For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Wedding Movies, here’s a review of Father of the Bride (1950) by Debra of Moon in Gemini.
Thanks again to Emily of The Flapper Dame for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Virginie of The Wonderful World of Cinema and we will be reviewing our favorite Movies based on Plays.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of July by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Virginie!
Let’s see what Debra thought of this movie:
Film lovers talk a lot about what makes a classic film. One element often mentioned is the film still feels relevant even decades after it was made.
I contend Father of the Bride, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, is one of those films.
Unless you were rich, weddings were usually modest affairs pre-World War II. With the rising middle class, that changed profoundly. Suddenly, many people who would have previously had small church or city hall weddings were putting on big catered affairs.
My mom and dad were married during the 1950s and both wanted a small wedding. My mother proposed my grandfather give them the money he was going to spend on the wedding.
My grandfather gave them a choice: “Have a big wedding, or your mother and I will use the money to take a trip to Paris.”
They had the big wedding.
My grandfather was a little unusual, in that he had saved for years to give my mother (their only child) a big wedding. Most fathers were (and still are) appalled by how much money goes into what is basically a four-hour party.
Enter Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy) who is not only appalled his beloved 19-year-old daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) is engaged, he’s even more upset that his wife Ellie (Joan Bennett) insists they give her a “nice” wedding.
At every turn, he tries to keep the costs of the wedding down, and at every turn he is thwarted. Insisting the house is “good enough” for a wedding, he is stunned when the wedding list grows to over 250 people, which will require tenting in the yard and other expensive modifications to the house.
What’s funniest to me is how Stanley is the only one who thinks this is ridiculous. Everyone else acts as if the extravagance is completely normal.
Hands down my favorite part of the movie is when he digs up an old suit in the attic and is certain he can still fit into it. This makes me howl every time I watch it because it reminds me of my dad (who did not want my sister to have a big wedding, just like Stanley).
My mother insisted he buy a new suit.
“I have a suit.”
He went to his closet and returned with a powder-blue leisure suit, circa The Six Million Dollar Man era.
My mother lost it. “YOU CAN’T WEAR THAT TO YOUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING!”
“Why not? It’s fine. I’m not spending money on a new suit.”
I intervened and suggested he wear his tuxedo, since it was an evening wedding.
My mother, not at all mollified: “That tuxedo is really old, it’s probably out of style, too!”
We were watching a taped episode of a soap opera and a character on screen was wearing a tuxedo. I ran to the closet and took out the tuxedo jacket, holding it up to the TV.
“See, see? The lapels are exactly the same. It’s almost identical!”
Crisis averted. He wore the tuxedo.
Father of the Bride captures perfectly the constant underlying hysteria that goes into making a wedding happen. At one point Stanley are Kay are having a midnight snack because they can’t sleep. Kay confesses she is worried about getting married. Stanley mistakenly thinks she’s nervous about the wedding night and tries to reassure her. (Which I think it very sweet and a bit unusual for a 1950s movie—especially since it’s a conversation between a father and daughter.)
She says it’s way sillier than that: she’s having nightmares about the wedding going wrong. Stanley, who is also having nightmares about the exact same thing, realizes that he’s not alone in his fears of disaster.
Father of the Bride may not be considered a masterpiece of cinema, but there are so many things about it that still resonate today. We’re still so obsessed with weddings there are tons of TV reality shows devoted to the subject.
The film may not be considered one of Spencer Tracy’s greatest performance, but I love Stanley and how he has such a hard time letting Kay go. You don’t see a whole lot of strong father/daughter stories on film. This is one of my favorites.