FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) B/W 92m dir: Vincente Minnelli
w/Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Taylor, Billie Burke, Leo G. Carroll, Moroni Olsen, Melville Cooper, Taylor Holmes, Paul Harvey, Frank Orth, Russ Tamblyn, Tom Irish, Marietta Canty
From The Movie Guide: "Nowadays remembered primarily as the first of many walks La Liz was to take down the aisle, FATHER OF THE BRIDE is also one of the best comedies MGM made in the 1950s. Although Taylor perfectly embodies an idealized version of the demure but spirited young bride, this fine film is almost a showcase for the supple comic drollery of Spencer Tracy. As Stanley Banks, the harassed father who must cope with the business of marrying his daughter off, Tracy finds a marvelous vehicle for his expressive but low-key style.
"The movie begins as the exhausted Banks looks over the debris and chaos in his home after the wedding, then turns to the audience to relate his story. The problems and responsibilities of marrying off a daughter are legion: there's the heart-to-heart talk with the suitor; meeting the in-laws; selecting the honeymoon site; and, of course, the near-ruinous financial expense.
"Although continually skimming the edge of bland sitcom land, this satiric look at the American Family, circa 1950, still packs a gentle punch. The screenplay, if occasionally contrived, is witty and incisive and Minnelli's assured direction keeps the proceedings from disintegrating into indulgent slapstick. As the bride's mother, Joan Bennett is excellent in her first film for MGM, and the supporting performances are all good, with especially fine work from Moroni Olsen and Billie Burke as the parents of the groom. The last is played with charm and the perfect touch of dullness by Don Taylor, who later traded acting for the director's chair. The film inspired a sequel, FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND, and a mediocre 1991 remake."
From the website A March Through Film History (www.ryanmccormickfilmhistory.blogspot.com), this 2020 review of the film:
"There is nothing quite like the experiences of the planning and performance of a wedding. For the classic traditions of father of the bride there is no more stressful part and quietly emotional role as a person that has so little creative input into the occasion, yet such a large part in trying to please so many people with the event. For this 1950 classic starring Spencer Tracy the film brings together the humor of being in the middle of one of the most hectic ceremonious times in a one’s life while delivering on the heart and emotion that comes with the act of surrendering one’s little girl to another man. With this delicate mix of genuine zany yet relatable humor with sincere emotion surrounding an important part of life, this feature hits a home run, easily becoming a classic of comedies.
"Father of the Bride is a comedy about the trials and aggravations of a father in the preparation of his daughter’s wedding. Capturing the whirlwind experience of discovering his daughter has fallen in love and engaged to the experience of her 'big day' this picture captures it all in 92 minutes. Spencer Tracy portrays Stanley Banks, a doting father who discovers his daughter, Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) is engaged and experiences all the trials that come with planning and paying for a wedding. Despite the idea that father always knows best we witness Stanley continually being sideswiped in preparation of the wedding including becoming intoxicated during the first meeting with groom’s parents, discovering he cannot fit into his old formal wear, being rushed through and unable to enjoy social gatherings, realizing caterers to be far more pushy than expected, the sticker shock of everything, and how quickly everything simply flies by. All of it leads to the big wedding itself where finally he experiences a moment of introspection on his daughter’s special day, realizing it as the passing of his little girl into womanhood. The day goes by with its hectic nature so quickly that Stanley is unable to say goodbye to his daughter, but Kay makes sure to phone with love before catching her train to her honeymoon, making all the mess, headache, and money worth it to the father of the bride.
"For a comedy about the planning and experience of a wedding this picture hits many of the marks surprisingly accurately, making its humor hit home all the more. From the juggling of duty, pride, embarrassment, jealousy, and protectiveness, to the surprise of the cost, the handling of venues, guests, caterers, and the many other aspects of the events surrounding a wedding it can be a manic mess that comes and goes all too quickly. With a whiz, all of the events round out with the brief, yet memorable execution of the wedding day itself. It’s a mess, but it a pleasurable mess, and the film nails it down is fine fashion.
"The film is simple and from the heart. For anyone who has experienced the planning of a wedding you can relate, making the picture all the better. The humor hits home with is portrayal of the classic American wedding. Some traditions are different depending on family or cultural history, even time has changed many 'traditional' practices, but it's rather accurate to the general experience for anyone’s big day. Though the picture focuses on the father, the film is touching for both parents watching their own children grow up and the children that have married, making this one of the more emotional comedies many can think of due to its poignancy in the journey of life.
