For the Third Spencer Tracy And Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, hosted by Crystal of In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Michaela of Love Letters To Old Hollywood, I have Spencer Tracy’s 1950 solo outing Father Of The Bride, also starring Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor! But first, we have a Popeye short, available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection. Once we’re past that, let’s head on down to the stage, where I’ll hand things over to the narrator to tell the story!
Coming Up Shorts! with… The Anvil Chorus Girl (1944)
(Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)
Popeye and Bluto come across Olive, who is working as a blacksmith and try to help her out. A bunch of hilarious gags as Popeye and Bluto try to show off their abilities as a blacksmith. A bit of fun here, especially since this seems to be voice actor Jackson Beck’s first turn as Bluto. Also apparently a remake of an earlier Fleischer era short, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough on its own merit!
And Now For The Main Feature…
(Narrator): We open on a house that has clearly just held a big party. As we survey the mess of confetti, streamers and trash, we come upon a worn out Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy). As he notices us, he starts to talk about weddings, thinking in particular of the one he just went through, and how it started just a few months before…
(Narrator): Indeed! Activate the time machine!
(Use your imaginations for time travel effects here. All I can do is say we’ve gone back three months.)
(Narrator): Three months earlier, Stanley came home from work just like any other day. During dinner, his daughter, Kay (Elizabeth Taylor), casually mentions that she has become engaged to Buckley Dunstan. Although uneasy about it at first, Stanley decides to support her in the idea. His wife, Ellie (Joan Bennett), almost immediately starts throwing herself into wedding preparations, but he is still unsure, trying to not only remember who Buckley is amongst her beaus, but also worrying about what kind of a life he could give her. He passes on these worries to Ellie, and, once he remembers who Buckley (Don Taylor) is, they make arrangements to meet his parents, Herbert (Moroni Olsen) and Doris (Billie Burke) Dunstan. Not long after the meeting of the parents, Stanley and Ellie throw a party to announce the engagement, although Stanley doesn’t get to announce it since he is stuck in the kitchen the whole time making drinks for everyone. As much as he had hoped for it to be a small wedding, the costs start getting larger, forcing him to attempt to shrink the guest list, with little success. Other than the spiraling costs, things run smoothly until Kay and Buckley have a fight over the honeymoon plans and Kay decides to call off the wedding. However, the two come to their senses and reconcile. Of course, they still have the wedding rehearsal to get through, and that doesn’t go too well (at least, not according to Stanley). The night before the wedding, Stanley’s fears of ruining the wedding cause him to have a nightmare –
(Eerie music quickly plays on organ backstage)
(Narrator): Yes, indeed. His jitters result in him going after a late snack, where he also finds Kay with her own worries. He is able to talk her through calmly (in spite of his own anxieties), and they get through the night. The next day comes, and the place is a madhouse, as everybody tries to get ready for the wedding itself, while getting things around at the house for the reception later.
(Organ starts playing “Here Comes The Bride)
(Narrator): And there we have it, with the wedding going off without a hitch, and the reception also going well. That should do for the story. Now, let’s get back to our host. By the way, nice organ playing back there.
(Host): What do you mean? I’ve been out here the whole time!
(Organ begins playing VERY eerie music backstage)
(Wakes up in bed in a cold sweat)
(Host): Ok, that was pretty freaky. (Sorry, had to get some Halloween fun in there! 😉 ) Getting serious again, I know I enjoy this movie a lot, mostly because of Spencer Tracy. We get the whole tale more or less told from his character’s point of view, and it makes it easy to sympathize with his feelings on the matter. More than anything, the film is about the relationship between his character and his daughter (as played by Elizabeth Taylor). And that relationship feels real, from the way she calls him “Pops” and comes to him when she has trouble, or the way he tries to help her out (even if he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth). I’ve heard that Spencer Tracy had wanted Katharine Hepburn to play his wife in this movie, but others thought they were too romantic a team to play a domestic couple with children. Whatever the reason, I’m glad she wasn’t cast in this instance, as I feel that would have altered the movie too much. As we got it, the story is being told from Spencer Tracy’s perspective, and, as such, it focuses on him. If Katharine Hepburn was in it, I feel like it would have been harder to tell the story from his perspective, and it would have given us a different film entirely.
(Host): Whatever the case may be, it’s still a well-told story. Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor are not the only ones who give good performances here, as we get something good from everybody. Joan Bennett does great as the wife, who eagerly looks forward to planning the wedding (even after Spencer’s character unloads his worries on her). Billie Burke has a fun (although way too short) appearance as Buckley’s mother, and up-and-coming Russ Tamblyn (here billed as “Rusty”) has a background role as one of Kay’s brothers. For me, this is a fun film, that certainly earned its sequel, giving us more time with these wonderful characters. Admittedly, I’ve only seen the sequel once, since it is public domain and hasn’t been given a good release by Warner (who has the film elements), but I remember liking it well enough. I’ve never seen the remake (or its sequel) with Steve Martin, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me to try that, when I’ve got the opportunity to see the far-superior (in my mind) actor and comedian Spencer Tracy. I certainly want to thank Crystal and Michaela for hosting this wonderful blogathon, as it was a fun reminder to revisit an old favorite that, for me, slipped through the cracks. This is a wonderful movie, and one I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!
(Host): This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, thirty-three minutes in length.
My Rating: 10/10
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