Posts Tagged ‘Billie Burke’

My Classic Movie Pick: Father of the Bride

This weekend I’ll be traveling with my family to attend a niece’s wedding.  With the wedding on my mind, I thought I’d write about the original Father of the Bride movie, made in 1950, that starred Spencer Tracy as the father, Joan Bennett as the mother, and Elizabeth Taylor as the bride.

Elizabeth Taylor as daughter, Kay, and Spencer Tracy as her dad, Stanley

Elizabeth Taylor as daughter, Kay, and Spencer Tracy as her dad, Stanley

Fotb screen shot

What I appreciate about this film is the family’s dynamic.  In a flashback we meet Stanley Banks(Spencer Tracy)as he remembers and regales us with what has taken place in his family’s life during the past 3 months: his beloved daugther, Kay(Elizabeth Taylor) announcing to the family at dinner one night that she is in love with Buckley Dunstan(Don Taylor-no relation to Liz!) and she has accepted his proposal of marriage.

Spencer Tracy as the father, Stanley, and Joan Bennett as the mother, Ellie.

Spencer Tracy as the father, Stanley, and Joan Bennett as the mother, Ellie.

Stanley immediately realizes that this wedding is going to cost money, especially as he listens in on wife Ellie(Joan Bennett) and Kay’s animated discussions on dresses, music, food, flowers, caterers, registering for gifts, the cake!  Younger brothers Tommy and Ben(Russ Tamblyn-the future Biff in West Side Story, and Tom Irish) wisely keep quiet and out of the way.

There is the obligatory dinner with the groom and his parents.  Buckley only has eyes for his fiancee, and can’t see how annoying his ultra chatty and flighty mother(the good witch from The Wizard of Oz herself, Billie Burke) is, nor how his father(Moroni Olsen) and Stanley really have nothing in common.  The uncomfortable dinner isn’t helped when Stanley drinks too much liquor and falls asleep in the Dunstan’s living room!

Stanley keeps urging a small, simple wedding but with Buckley’s mother now in on the plans with Kay and Ellie, Stanley’s ideas are ignored and he quietly resigns himself to the ladies’ plans, and to be there to walk Kay down the aisle and to give her away.  As the wedding date draws near, Kay is upset when she finds out that Buckley’s idea for a honeymoon is a fishing trip in Nova Scotia and she calls the wedding off! It’s up to Stanley to calm her down and get her to see that she loves Buckley and that the two of them can work this disagreement out, and they do.  There’s also a funny dream sequence Stanley has about walking Kay down the aisle and how it goes horribly wrong.

Reassuring Kay that the honeymoon disagreement can be solved

Reassuring Kay that the honeymoon disagreement can be solved

In 1991, Buena Vista -part of the Disney Company, re-made Father of the Bride, starring Steve Martin as the harried father.  While I enjoyed that version, you really owe it to yourself to see the original film.  Spencer Tracy is excellent as the harried father, worried about the wedding costs, and also sad that his baby girl is all grown up and getting married.  He gives the role  warmth and tenderness, with a  wry touch of humor.  He is the calm center of the film, while all the other characters are running around due to wedding prep activities.  Elizabeth Taylor is just gorgeous in this film, and she also put forth just the right touches as the young bride to be, full of love for her fiance, excited about getting married, emotional at times, but understandably so.

I am now wondering if this dress style was all the rage for weddings in the early 1950s?

I am now wondering if this dress style was all the rage for weddings in the early 1950s?

Gorgeous shot of Elizabeth Taylor in the bridal dress for the movie

Gorgeous shot of Elizabeth Taylor in the bridal dress for the movie

MGM made a good profit from the film’s box office success and a sequel was made in 1951, Father’s Little Dividend, with the plot being that Stanley has to come to grips with the fact that daughter Kay is going to have a baby and that means he’ll become a grandfather.  This film reunited the cast from the first film as well as director Vincent Minelli.

From time to time, this gem airs on Turner Classic, so check their monthly schedule online in order to catch when it will air again.  The film is available on Amazon for purchase or to view through their instant rent program.  The film is also available at TCM’s Shop.

The film, originally based upon the best-selling novel of 1949, Father of the Bride, by Edward Streeter,  is a charming look at a put-upon father and how he copes with his daughter’s new role as bride and wife.  Seek it out, and don’t let the 1991 version be the only version of this movie that you see.

The movie poster for German audiences

The movie poster for German audiences

My Classic Movie Pick: Sergeant Rutledge

Today’s post is for the  John Ford Blogathon.  If you aren’t too familiar with John Ford, he was a film director and considered one of the best in his field.  This blogathon is being hosted by Krell Laboratories  and Bemused and Nonplussed.  Be sure to visit those two blogs to read more great posts about director John Ford and about his movies.

 

JF Blogathon

Ford directed many movies and he began his career during the silent movie era and continued to direct until 1976.  I’ve included his info from IMDB if you want to read more about his rich movie-making  career.

