Despite being a super dashing romantic lead, Cary Grant did not shy away from fatherly roles like the one he takes on in Room for One More. Watching this for the first time, it seemed to me Grant was essentially playing house. He stars opposite his real-life wife Betsy Drake in a role and story almost devoid of romance. Grant’s first foray into fictional family life came four years earlier with Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, and although he would have no children with Drake –or until age 62– he makes a great father figure to his Room for One More children.
The film opens on Drake as Anna Rose wandering through an orphanage with a group of women and taking to heart the words of the director who wishes she could find homes for the adolescent children over the infants that are in high-demand. Anna reluctantly leaves with a promise to discuss with her husband the fostering of a girl with a troubled past. Jump now to Grant as George “Poppy” Rose in the kitchen, wearing an apron and trying to ice a cake, while three children run about, a stray dogs attempts to move into the home and a cat underneath the stove produces kittens. Despite the look of things, Poppy is the breadwinner of the family, but seems to contribute as much to the rearing of the children as his wife.
The next morning, the orphanage director shows up with teenage Jane (Iris Mann) and convinces the parents to take the girl in for two weeks. Jane is trouble at first, hiding hamburgers under her pillow thinking she will not be fed the next day, refusing to join in the post-dinner clean-up efforts, etc. A very ingenious mother Anna is, however, as she seems to easily whittle away Jane’s shell and make her one of the family. The two weeks pass and the whole family is set on keeping Jane.
Next, before leaving on a beach vacation, Poppy is informed he is to pick up an orphan boy from school to take with them. The child is trouble, tripping other kids and refusing to partake in his studies. Poppy goes into his classroom to let him know he will not join the Roses on vacation, but upon seeing the braces on his legs, easily changes his mind. The boy, Jimmy-John (Clifford Tatum Jr.), starts out refusing to speak and socks one of the girls in the eye. Later, when Anna asks him if he knows how to drive a car, he replies for the first time with, “of course not” so the mother lets go of the wheel and requires the child to steer them to safety. Next, the parents try to teach Jimmy-John to ride a bike while wearing his leg braces, but fail. That night the boy tries again but stomps the bike to ruin out of frustration. The Roses are looking to take the kid back to his school, but Jimmy-John begs that if the other children are agreeable, that he stay. All vote by secret ballot for the orphan to “leave” but unable to read and providing a sob story about being in an out of the hospital all his life, the children read aloud the ballots as “stay” instead.
By the end of the picture, the five-child Rose clan is content as ever. We witness happy feats for both Jane and Jimmy-John and many lump-in-throat moments as we see the bond between foster parent and child.
Drake is no prize actress, but she makes for a wonderfully kind mother, although one who leaves her husband feeling neglected. I have always found Grant’s performances opposite children to be utterly charming. He seems like the most reasonable father, more likely to comically grumble about the annoyance of the kids rather than punish them.
Grant would divorce Drake in 1959; she was one of five wives he would have, with this relationship enduring 10 years. The couple also made Every Girl Should Be Married four years before this one. Drake, still living, made only eight feature films.
- Room for One More is set for 1:30 p.m. ET June 6 and 1:45 p.m. ET Aug. 21 on TCM.
Source: Cary Grant: A Class Apart documentary