The Bachelor Father (1931)

Film Review


Release Date: 10 January, 1931

Studio: MGM

Director: Robert Z. Leonard

Starring: Marion Davies, C. Aubrey Smith, Ralph Forbes

Further Reading

Her Sister's Secret (1946) looks at unwed motherhood dramatically and poignantly, and is also the subject of the comedic Bachelor Mother (1939).


Sir Basil Algernon Winterton, although never married, had liaisons with many women. From these associations, he fathered three children, now adults, whom he has never met. His personal assistant, John Ashley, urges him to become acquainted with his children and invite them to live with him in his palatial residence. The visit of his children brings out fatherly feelings in Sir Basil. He is especially fond of Antoinette, "Tony" Flagg, the daughter of the one woman Sir Basil professes to have loved. However, Sir Basil's daughter had died as a child. After Tony learns that she is not Sir Basil's daughter, she conceals the truth from him because of their mutual fondness. When he learns that Tony is not his daughter and that she concealed her knowledge of this fact, Sir Basil is disturbed and feels that Tony was mostly interested in inheriting his money. However, after Tony leaves to participate in a dangerous attempt to fly the Atlantic, he realizes that he loves her like a daughter, and sends John to bring her back. Before John arrives, the plane crashes. Fortunately, Tony is only slightly injured, and she and Sir Basil are happily reunited. Tony plans to stay In England and marry John.


The film is derived from an eponymous stage play that had been produced on Broadway in 1928, also starring C. Aubrey Smith in the same role. The story is an example of pre-code morality. The casual references that Sir Basil makes to the women with whom he mated and his casual approach to his illegitimate children (and their nonchalant response to being bastards) would not have been acceptable after the code. Sir Basil has a ledger with the women's names and the dates of the liaison and comments. All very informal, nobody is shocked by this behavior. C. Aubrey Smith, who had performed the part over 200 times on Broadway, is relaxed and natural before the camera. Marion Davies' acting is adequate; however, she is too old to play a youthful jazz baby. Ralph Forbes is acceptable in his part, if somewhat stiff.