‘Rock a Bye Baby ’ | Sunday Observer
Retro reviews: Cinema of yesteryear

‘Rock a Bye Baby ’

7 February, 2021

A single young man who becomes a father to triplets whom he hasn’t actually fathered and latterly gets accused of bigamy, but later fathers quintuplets with the younger sister of the mother of the triplets whom he was a father to but didn’t father with the mother of the triplets, is at the centre of the whacky story of the American musical comedy ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ starring American comedy legend Jerry Lewis who plays the lead character Clayton Poole whose unwavering devotion to his childhood love interest leads him into a scenario that is hilarious and heartwarming.

The film was directed and written by Frank Tashlin and was released in 1958. It is a movie that brings to life the charm and delights of a light hearted story of romantic devotions and paternal duties,bringing good laughs and endearing elements of how relationships are defined and realised anew in the face of situations unforeseen.


The story begins with the predicament of Carla Naples who played vivaciously by Marilyn Maxwell, has reached superstardom in Hollywood. Carla has cultivated an image in the movie industry as an actress with sound moral fibre who does not have affairs or carouse with men in ‘typical Hollywood style’.

However, it turns out that in the course of a sudden, tequila induced,romantic fling, she has secretly married a famous Mexican bullfighter.

It turns out that this sudden tryst has resulted in Carla now being pregnant. What complicates matters to her movie career immensely is that the couple had, upon agreeing the following morning that their marriage was unwise and should be annulled, wasn’t done so because her husband died that day in a bull-fight, and a distraught Carla had torn up her marriage licence, not realising she was pregnant! Therefore, her predicament is that there’s no legal proof to legitimise the unborn child!

Carla’s agent insistsall this must be kept secret as Carla has been chosen for the lead role of a large movie production titled ‘The White Virgin of the Nile’. He suggests that they send the baby back to her home town, Midvale, in the state of Indiana.

The cover story he will tell the press is that she is going into seclusion to prepare for her role in ‘The White Virgin of the Nile’.

It suggests that after the movie is released, she can adopt her baby.

Carla is faced with a dilemma. She believes her younger sister Sandy is too young and her estranged father hasn’t forgiven her for leaving them to become a movie star.

Carla decides on the one person whom she believes can and will care for her baby. That is none other than simple and goodhearted but somewhat ‘calamitous when excited’, Clayton Poole played endearingly by Jerry Lewis, who hasn’t yet lost an ounce of his devotion to Carla Naples, his sweetheart since childhood.

Two-pronged approach

The means of approaching Clayton is devised in two stages. Firstly Carla sends a signed picture of her to Clayton through her sister Sandy who comes to visit her in Hollywood and then Carla and her agent make a discreet trip to Midvale.

She meets Clayton privately and is immediately offered his assistance when he knows that she is in trouble, professing that all his life he wanted to be of some help to her.

Clayton ends up with far more than what he had bargained for. In fact thrice as much, as it turns out that Carla has given birth to triplets!

What follows is a series of events that are comical and sentimental as Clayton grapples with his duty to Carla by caring for her three baby girls, Carla’s younger sister Sandy’s unrequited love for him, her protective and sensitive father’s fury at him, the Midvale authorities and judicial system that wants to take the babies out of his care and place them legally in the care of foster parents.

However, the ending finally turns out as one that is joyful to all despite the quirky journey. A retro classic of Hollywood that can be appreciated and applauded ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ is a movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family.