NR | 1 h 32 mins | Romance, Comedy | 1950
Sir Walter Scott’s poetic phrase, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive” has been an unspoken theme in countless stories. Many movies are based on a scenario that kicks off with a deception, falsehood, or misunderstanding. These stories are compelling because complicated situations can often arise from a lie.
A Seat on the SubwayPatsy Douglas (Drake) operates a mimeograph machine at a New York advertising agency. Despite her lack of experience, she substitutes as a secretary for the boss, Sam Morley (Morgan), but her admiration for him can’t make up for her incompetence. When the company scraps their baby food display in the lobby, she decides to take the doll in the display home, playfully naming it Cyrus after the company’s ogrish president, Cyrus Baxter (Edmund Gwenn). When she realizes that holding the swaddled doll gets her a seat on the subway, she decides to keep bringing “Baby Cyrus” along with her.
One day, Baxter himself has to take the subway and ends up sitting next to Patsy. He overhears that the name of her “baby” is Cyrus and learns that he is named after himself. He is deeply moved by her kind remarks about Cyrus Baxter, so he pretends to be Baxter’s watchman, not who he really is. Soon after, Patsy gets fired from her job, but her two employers, Morley and Barry Holmes (Zachary Scott), panic to hire her back. You see, they just have heard from Baxter himself that Patsy is a noble young mother who deserves appreciation for her loyalty.
The two young executives frantically rehire Patsy, promote her to copywriter, and give her a raise. Little does she know that their interest in her slogans is only motivated by a hope of getting on Baxter’s good side. Things aren’t so simple, though, since the two men soon find out that she has no baby. Patsy hates to deceive the kindly old Baxter, but she agrees to keep up the charade to help Morley.
Patsy is a character with hidden wisdom. At first, she seems like a silly young woman who is incapable of efficiently completing anything more complicated than the simplest office work. However, she proves that she has the intangible talent of inspiring others with patience, serenity, and creativity. Her slogans may not be as clever as she thinks, but her advice to Morley to follow his own instincts rather than second-guessing Baxter is very valuable. She also helps Baxter curb his horrible temper by reciting the first verses of the poem “Hiawatha,” instead of yelling at people.
Caring About OthersMany reviewers on IMDb write this movie off as silly and nonsensical. It is intentionally a little silly since it’s a comedy, even though it has thought-provoking themes. This movie is about motherhood, chivalry, and what gives a person a reason to live. People today think of the 1950s as an extension of the Victorian Era in terms of gender roles in the business world, but “Pretty Baby” shows that working women had to fight to make their own way. However, motherhood still inspired chivalry, so men jump up to offer Patsy a subway seat when she is holding a baby.
Some think Cyrus Baxter’s transformation is unrealistically abrupt, but it makes sense if you think about it. The reason Baxter is such a grouch is that he doesn’t really have a reason to live. He has lots of money and power, but he doesn’t have any family or friends. Everyone fears him, but nobody cares about him. He is a lonely man who thinks everyone hates him, so he responds by acting as though he doesn’t like or need anybody. All he needs is one person to show him kindness and that inspires him to start caring about others.