Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Father of the Bride (1950) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive has released a lovely new Blu-ray of FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950), just in time for the June wedding season!

FATHER OF THE BRIDE was directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and Elizabeth Taylor.

I saw FATHER OF THE BRIDE multiple times growing up, entranced by the beauty of the young Elizabeth Taylor. I enjoyed it but always felt it seemed a little sour about such a special event.

There are still some things in the film which don't sit quite right with me -- mostly the periodic cluelessness of Spencer Tracy's character, including his getting plastered when he meets the in-laws -- but having experienced our own daughter's wedding last summer, I definitely saw the movie from a fresh perspective!

This time around I related more to the parents than the daughter, sympathizing with the challenging logistics and the warring emotional tugs and happiness which come with a child spreading their wings and moving on to the next phase of life. In fact, our daughter was the same age when she married as Kay (Taylor) is in the movie -- although in real life Taylor was playing a character a couple years older than her true age.

As the film begins, Stanley (Tracy) and Ellie (Bennett) Banks gradually come to realize one night during dinner that their daughter Kay is in love with a man named Buckley (Don Taylor) -- and that she plans to marry him, probably sooner rather than later.

This sets in motion a series of vignettes: Stanley having the "engagement talk" with Buckley about his prospects, Mr. and Mrs. Banks meeting Buckley's parents (Moroni Olsen and Billie Burke), the engagement party, whittling down the invitation list, and finally the big day.

There are many enjoyable aspects to the film, including the pleasure of watching Tracy and Bennett working together, close to two decades after ME AND MY GAL (1932). I know Bennett's work so much better now than I did the last time I watched this movie, and I've come to appreciate her enormously.

Watch the scene early in the film where Buckley picks up Kay for a date, and Bennett's eyes have a faint sheen of tears, as she looks at Kay and Buckley with wonder, realizing her entire life is about to change. And then, being made of sturdy stuff, she starts looking for wedding dress designs!

The final shot, of Bennett and Tracy dancing to "Good Night, Sweetheart," is simply lovely.

Bennett was 40 when this was filmed; she had been a young mother, giving birth to the eldest of her four daughters the day after she turned 18, and that daughter had married and had a child not long before the movie was made.

It's fun to note that Bennett and her movie daughter shared a February 27th birth date. What's more, they had each played Amy in LITTLE WOMEN -- Bennett in 1933 and Taylor in 1949.

I lose interest in Taylor's career after GIANT (1956) -- which I'll be seeing later this month -- or maybe CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958), but at this early stage of her career she's simply a delight, a beam of sunshine on a black and white movie screen.

The rest of the cast is terrific, including Russ Tamblyn and Tom Irish as Kay's brothers and Marietta Canty as the housekeeper. (Those were the days, when an "upper middle class" family had a housekeeper to cook and sat down to candlelit family dinners.) Paul Harvey is the minister and Melville Cooper his assistant, while the caterers are played by Leo G. Carroll and Frank Orth. Fay Baker (THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL) is Stanley's secretary.

Many other familiar faces fly through the film as friends, coworkers, and wedding guests, including Carleton Carpenter, Frank Cady, and Thomas Browne Henry. And of course, Bess Flowers is a guest at the wedding reception! (I wonder how many movie weddings she attended in her long career?)

From a sociological standpoint, it was interesting to me that a movie about a wedding doesn't once mention the engagement ring!

FATHER OF THE BRIDE was filmed in black and white by John Alton. Taylor's gown was designed by the great Helen Rose. It runs 92 minutes.

The screenplay by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich was based on the novel by Edward Streeter.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray edition of FATHER OF THE BRIDE is a lovely, sharp print.

The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the film's previous DVD release, a trailer and a pair of newsreels, including one on Taylor's first wedding. The newsreel shots including Rosalind Russell and her husband arriving at the wedding with Van Johnson, and Taylor's A DATE WITH JUDY costar Jane Powell as one of the bridesmaids.

I had a most enjoyable time watching FATHER OF THE BRIDE, and I very much recommend this new release from the Warner Archive.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I think anyone who has been "father of the bride" at their daughter's wedding will find much to relate to and be amused by. A special moment in the life of any man surely - I loved it. The film is of course 65 years old and conventions have changed a bit but generally - a touching movie.

10:32 AM  

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