Million Dollar Babies is a 1994 television film based on the fact based novel Time of Their Lives—The Dionne Tragedy by John Nihmey and Stuart Foxman. It was an American/Canadian co-production by CBS, Cinar (Now Cookie Jar Entertainment), and The CBC.
The poor Dionne family lives in rural Ontario, Canada. The mother, Elzire, collapses and goes into what everyone thinks is premature labor. Even though they have no money her husband, Oliva, races to get a doctor. Early on the morning of May 28, 1934 she gives birth to five daughters, the famous Dionne Quintuplets. The story soon develops into a media frenzy. Radio personality Helena Reid arrives on the scene. Oliva and the other children leave in order to save the quints from infections. After Americans take the lead in providing for the quints, the Ontario government finally starts to provide some assistance. Oliva signs a deal to have the quints displayed at the Chicago World’s fair and he is attacked for this by Helena Reid. The Canadian government moves to take the kids and they all develop high fevers, but are pulled through by Dr. Dafoe. The Ontario government declares the quints wards of the state and Dr. Dafoe is named their guardian. The kids are taken away and placed in a house built just for them across the road. Dr. Dafoe starts to profit from the kids, including taking them on tour. They kids are put on display and the area acquires a circus-like atmosphere. Finally, the parents are only allowed to visit with Dr. Dafoe’s permission. The Dionne parents try to tell their story and in response the government extends the guardianship until the quints are 18. Dr. Dafoe makes tons of cash in endorsement deals for the quints. The Dionnes have a baby boy. The quints are kept on a strict schedule isolated from everyone else and put on display for mobs of tourists, but only one of their nurses disapproves of this and is fired. The parents finally find a lawyer to help them get the girls back. He takes the tack that the quints were only taken away only because the parents were French-Canadians. They get French nurses and teachers hired. The parents get better access. The government finally gets ticked off at Dr. Dafoe excesses and remove him as guardian. Oliva finds out that the quints are paying for all their expenses out of their funds. Helena Reid returns and now sides with the Dionnes. It all comes to a head in a dramatic confrontation when Emilie goes to Dr. Dafoe instead of her mother. Ms. Reid gets Dr. Alfred Adler to condemn the regime that the children are living under. The quints and their parents meet the King and Queen. The guardianship is dissolved and the girls are returned to their parents.