In 1960 he directed a simple film, simple that it wasn’t one of his storied long films.  Simple in that the plot was very straightforward.  Simple in that the lead actors weren’t his usual well-knowns, such as John Wayne, Henry Fonda, or Maureen O’Hara.  The film I chose to write about is Sergeant Rutledge.  Its main stars were Woody Strode, Jeffrey Hunter, and Constance Towers.  Sgt. Rutledge poster 1

Sergeant Rutledge is set in the west of the 1880s and it  tells its tale mostly through a series of flashbacks.  Sergeant Braxton  Rutledge( Woody Strode)  is a member of the 9th Calvary, which was also nicknamed the Buffalo soldiers; made up entirely of black men serving their country.   The movie opens  in a courtroom because Sergeant Rutledge is on trial.  The trial is a court-martial for  Sergeant Rutledge and he   has been accused of two horrific crimes: the murder of his Commanding Officer, Major Dabney, and  the rape and murder of Dabney’s teen daughter.

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence to link Sergeant Rutledge to the crimes but as we see through the flashbacks, he is an upright and innocent man.  Lieutenant Tom Cantrell(Jeffrey Hunter) is the officer in charge of the 9th Calvary and it is his duty to arrest Sergeant Rutledge and take him to the fort’s prison to await the trial.  As members of the 9th Calvary and Lt. Cantrell are about to take in Sergeant Rutledge, he is able to escape on his horse   which forces  the 9th Calvary to go after him.

Sergeant Rutledge finds a train depot to hide out at;it’s in the middle of a dry, nowhere place.  Here he meets by accident a lady traveler, Mary Beecher(Constance Towers).  She has arrived at the depot to await her father but when she finds the station agent, she is horrified to discover that he’s dead!   Wandering outside the station, it’s now  nighttime, wondering what she should do,  she is grabbed by the Sergeant in order to keep her quiet-she doesn’t realize that the depot is surrounded by Apaches and that she and the Sergeant will have to use their wits in order to get away from the depot without being killed.  Part of that scene is available to watch here.

Sergeant Rutledge  and Mary are able to get away safely and meet up with Lt. Cantrell and the rest of the 9th Calvary.  The sergeant is able to warn them about a possible Apache attack  and towards the end of that scene, as a fellow calvary comrade, Moffat, lies dying from his wound in Sergeant Rutledge’s arms, is a moving discussion between the two men as to why they should keep on fighting for the US Calvary.  That scene is here.

As the trial begins, we see that Lt. Cantrell will be Sergeant Rutledge’s defense attorney.  Despite Mary Beecher’s testimony in favor of the Sergeant’s character, and the same from Sergeant Skidmore, Rutledge’s worst fears are realized by the work of  a hostile prosecutor and from  the community that lives in the town closest to the fort; already stirred up and convinced of the black sergeant’s guilt.  Despite these serious issues, the trial doesn’t turn out as Sergeant Rutledge thinks it will.

Woody Strode was a native of Los Angeles and a star football player on 1939’s UCLA team.   He was also one of two black men to first ever play in the NFL, joining the Los Angleles Rams in 1946.   Acting came easily to him and with his commanding presence and athletic build, he was a natural for the camera’s eye.  He is strong, stoic, courageous, and cautious as Sergeant Rutledge.  It was his first role to be the lead and he handled it excellently.

Jeffrey Hunter, who had appeared in John Ford’s more famous film, The Searchers, is good as Lt. Cantrell.  He is sincere in his beliefs that his 9th Calvary men are just as equal to serve in the US Calvary as white men are.   He is sure that Sergeant Rutledge is innocent of the horrific crimes he is accused of and is determined to defend him to the best of his abilities.  Lt. Cantrell also can’t help falling in love with Mary Beecher, so there is a touch of romance in the film, too.

Constance Towers is beautiful and gives  a terrific performance as Mary Beecher.  She conveys so much with her eyes.  She is the main female in this world inhabited mostly by men and she is strong, not willing to hide behind her femininity or to use it for her own betterment, disregarding the other people in this world she didn’t purposely enter.

Look for wonderful supporting actors Juano Hernandez as Sergeant Skidmore and a scene-stealing Billie Burke(Glenda the Good Witch herself!) as Cordelia Fosgate.

Sergeant Rutledge is available through Turner Classic Movies Shop in a 5 dvd set of some of John Ford’s films.   It is also available to purchase through Amazon or to watch it through their instant rent program.   The OV Guide also has the film available to watch online, for free.

Filmed in the spare yet beautiul Monument Valley area of Utah, see Sergeant Rutledge for a John Ford film that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.  I’ll close this blog out with some more photos from the film.

Woody Strode as Sergeant Braxton Rutledge

Woody Strode as Sergeant Braxton Rutledge

Jeffrey Hunter, on the left, as Lt. Cantrell

Jeffrey Hunter, on the left, as Lt. Cantrell

 

Constance Towers as Mary Beecher

Constance Towers as Mary Beecher