Movie Critique – Father of the Bride
Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: A fun wedding the viewers are taken to where they get to see the preparation of wedding and leading upto it through the myriad emotions of the father who is paying for it, enduring every whim of the mother and the daughter, all the time struggling with his mixed emotions.
Father of the Bride is a 1950 American comedy family drama adapted from the 1949 novel by Edward Streeter. Spencer Tracy played the titular role in the film which was directed by Vincente Minnelli. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Picture and Best Writing (Screenplay).
The central plot revolves around Stanley T. Banks (portrayed by Spencer Tracy), suburban lawyer who deals with the preparations of his daughter's wedding. And his calm life is suddenly thrown into a spin at the end of which he would have to give his little girl away that he had not been prepared to do so. The movie is made in a flash-back mode with the timeline shifting to three months prior to when the film opens.
I had seen the remake of this film starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton which was released in 1991. Thoroughly had enjoyed it, but the numbered sequel that followed the remake released in 1995 was not a favorite of mine. However when I first watched these movies, I did not know that the original movie was decades ago and also made on a book.
So when the original aired on TCM channel a few weeks ago for Father's Day, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to watch it. Also one of the programs on TCM that had talked about Spencer Tracy showed a picture where he was reading the book Father of the Bride. More than ever I wanted to see the original after seeing that picture.
Compared to any other wedding movies out there, the wedding takes a secondary role in this film. Focuses mainly around the father, Stanley Banks, trying to wrap his head around the wedding, that his little girl wont be needing him anymore as much as before, and above all he has to pay for the wedding.
The screenplay for the movie was written by husband and wife writers - Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich. They are famed for their work in The Thin Man Series, Easter Parade and It's a Wonderful Life. Yet, it was a difficult job for the writers to create a screenplay that would fit the screen as well as retain the essence that Streeter was giving in the book.
Spencer Tracey is paired with Joan Bennett as his wife, Ellie Banks. Tracy wanted his real-life wife Katherine Hepburn for the role of Ellie Banks. But MGM rejected that idea since they felt it would be too romantic for the movie plot. Bennett looked so familiar and I couldn’t figure out where I had seen her in before - either on TV or in film.
Dame Elizabeth Taylor played the part of the daughter Kay Banks who is getting married in the plot. Incidentally the film premiered twelve days after Taylor's real-life marriage, her first one, with Conrad "Nicky" Hilton Jr., son of Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels. MGM's publicity department took full advantage of the real-life wedding in promoting the reel-life wedding.
Don Taylor plays the part of Buckley Dunstan, the groom. Recently I saw a film of his, 1948 film The Naked City (My review here). He certainly retained the humor he had given in that film and emphasized it further with his quick dialogues and romantic scenes.
In a short 92 minutes of the movie, the viewers get to see a range of emotions - happiness, jealousy, sad, pride, devotion - from the Banks' family and the groom-to-be. And don’t forget the laughs that we get to see at every corner laced with warmth of love and poignancy making the viewers love the film all the more.
No doubt the film went on to become the highest grosser that year causing MGM to register the title "Now I am a Grandfather" and secure rights for a sequel from Streeter. Yet, this was the only Best Picture Oscar nominee that did not win any Academy Awards despite the immense commercial success.
One interesting piece to note is that several up coming actors and small bit players had role in this film as either ushers, bridesmaids, wedding guests, moving men, caterers or florists. Although most of them were uncredited for their role. June 10th wedding date used in the film has quite a significance - it is the birthday of Judy Garland, wife of director Minnelli. It also was the day Tracy passed away in 1967, 17 years after the film was released.
I have never watched any movie that had Elizabeth Taylor in it, for some reason she never appealed to me or called to me to watch the movies. However, I liked her role as a daughter who wants to be helpful daughter, a willing bride-to-be and above all an individual who can stand her own. I perhaps missed out on many a good films of Taylor.
In the opening scene, Tracy talks about his opinion on weddings, and quotes "I always used to think that marriage is a simple affair". I couldn’t stop laughing at that statement considering I come from India where we have elaborate weddings and involves a lot of guests than an typical American wedding would imagine.
A fun wedding the viewers are taken to where they get to see the preparation of wedding and leading upto it through the myriad emotions of the father who is paying for it, enduring every whim of the mother and the daughter, all the time struggling with his mixed emotions.
1) Plot Reveals
a. The original film also had a sequel like the remake in 90s, which released in 1951 titled Father's Little Dividend. This was remade as the numbered sequel in 1995.
b. A TV Series aired on CBS during the 1961-62 season. And a radio adaptation of the film was broadcasted by Theater Guild on the Air in 1951 with Tracy, Bennett and Taylor reprising their roles respectively.
c. This movie was remade in Tamil, Indian language, in 2008 as Abhiyum Naanum (= Abhi and I).
a. The wedding gown in the film as well as for Taylor's real wedding was designed by Helen Rose.
3) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
a. In the dinner scene at the beginning of the movie, one of the candle on the Banks' dinner table goes from short to long to short in between the scenes.
b. When the Banks' are driving to meet Buckley's parents, Ellie is looking for the house numbered 394. But when they stop in front of the house that she confirms as 394, the number on the house displayed in 709.
c. Towards the end of the movie, after Stanley puts the phone down and turns back to his wife, there are shiny sparkly stuff on his back. But a moment later when he dances with Ellie, the sparkly stuff not longer exist.