New Year’s Eve: Party Like it’s 1939

New Year’s Eve Fun. Image: Schtick & Substance

Dear Reader, we know you’re the glam type of socialite during the Holiday Season.

You are In Demand, and we’re here to Help.

In fact, if you plan to capture the epicurean flavour of the 1930s this season, let us look to the 1939 comedy, Bachelor Mother.

We’ve written about this film before, about its witty lines and ridiculous premise. (You know, the ol’ woman-finds-a-baby-and-is-forced-to-keep-it schtick.)

But the last time we watched this film – and we watch it a lot – we paid special attention to scenes involving meals. It’s surprising how often food is referred to, or joked about, in this film.

Example: When a character invites a woman to go dancing, he says, “I’ll pick you up at seven.” He pauses. “After supper.”

We’ll be looking at three Dining scenes in this film to inspire your vintage feast. From childcare to table settings to menu planning, Bachelor Mother is your guide.

David Niven has all the Answers. Image: Anthony Balducci’s Journal

Tip #1 – Avoid the “scientific” way to feed babies.

Ginger Rogers plays a woman who finds a baby on the steps of a Foundling Home. The Foundling Home people think the baby is hers and, through their influence, pressure to her keep the baby if she wants to keep her job.

David Niven plays her boss, a wealthy playboy sans children, who is brimming with childcare advice.

When Niven finds Rogers feeding pablum to the baby, he consults his newly-purchased copy of The Scientific Care of Children. Owing this book automatically makes him an Expert, and he insists Rogers is doing it All Wong. He reads the Proper Instructions aloud:

  1. Get a spoon.
  2. Take a spoonful of the food and place on a piece of gauze.
  3. Gently rub into the navel.

Rogers thinks this is ridiculous, but Niven defends the method by spouting hogwash about acclimatizing the stomach. Rogers snatches his beloved book; two pages are stuck together, creating a bizarre childcare mash-up.

We know you, Dear Reader, always balance your Science with Common Sense.

Charles Coburn (right) lectures Niven. Image: Trophy Unlocked

Tip #2 – Use caution when slamming the dinner table.

One of the best scenes (of all time) is when Niven sits down to lunch with his on-screen father (Charles Coburn).

Coburn has received an anonymous note stating he is a grandfather, which enrages him. He’s always wanted a grandson, and he’s livid the alleged child has been kept a secret.

He plans to Discuss This with Niven at lunch. Note: “Discuss” is code for “tirade”, meaning Coburn yells and slams things on the table.

  • I’LL do the talking!” (slams spoon #1)
  • “Marriage was good enough for your father and mother, and it’s good enough for you!” (slams spoon #2)
  • “Never mind my blood pressure! You don’t know me in a fight.” (whacks napkin #1)
  • “That baby looks just like me!” (bangs fist)
  • “I know what’s the matter with you. You’re crazy – that’s the matter with you!” (whacks napkin #2)

Slamming things on the table can be exhilarating, but ensure fragile items are removed beforehand.

Rogers is hungry enough to eat the party favours. Image: Flying Down to Hollywood

Tip #3 – Here is the ultimate New Year’s Eve menu.

Niven begs Rogers to be his last-minute date for a New Year’s Eve party; he doesn’t want to Hear About It from his friends if he shows up alone. But he ends up benched anyway, because Rogers spends the evening waltzing with other men.

This, in itself, is amusing, but the evening’s menu is the real scene-stealer:

  • Champagne
  • Shrimp Cocktail
  • Soup
  • Cornish Game Hen with Vegetables
  • Ice Cream Gingerbread Man with Cookies

When was the last time you had an Ice Cream Gingerbread Man with cookies? We thought so. You see, this is why we bring you such valuable information. We’d hate to see you miss out.

Remember: If you’re planning a vintage party this holiday season, use Bachelor Mother as your guide.

  • For information on 1930s culinary preferences, click HERE.
  • For a look at glamorous dining in old Hollywood, check out a review of Musso and Frank Grill HERE.

Bachelor Mother: starring Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn. Directed by Garson Kanin. Written by Norman Krasna. RKO Radio Pictures, B&W, 1939, 82 mins.

This is part of the FOOD IN FILM Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and yours truly.



  1. LOVE this movie. It’s always one of the first films I put on when preparing for Christmas. You chose such a unique perspective to it, too, which I really enjoyed. All of those scenes are perfect, but I especially like Ginger and David’s fake Swedish and Coburn’s temper tantrum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to hear you watch this movie regularly. It is such a treat with truly funny lines and a good message about what makes a family. That scene with Coburn at the lunch table never gets old. I laugh just as hard now as when I first saw it several years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I just love that scene with Niven and the baby book, that New Year’s Eve menu is really something else too. I don’t remember the ice cream gingerbread man, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it when this film plays on TCM again, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very nice post and you picked well: it’s a treat of a movie anytime, but hits the spot as the holidays approach. Next time I watch I’ll really appreciate these scenes. Thanks for being such a great c-host as always, this blogathon was a blast!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OMG, now I already have my menu for the Christmas party, thanks to Bachelor Mother and you!
    And, oh, the “scientific way” bit was delightful. I had almost forgot that.
    Thanks for co-hosting this delicious event!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Ruth,

    This is a fine article! I, Rebekah Brannan, have not participated much in the blog world in the past, but I intend to become more involved now. I have read some of your other articles, and they are all informative and enjoyable.

    I would like very much for you to participate in my upcoming blogathon, The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon, which will be my first real participation in PEPS. This blogathon, which will be hosted around Valentine’s Day, is celebrating the famous singing team Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

    You can read the rules of the blogathon at: If you want to join, please comment and tell me your topic, if you have chosen one. I hope you’ll join me in honoring this brilliant team and the holiday of love!


    Rebekah Brannan


Start Singin', Mac!

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