Friday, May 10, 2013

Babies For Sale (1940)


Babies for Sale was made as a B- movie, it was made to be shown with another film as a double bill. Some older B-movies are alright some of them are really good and deserve more recognition. Babies for Sale deserves more recognition especially because it is one of Glenn Ford’s first starring roles. And also for the story which is really good and very different.
            Steve Burton (Ford) is a newspaper reporter. He goes to question a doctor named Gaines on an exposé he is writing. The doctor has lectured about babies that are illegally sold by scrupulous people. People from real welfare homes for children are worried Steve’s story will make them all look bad even though he was not writing about them. The homes think Gaines is a fool. They call Steve’s editor and the editor wants him to recant his story. Steve refuses and he leaves the paper.
            Ruth Williams (Rochelle Hudson) goes to one of the welfare homes, Mercy Shelter, is run by a man named Dr. Rankin. Her husband had died a few months previously in a car accident. She wants the baby but she has no one to turn to when she has her baby. Dr. Rankin tries to persuade Ruth to give up her baby. Dr. Rankin had sold a baby to a couple that he said was perfectly healthy. Mr. Anderson tells him the baby cannot head and does not cry. The doctor says the baby was healthy before. The Andersons had taken the baby to another doctor and the doctor told them their new son’s problem was a genetic defect. The wife not being able to handle the situation kills herself and the baby by throwing herself in front of an oncoming train.
            Steve hears what has happened to the mother and baby. He asks Mr. Anderson if he would take him to the doctor who sold he and his wife the baby. Steve goes to Dr. Rankin’s office posing as a magazine writer who wants to write a story on him. Steve is kicked out of the home on the grounds of privacy. To Steve this is a definite sign that something not right is going on.
            Dr. Rankin plans on giving Ruth’s baby to the Kingsleys. To make the whole situation legal he wants to admit Mrs. Kingsley as a patient and put her name on the birth certificate. He tells Ruth about the wealthy couple. She refuses to give up her baby she wants to keep it. Dr. Rankin tells her to think it over. When Ruth does have her baby it is three days before she really begins to question why she has not seen it. She does not even know what the baby is. Dr. Rankin lies and tells her that the baby died. Ruth knows the awful doctor and his secretary have sold her baby girl. They have given the baby to the Kingsleys. Dr. Rankin and his staff keep Ruth locked in her room so she will not leave. Ruth knows they stole her baby and they are afraid she will get out and say something. Her friend Edith unlocks the door for her and helps Ruth to get out.
            Steve is outside the place and sees Ruth leave. He follows her. When he catches up with Ruth he tells her about Dr. Gaines. The two of them go to the good doctor and she tells them both everything that has happened. The next day Dr. Gaines goes to see Dr. Rankin about Ruth’s baby. Rankin gives Gaines Ruth’s files. In the files is a copy of the baby’s footprints. Edith had given Ruth a copy after she had the baby. Edith knows for a fact that the footprints she gave Ruth come from the stolen baby.
            Steve has both sets of footprints on the birth certificates examined by a friend of his at the police station. The friend discovers and points out that the footprints do not match. Steve figures a baby had died and Rankin wrote Ruth’s name on that baby’s death certificate. To find the baby they pretend they are doing a survey and ask where the baby was born. He notices the Kingsleys are on their list.
            Steve and Ruth pretend to be the city press. Edith and Ruth are tasked with taking the photographs of the baby and family. They get the baby’s prints on the camera box. Then they ask where the baby was born. Mrs. Kingsley tells them Mercy Shelter. They all take the prints back to the police station. The footprints they got on the camera box are a match to Ruth’s baby.
            Steve and Ruth go to the Kingsleys to confront them with the evidence they have. Mr. Kingsley tries to talk Ruth into letting he and his wife keep the baby. They had lost a baby and it devastated his wife. Mrs. Kingsley hears everything and brings Ruth upstairs to the baby. Mr. Kingsley has Rankin come to the house. He is furious with the doctor he threatens to kill him. The police are listening in on the conversation. They come and arrest Rankin.
            Ruth finally gets to take her baby home.
            The cast was very good. Glenn Ford was excellent as the young reporter. His character was a good man. Steve left the paper so he could uncover a scandal and help mothers get their babies back. What more could you want from a good looking guy?! Rochelle Hudson I do not believe I have ever seen her in a film before this. She gave a great performance. You felt so bad for Ruth. Miles Mander was did a great job as the bad guy. You really hate Rankin for what he does to all those poor mothers.
            Babies for Sale is based on true stories. People would run shady welfare homes or shelters and take advantage of these poor women who were often unwed or had no family or had abusive husbands and they would sell their children behind their backs. It is sick to think something like that could ever happen. B- movies back in the thirties and forties (and most likely into the fifties) were expose films. They were not main stream love stories. Babies for Sale has a good and terrifying true story. It certainly had a bit of an impact on me and I am from the modern era imagine the impact it had on the few women who saw this in 1940. I do not have kids (hell, I don’t even have a full time job or a boyfriend!) but I cannot begin to imagine how horrifying and tragic this must situation must have been for mothers. I kept thinking that I had a child and something like this happened to me I would fall to pieces. Babies for Sale is available on DVD in a collection of Glenn Ford films from TCM. It is not available to view on Youtube. If TCM airs Babies for Sale again definitely watch it.