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With: Jerry Lewis, Connie Stevens, Marilyn Maxwell, Reginald Gardiner, Salvatore Baccaloni, Hans Conried, Isobel Elsom, James Gleason, Ida Moore
Written by: Frank Tashlin, based on a screenplay by Preston Sturges
Directed by: Frank Tashlin
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 103
Date: 07/23/1958

Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Maybe Babies

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Frank Tashlin, a former cartoon maker, and Jerry Lewis, that most cartoon-like of actors, worked together eight times between 1955 and 1964, a few of those times with Lewis' former cohort Dean Martin.

During this time, Lewis embarked upon his own notable directorial career, but he remained loyal to Tashlin, who arguably taught Lewis more than just about anyone else in Hollywood. Also during this same period, and without Lewis, Tashlin also hit upon his two greatest masterpieces, The Girl Can't Help It (1956) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).

All this provides some perspective on Rock-a-Bye Baby, which seems like not much more than a placeholder during this otherwise remarkable time. Perhaps Tashlin and Lewis were nearly ready to move on, but not quite yet.

The other problem with Rock-a-Bye Baby is that it's a credited remake of Preston Sturges' The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), and though it departs quite a bit from the original, it still doesn't quite have the bite of Sturges. Tashlin was more madcap, and less focused. Even so, Rock-a-Bye Baby still has some good things in it, and is worth a look.

Lewis stars as Clayton Poole, a small-town doofus who sets up TV antennas while the love of his life, Carla Naples (Marilyn Maxwell) has gone on to become a huge movie star in Hollywood. While up for an important new role, Carla discloses that she's pregnant from a hazy affair in Mexico and she decides to give up the babies -- triplets -- to protect her career. Who better to take on the job than Clayton?

And so we get the expected collection of Lewis going nuts with the cute babies -- though thankfully no poop jokes -- followed by some sentimental stuff as he tries to keep the court from re-assigning them to new legal guardians. In other subplots, Carla's sister Sandra (Connie Stevens) has eyes for Clayton, though he has yet to really notice her. The girls' stereotypical Italian father (Salvatore Baccaloni) sputters and blusters over everything.

Tashlin's perfect timing is definitely on display here, whenever he can fit it in, though the movie goes on a bit too long and Lewis isn't really at his best.

Olive Films, which owns the leftovers in Paramount's vaults, has released this along with two other Lewis titles: Tashlin's (1958), and (1965), co-starring Rock Hudson. (Thelatter is said to be a favorite of Quentin Tarantino's.) None of thediscs feature any extras.

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