“I would like to say a few things about weddings…”
When his 20-year-old daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) announces that she’s going to be marrying her boyfriend (Don Taylor), Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Ellie (Joan Bennett) begin the heady — and expensive — process of planning her wedding.
Vincente Minnelli’s Father of the Bride (remade with Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, and Kimberly Williams in 1991) remains a slightly dated yet undeniably charming piece of mid-century Americana, providing an amusing snapshot of what middle- and upper-middle-class citizens were, at heart, most concerned with: “doing things right” without breaking the bank. Despite its socio-economic and ethnic specificity, however, Father of the Bride manages to transcend both class and race in its astute depiction of the trials and tribulations inherent in planning an enormous family event; indeed, what middle-aged man can’t relate to the struggle to fit into his former best suit, or trying to balance an increasingly out-of-control budget? Equally effective is the way in which Tracy manages to convey — without undue pathos — the deep sense of emptiness and panic he feels at “losing” his only daughter to another man; his close relationship with Taylor is quite special.
In addition to offering many amusing vignettes (see Redeeming Qualities and Moments below), FOTB features spot-on performances throughout; indeed, Peary is so impressed by Spencer Tracy’s turn as Stanley Banks that he awards him a Best Actor Oscar in his Alternate Oscars book (a questionable, albeit noble, choice). Joan Bennett is equally fine as Tracy’s harried wife, a middle-aged woman who’s living out her own unrequited wedding fantasies through her daughter; and Elizabeth Taylor is simply luminous as Tracy’s young daughter (she helped enormously with publicity by graciously getting married — for the first time — just before the film’s release).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Spencer Tracy as Stanley Banks
- 17-year-old Elizabeth Taylor as Tracy’s grown daughter
- Joan Bennett as Ellie Banks: “Stanley, from now on, don’t answer the phone.”
- Tracy trying to fit into his far-too-small “cut-away” suit
- Stanley’s surreal nightmare-before-the-wedding
- “Mr. Tringle” (Melville Cooper) demonstrating to the wedding party how to “step, stop” down the aisle
- Mr. and Mrs. Banks checking out a particularly hideous wedding present from “Aunt Hattie”
- A spot-on look at the chaos surrounding wedding preparations
Yes, for its erstwhile popularity and Oscar-nominated status.