FATHER OF THE BRIDE was a major hit in 1950—the year’s 6th most attended picture—and remains a comedy delight generations later. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, with a screenplay by the married team of Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett, it was based off a bestseller novel written the year before by Edward Streeter. *
Well-to-do lawyer ‘Stanley Banks’ (Spencer Tracy) relates the tribulations of accepting, preparing and getting through the marriage news, wedding planning and performance of same for his daughter ‘Kay’ (Elizabeth Taylor). Stanley’s wife ‘Ellie’ (Joan Bennett) has a surer grasp on sanity than her harried husband, who frets and fumes over Kay’s choice of ‘Buckley Dunstan’ (Don Taylor), over the rising costs, the expanding guest list, the fussy planners and contract help—everything. Mr. Banks may have more available to splurge than the average Joe, but his sense of paternal dislocation, anxiety and befuddlement over “giving away” his girl has universal resonance beyond station, status or income.
Tracy’s a perfect choice: his timing couldn’t be bettered: there are many laugh-out-loud moments as he pivots between skepticism & peeve, iled up & battered. Best is the hallucinogenic scene imagining an attempted walk up the aisle—John Alton’s cinematography here is wonderful. Bennett is slyly charming, effortlessly having made the move away from her earlier femme fatale roles. Taylor, knowing she’s “arrived”, simply glows. What a fun movie.
“Who is this Buckley anyway? And what’s his last name? I hope it’s better than his first one. Where the devil does he come from? And who does he think is going to support him? If he thinks I am he’s got another thing coming…”
Produced for $1,215,000, the merry vexations ended up grossing $11,500,000. Oscar nominations accrued for Best Picture, Actor (Tracy) and Screenplay. The success generated immediate work on a sequel with the reunited cast: Father’s Little Dividend scored another hit in ’51. Four decades later, the remake with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton also struck paydirt and birthed a sequel.
With Leo G. Carroll, Billie Burke, Moroni Olsen, Russ Tamblyn, Tom Irish, Marietta Canty, Carleton Carpenter, Frank Cady, Douglas Spencer, Willard Waterman. 92 minutes.
* When author Streeter saw the advance screening he wrote to Tracy: “No one who ever sees this picture will be a more severe critic than I was last night in view of the fact that you were portraying ME. All I can say is that you have given me much to live up to, although it is more or less wasted in one sense of the word as I have no more daughters to marry off.” Streeter (1891-1976) edited “The Harvard Lampoon”, became a war correspondent in WW1, then for 33 years was a very successful banker. The 244-page ‘Father of The Bride” came out of his personal dad-meets-circus experience. He later wrote “Mr.Hobbs Vacation”, which turned into the 1962 Jimmy Stewart fave Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation.
Minnelli on Tracy: “His instincts were infallible. He knew how to throw the unimportant things away, and he knew how to create the illusion of throwing the important things away too, so that they were inscribed on your mind. His way of speaking made you feel you’d stumbled on a great truth. You saw real life reflected in his face…and also strength.”
Taylor on Tracy: “Even at eighteen I learned so much by just watching Spence…it was his sense of stillness, his ability to use economy of movement, of vocal economy. It seemed almost effortless. It seemed as if he wasn’t doing anything, and yet he was doing everything.”
Hope sprung eternal in the Liz breast: within days of movie’s premiere 18-year-old Taylor married hotel heir Nicky Hilton, her first of eight bride gambles.