'Three Men and a Baby' at 35: A great Apartment and an Urban Legend | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

‘Three Men and a Baby’ at 35: A great Apartment and an Urban Legend 

At the time of its release in late 1987, Three Men and a Baby was exactly what it sounded like: A massive hit comedy, built from a high concept that had previously been the plot of a popular French film. It was notable, at the time, that it starred a pair of actors better known for TV (Magnum P.I.’s Tom Selleck and CheersTed Danson), although the third co-star (Steve Guttenberg) had been in hit movies previously.

The movie’s concept is exactly what the title says it is: Three bachelors live together in a swingin’ Manhattan bachelor pad. One day, a mysterious baby is delivered to their door, implicitly one of their offspring. The men make a go of raising the child, and much hilarity ensues. 

There’s also, very bizarrely, a crime subplot, involving a package of drugs delivered to the apartment, leading to confusion over whether “the package” is the baby or the heroin, leading into a dramatic showdown with drug dealers that belongs in some movie that is certainly not this one. The inclusion of this has always been inexplicable, except that it was in the French version, and the filmmakers couldn’t part with it. 

The film was also known for featuring one of the great apartment sets in the history of movies, and also for a directorial credit that continues to surprise people when they sit down to watch it: Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, directed Three Men and a Baby, probably his most notable non-Star Trek directing credit. 

Ghost Boy Urban Legend

But a couple of years after its release, Three Men and a Baby become the subject of one of the great, albeit completely bogus, movie urban legends. 

The story went like this: In a scene in the middle of the movie, when Selleck and his mother have a scene with the baby, it appears that a little boy is standing in the window. 

When the film was released on VHS in the early ’90s, people started to notice this, and an entire mythology emerged: The film had been shot in a house, where sometime earlier, a young boy had died, possibly in an accident in the house. Therefore, the boy in the window was that boy’s ghost, haunting this movie, and nobody at any stage of the production, postproduction, or early theatrical release ever noticed. 

This was all, of course, quickly debunked. The film was shot not in a house but on a soundstage in Toronto, and there was no dead boy. What appeared to be a ghost was in fact a life-sized standee of Danson, used for a scene that didn’t make it into the final cut, but that someone had left somewhere on the set where it didn’t belong. 

The legend, however, endured, and Selleck, years later, talked about it on a talk show: 

Three Men and a Baby is streaming on Disney+. 

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CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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