The second and final screen pairing of (then) real-life couple Cary Grant and Betsy Drake, Room For One More is a pleasant family comedy tackling the subject of foster children and adoption. While its episodic structure seems to predict the rise of the sitcom format that would soon take over the television airwaves, Grant’s charisma and chemistry with Drake make for an above average film.
The Production: 4/5
Room For One More is a family comedy pairing Cary Grant with his then-wife Betsy Drake. Made around the same period where Grant and Drake costarred in a radio sitcom adaptation of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (worth seeking out if you can find it), the movie showcases a similar sense of humor. With a plot that’s more episodic than cumulative, the story concerns Grant and Drake deciding to adopt a child after having three biological children of their own. Anna Rose (Drake) sets out hoping to adopt a baby, but while visiting the orphanage, the woman in charge essentially dumps a 13 year old from a broken home on her, pointing out that if Drake can adopt every stray animal in the neighborhood, surely she could handle a teenage girl. Despite the initial protestations of “Poppy” Rose (Grant), what starts as a two-week trial turns into a permanent situation after the rest of the family takes a liking to her. A second child, a boy, is then adopted, but has both a physical handicap and a bad attitude, making him a tougher fit. Nonetheless, when the rest of the children learn how difficult his life has been, they begin to welcome him and he eventually opens up to them.
With its simple story and episodic structure, the idea here seems more geared towards a recurring television show than a feature; it’s not surprising that the same concept was tried on television shortly after. Though it may not be one of Grant’s top films, it is nonetheless an entertaining entry in the star’s filmography made near his first attempt at retirement. Grant is in “family man” mode similar to his Mr. Blandings performance, which is to say that while nominally in charge of the household, he remains slightly befuddled and incredulous throughout. He’s got good screen chemistry with Betsy Drake, and Drake herself is wonderful as the impossibly perfect mother. The script is generally solid if predictable, though parts come off as if they’re PSAs for the foster care system (such as one scene where Drake hosts a Q&A with community members curious about the adoption process) and the Boy Scouts (such as another scene where one of the kids receives a medal and grinds the film to a halt as the plot stops long enough for us to watch an entire ceremonial presentation). A running gag throughout, which does eventually pay off, focuses on Grant’s attempts to have just one quiet, romantic night alone with his wife. (The film’s ending moments are hilariously unsubtle in that regard.) At heart, it’s a gentle, easygoing movie that remains easy to enjoy.
Director Norman Taurog excelled at this kind of thing; he’s perhaps best remembered as the man who directed Elvis Presley in more films than anyone else, and also directed a substantial number of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis comedies. An actor’s director never uncomfortable with allowing his leads to shine, he received a Best Director nomination for his work on Spencer Tracy’s Boys Town, and is also responsible for a number of other star-driven extravaganzas, including Girl Crazy with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. He doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Room For One More, allowing his actors the space to bring the characters to life. To that end, the script was adapted from a memoir by the real-life Anna Rose by Jack Rose (no relation) and Melville Shavelson (who would go on to write Houseboat after Grant returned from his first retirement). Rose and Shavelson’s script moves along at a good clip, but never too quickly; though the major set pieces are episodic, each one does plenty to sketch out the characters and make them appear as real people. There’s never a point where a plot development comes across too quickly or unmotivated, but like real family life, it never stops to catch its breath either. Without resorting to on-screen captions or other devices to spell out the passage of time, the film nonetheless allows that time to flow. For fans of Christmas and New Year’s Eve films, an extended sequence involving both holidays makes the film worth revisiting during that time of year.
Listening to Grant’s performances on the Mr. Blandings radio sitcom, one comes away convinced that had he starred in a television sitcom, it would have been one for the ages. Watching Room For One More gives a hint of what it could have looked like. Though the idea clearly didn’t appeal to Grant, this movie is the closest he came to it. But whether your interest in this film is seeing Cary Grant in family man mode, or just enjoying a delightful unpretentious comedy, Room For One More is a delight.
3D Rating: NA
Room For One More is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Taken from a new scan of the “best surviving preservation elements” (which our own Robert Harris believes to be a “beautifully struck fine grain master”), this represents another feather in the cap of Warner Archive’s extremely high quality Blu-ray releases. Robert Burks (who would photograph Grant again in To Catch A Thief) was a fantastic cinematographer and that work is on beautiful display here. The image is rock steady, without a hint of wear or debris. The black and white imagery is beautifully reproduced, with a full range of grays in evidence, along with abundant detail from the perfect styling of Grant’s hair to the texturing of the costume fabrics. While Warner Archive’s older MOD DVD-R was actually one of their finer examples of an old transfer looking perfectly acceptable in standard definition, this new Blu-ray is notable improvement over that older disc.
Presented in the lossless DTS-HD MA format, the monaural audio sounds fantastic. Dialogue, so important in a film like this, is well recorded and easy to discern within the mix. Max Steiner’s score sounds appropriately full and lively. There are no issues with any age-related artifacts either, making the audio presentation as wonderful as the video.
Special Features: 3/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:37) – The film’s original trailer, taken from a source in surprisingly good condition, is presented in HD and emphasizes Grant’s role as the family patriarch.
Operation: Rabbit (7:18) – The classic Bugs Bunny short is presented in HD.
Feed The Kitty (7:22) – The classic cartoon short is presented in HD.
Cary Grant made two films with Betsy Drake (the other being Every Girl Should Be Married), and like Every Girl, Room For One More is an easygoing picture, completely predictable, but very enjoyable. The two stars have an easy chemistry and are believable as a couple in love, and the child actors are all adorable. Room For One More is the kind of movie that’s perfect for any evening when the cinematic equivalent comfort food is on the menu. With its wonderful new transfer and the addition of several bonus features not present on the earlier DVD version, Warner Archive’s Blu-ray is a fantastic release, and a must have for Cary Grant aficionados.
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