This post is part of the Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!
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 and 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.
8 thoughts on “Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon: Father of the Bride (1950)”
Lovely review. I esp. appreciated how it connected with your family. Our wedding was arranged by my mother-in-law, and it was quite the occasion. At one point, I wanted to invite one of my old teachers, and my wife said, “Oh, don’t bother with her, you haven’t talked to her in ages.” The very next day, my wife casually informed me that her mother had sent out 100 invitations to her own friends!
LOL, that reminds me of my mom casually mentioning the wedding to acquaintances she commuted to work with and some of them assuming they were invited!
I’m betting pretty much everyone has funny stories about wedding planning.
I loved reading about your personal memories interspersed with the review of the film. It made the post more interesting.
Thanks, I had fun writing it!
Love the relationship between Spencer and Elizabeth’s characters in this. Spencer is like the most ideal dad ever in this. 🙂 I love Elizabeth’s wedding dress, and the one she wore in real life for her first wedding reminds me a bit of her dress in this film.
I think I commented on this article, but I can’t seem to find my comment. In case I didn’t, I would like to repeat the invitation I meant to give you. I would like to invite you to join the “Singing Sweethearts Blogathon,” a blogathon honoring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, which will run from February 12-14. To read the rules of the blogathon, go to this address: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/ring-the-assembly-bell-here-comes-the-singing-sweethearts-blogathon/. I hope you’ll be able to participate!
If you need any suggestions, I would be glad to give some. Since you may write about movies which Jeanette and Nelson made separately, as well as the ones they made together, there are quite a few films from which to choose.
Please let me know if you can participate. The blogathon is drawing near, and I have few participants, so I would greatly appreciate a contribution from you.
Many thanks and good wishes!
Thanks so much for the invitation, but I already have another obligation for that week. Perhaps next time.