"From the very beginning of this Vincent Minnelli-directed feature, Spencer Tracy was considered for the titular role of the picture. The script and the role of Stanley were written to accentuate Tracy’s acting style and no one else was considered for the part. Only a small communication flub that invited Jack Benny for a read through confused studio personnel and Tracy, leading Tracy to initially decline the role due to the perceived competition only to have him reassured the part was his, and his alone. Tracy’s ability to mix tenderness, compassion, territoriality, sternness, and humor all come together in perfect harmony in his routine. As the title character he carried the film all the way to an Academy Award nominated performance. For Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride marked his second consecutive comedic hit performance taking him in a direction he found great success in. With the continued accomplishment of the sequel film Tracy became one of the highest grossing stars of the time.
"For the bride Elizabeth Taylor comes in as a former child actress that has aged out of her juvenile roles and into the world of adult character. You can this film is fittingly the transition point in her career. Once the darling little girl of MGM, Taylor was coming into an age where she was to soon become the studio’s leading young and attractive attraction, eventually a sex symbol, and here as Kay we bridge that gap as Kay depicts that innocent girl that is married away into a new mature world that lies beyond in her future. Her performance in particular is nothing special, but her mere presence in the film was a sizable interest for the studio continuing to cash in on her box office appeal. At the time of production Taylor was engaged to hotel heir Conrad Hilton Jr. which MGM turned into publicity for the picture by having her wedding less than two weeks before the premier of the picture. MGM paid for Taylor’s wedding dress, designed by the same designer of her dress within the feature. Of course, weddings would become quite common for Taylor as she would marry seven more times in her life.
"Not to go unnoticed is the mother of the bride Ellie, played by Joan Bennett. At age 40 Bennett was past her days of being at the young and attractive level of Elizabeth Taylor, but she was still vibrant as she transitioned to being a loving mother that attempts to keep both father and bride together during a hectic time. Although Tracy was commonly seen starring across from Kathrine Hepburn, his real life romantic interest in many pairings as of late, it was wise of MGM to avoid bringing in Hepburn for the wife of Tracy in Father of the Bride. Hepburn has a quality that tends to stand out in movies and to have a performer such as Hepburn would have detracted from the emotion of Tracy or the innocent grace of Taylor. Joan Bennett helps supply the grace and balance the role needed. Her happy medium between the performances of Tracy and Taylor supplies the loving, nurturing layer a motherly figure needs in this picture, and she should be commended for it.
"Swallowed up in the picture is the appearance of Don Taylor as Buckley, Kay’s groom. A name like Buckley and Stanley’s initial disapproval of him supply all the general humor of a father who is meeting his daughter’s fiancee for the first time. Don Taylor’s performance is not what I would call memorable, in fact it is hard to even picture a scene or line where he stands out, but he does supply just enough underrated charm to fill a role that was never meant to stand out. Making a small appearance as Buckley’s mother is Billie Burke, the longtime actress of stage and screen you may best remember as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz (1939). In a way she is the doting mother of the groom, but with such a small role her performance flies by rather swiftly.
"Father of the Bride was an immediate hit from the moment of its premier at Radio City Music Hall, possibly thanks to MGM publicity department and Elizabeth Taylor’s recent wedding. Critics and audiences alike loved the humor and heart as the film quickly became one of the most successful pictures of the year, sixth highest grossing picture of the year, while also being nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. As quickly as it became a hit MGM launched into a sequel, releasing Father's Little Dividend (1951) just 10 months later. Returning with the cast from Father of the Bride, the sequel furthers the story with Kay having a child, bringing in more strong numbers for MGM.
"Father of the Bride saw a popular remake in 1991 starring Steve Martin as the titular character, it too becoming a well-received classic in its own way for a new generation unaware of the 1950 original. It too saw a sequel with a similar plot in 1995's Father of the Bride 2. The idea of comedies about wedding planning continues to be an idea that is rustles around moviemakers' heads for future projects for its relatable nature and stress-inducing comedy, but the 1950 picture still receives credit as one of the greatest comedies of all time as seen with its being named on the AFI list of 100 greatest American comedies in the year 2000. Father of the Bride continues to entertain all these generations later as if it never missed a beat. Watch it again, you will not regret it."
The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Actor (Tracy), and Original Screenplay (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett).