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Father of the Bride Cover Art (1950)
Film Information and Synopsis:

Release Date: 16 June 1950
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Short Synops​is: Father of the Bride(1950) is a comedy about the happenings of an American family when a daughter becomes engaged and ultimately married. As the first of her siblings to enter this matrimonial bliss, Kay (played by Elizabeth Taylor) causes change that cannot be ignored. The protagonist and father, Stanley (Spencer Tracy) struggles to come to terms with his shrinking pocket book, second-place importance, and loss of his beloved daughter. His coping skills are further challenged by his wife, Ellie (Joan Bennett) who seems enthusiastically willing to betray him as she spends his savings and ogles over her new son-in-law to be.


My Review:

Minnelli’s 1950s version of Father of the Bride is a warm and charming movie which exemplifies much of American Comedy. Although this film has been largely forgotten by film critics and the American populous in general, in its time it was nominated for four Academy Awards and seemed destined for a life similar to Howard Hawk’s Bringing Up Baby. Unlike Hawk’s comedy, however, Father of the Bride was a box office hit and inspired the 1991 remake of the same name starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. It is the timeless aspect of this narrative which speaks to the American core and led to the success of the 1991 remake. Unfortunately, it is this success and remake which has deemed the originally largely forgotten. Many contemporary movie-goers do not even know an original exists. They think only of the less impressive latter version. Furthermore, the market has been saturated with a television series during the 1960’s of the same name, the original novel (which the films were based on), as well as a three act play. Clearly, the film has been a victim of its own success.

Despite the market saturation of the Father of the Bride product, when taken in its own context, the movie’s extraordinarily written screenplay and masterly directed presentation is seamless in its style. The viewer is so taken with the sympathetically charismatic narration by Stanley (Spencer Tracy) and the relatable relationship between this father and daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) that many of the sexist, classist, and racist aspects of the film melt away. Yes, Father of the Bride is a product of its 1950’s inception with all its “traditionalism”, yet, this does not take away from the superb acting, brilliant screenwriting, and polished directing of the timeless film.



Academic Analysis:

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A young Frances Goodrich
In 1950 when Vincente Minnelli’s Father of the Bride was created, very few women succeeded in Hollywood beyond the glitz and glamour of the on-screen roles. Females simply did not direct or screen write – at least not successfully. Of course, there are always exceptions. Ida Lupino, Frances Goodrich, Isobel Lennart, Leigh Brackett, and Betty Comden were the deviants. Yet, even these women were expected to either co-write with men or write women’s interest films. Ida Lupino was the only director; she created feminist films centered on strong women leads. Of all of these tinsel-town anomalies, it is Frances Goodrich who stands out.

Unlike Lupino and Brackett, Goodrich does not draw a hard line of harsh settings and feminist agendas nor does she write female perspective pieces like Lennart and Comden. Rather, Comden (along with her husband Albert Hackett) create a screenplay focusing on a father – a man alienated by his predicament. It is this film, Father of the Bride (1950) that stands as a cross-road of heart-felt comedy, “traditionalism” of the 1950s, sexism, racism, classism, and a woman’s perspective of fatherhood. As a clear intersection of many issues surrounding the post-WWII boom, this film helps explain the issues that would ultimately lead up to the civil unrest of the 1960s and tells contemporary viewers something of a woman’s perspective of the time. Clearly, Father of the Bride with its four Academy Award nominations (including Best Screenplay) reveals an anomaly – one which reflects the “traditional” American public of the time and yet breaks with these same traditions (through the acclaim of Frances Goodrich). Such inconstancies reflect movement of boundaries and idealistic conflict that has come to personify American cinema.

Sources:


a. Books


Byars, Jackie. All that Hollywood Allows: Re-Reading Gender in 1950s Melodrama. The University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Byars argues that 1950s Hollywood films defined contemporary gender norms in the United States. Specifically she cites Father of the Bride as an example wherein Stanley (Spencer Tracy) acts as a privileged player as his perspective on the marriage ritual is dominantly portrayed as the norm.

Goodrich, David L. The Real Nick and Nora: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Writers of Stage and Screen Classics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001.This book is a dual biography of Frances Goodrich and Robert Hackett written by their nephew David Goodrich. He gives invaluable information on the two from not only arduous research, but also first-hand family history and information.

Lewis, Jon. American Film: A History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Jon Lewis is an extensively published author and expert on cinema. In addition to his professorship for Oregon State University, he has written several books and appeared in documentaries. American Film covers the history of cinema in the United States and contains a section on women behind the camera post World War II – including Frances Goodrich.



b. Academic Journals

Johnson, Albert. "The Films of Vincente Minnelli: Part I." Film Quarterly 12.2 (1958): 21-35. In this scholarly article, Albert Johnson discusses various films of movie director Vincente Minnelli. On page 32 he discusses Father of the Bride and describes the film merely as a box-office success.

Muzzio, Douglas, and Thomas Halper. "Pleasantville?: The Suburb and its Representation in American Movies." Urban Affairs Review 37.4 (2002): 543-74.This academic article follows the development of depicted suburban America through American film. The authors argue that Father of the Bride is set in the suburbs to show respectability and affluence, thus, working from and furthering social stereotypes.

Sawrey, Jessica. "Wouldn't it be Nice: Performing the Mediated Self." Qualitative Inquiry 11.5 (2005): 789-807. This is an “autoethnographic textual performance” which seeks to point out that the use of music is a form of social control but is necessary in representing everyday life. Father of the Bride is referenced as a “fairytale” which has come to be emulated.



c. Websites


"Father of the Bride (1950)." IMDb.com, Inc. 2009. . This site gives general information about the film Father of the Bride (1950). Actors, director, and screenwriters are named. Some pictures of the movie are also include.

"Frances Goodrich." IMDb.com, Inc. 2009. . General information about Goodrich can be found here – such as her date of birth and filmography. It is a great site to utilize when first beginning research.

McCaffrey, Donald W. "GOODRICH, Frances, and Albert HACKETT." Advameg, Inc. 2009. . This webpage includes a short bibliography of Frances Goodrich and her screenwriting partner/husband Albert Hackett. A list of their works is also included.

Miller, Frank. "Father of the Bride (1950)." Turner Classic Movies. 2009. . At this Turner Classic Movie site Frank Miller writes a short article about Father of the Bride (1950). In it, he discusses the history of the film and includes interesting facts about the screenwriters, director, and actors.

"Vincente Minnelli." IMDb.com, Inc. 2009. . Provided on this page is the background of director Vincente Minnelli including a list of his films (such as Father of the Bride).