Friday, January 21, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Family Honeymoon (1949)

Professor Grant Jordan (Fred MacMurray) marries widow Katie Armstrong (Claudette Colbert). When Katie's sister (Lillian Bronson) breaks her leg and is out of commission as a baby-sitter, Grant and Katie decide to take Katie's three children along on a FAMILY HONEYMOON.

This movie, with newlyweds adjusting to a ready-made family, seems like an early forerunner of shows like THE BRADY BUNCH, excepting in this case only the bride has children from a previous marriage.

The movie's entirely predictable, but it's attractively filmed -- including location shooting at the Grand Canyon -- with an appealing cast. The obstacles thrown in the newlyweds' way, including bratty behavior by the children and a plotting "other woman," grow a bit stale by film's end, but all in all it's solid, fairly amusing entertainment; fans of the stars will enjoy spending 90 minutes in their company.

This was Colbert and MacMurray's seventh and final film together, and they're enjoyable to watch together, as always. Their easy rapport is quite apparent on screen, although this is the first time in their teaming children were added to the mix! It would have been wonderful if they'd continued working together in the '50s, but we're fortunate they teamed up as many times as they did.

Two of Katie's three children are played by real-life siblings Gigi Perreau and Peter Miles (aka Gerald Perreau); the third child is played by Jimmy Hunt. All three children had fairly extensive credits. Gigi worked with both her brother and Hunt on various films. Gigi and Peter's sister, Janine, also appeared with them in other films.

Gigi Perreau would work with Fred MacMurray again on THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956), and in fact she just appeared at a screening of that film last Wednesday at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. I wish I could have been there!

By chance, I've seen Rita Johnson in films from three different decades over the last few days. Prior to FAMILY HONEYMOON she was a brassy, good-hearted crook in WITHIN THE LAW (1939) and a calm, competent nurse in EMERGENCY HOSPITAL (1956). In FAMILY HONEYMOON Johnson essays the kind of role she often played during her career as the annoying, devious other woman.

The supporting cast includes Hattie McDaniel, Chill Wills, Chick Chandler, Paul Harvey, Irving Bacon, and Frank Jenks.

Scriptwriter Dan Lussier based the script on a book by Homer Croy. Used copies of the book are quite inexpensive; I just ordered one this evening. (Update: the book arrived very quickly, in beautiful condition. It's a 1942 novel, and I bought a paperback reissue with an illustration of the movie cast on the cover, as seen here. It's interesting that the cover advertises "The Bride Had Four Kids!" since the movie cut that number down by one. There is an older girl named Maudie in the book.)

The movie was shot in black and white by William H. Daniels. The costumes were by Orry-Kelly.

FAMILY HONEYMOON was directed by Claude Binyon, who wrote the screenplays for Colbert and MacMurray's first two films together, THE GILDED LILY (1935) and THE BRIDE COMES HOME (1936).

All three films are part of the Colbert and MacMurray Romantic Comedy Collection, which is available exclusively from Turner Classic Movies. The FAMILY HONEYMOON print is superb.

As a side note, three more Colbert-MacMurray films are part of another set, the Claudette Colbert Collection: MAID OF SALEM (1937), NO TIME FOR LOVE (1943), and THE EGG AND I (1947).

Of all Colbert and MacMurray's films together, only PRACTICALLY YOURS (1944), directed by Mitchell Leisen, hasn't yet made it to DVD. Perhaps we'll be fortunate enough to have that film released along with a great film Colbert and Ray Milland made for Leisen, ARISE, MY LOVE (1940).


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