, LIFE BEGINS was remade by Warner Brothers as A CHILD IS BORN (1939), featuring Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jeffrey Lynn, Gale Page, Spring Byington, Gladys George, Eve Arden in the Young, Linden, MacMahon, Blandick, Farrell and Phillips roles. Following its basic pattern, the retelling, slightly longer that its 72 minutes, was less blunt in dialog and situations. Though still quite good of its kind, it simply didn't measure up to the original. Both editions to the Mary McDougal-Averson story can be seen whenever broadcast on Turner Classic Movies cable channel. Regardless of its age, LIFE RETURNS can still leave a lasting impact long after it's over. (**** diapers)

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