Posts Tagged ‘Joan Bennett’

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: The Woman in the Window

Poor Edward G. Robinson.  He reached stardom playing evil gangsters, mob bosses, when in reality, he was a good stage actor who could play drama, comedy, and tried at various times in his Hollywood career to break out from the “gangster” label.  Fritz Lang, an Austrian-German director who had arrived in Hollywood in the 1930s to get away from the Nazi’s, who had banned one of his films in 1932, gave Robinson a chance to play a role that wasn’t a gangster part.  The film was 1944’s The Woman in the Window. The Woman in the Window Robinson plays middle-aged  Professor Richard Wanley, a professor of Psychology.  His wife and kids have recently gone on a vacation and he is alone at home.  He decides to hang out at his club one evening, spending time with some good friends at their Men’s Club: District Attorney Frank Lalor(Raymond Massey) and Dr. Barkstane(Edmond Breon).  As Professor Wanley walks to the club, he notices a painting of a beautiful, young woman in the window of a nearby shop.  He stops to admire the painting and when he meets his friends, they spend some time discussing the beautiful woman in the painting.   On his way home, Wanley again, stops to admire the painting and the subject of it appears hauntingly, her reflection in the window, catching Wanley off guard.

Prof. Wanley noticing the painting.

Prof. Wanley noticing the painting.

Prof. Wanley having fun with his pals at their  Club.

Prof. Wanley having fun with his pals at their Club.

The beautiful Alice Reed's reflection in the window.

The beautiful Alice Reed’s reflection in the window.

The beautiful, young woman is Alice Reed(Joan Bennett) and she knows that this middle-aged man is entranced by her beauty.  She decides to demurly take adavantage of Professor Wanly.  She invites him to have a drink with her at a local bar.  Then she invites him to her apartment for more drinks.  As Wanley admires more works of art in Alice’s apartment, an angry man bursts in accusing Alice of cheating on him and he tries to attack her.  Alice grabs a pair of scissors and tosses them to Wanley, who the angry man has turned his attack on and Wanley stabs the man in the back, killing him!  So much for a quiet evening of drinks, art, and talking!

Looking at paintings with Alice at her place.

Looking at paintings with Alice at her place.

Prof. Wanley being attacked by a very angry friend of Alice's!

Prof. Wanley being attacked by a very angry friend of Alice’s!

In shock after murdering a man.

In shock after murdering a man.

The mild-mannered professor is in a state of shock.  What should he do?  Here, he thought he’d just enjoy a nice evening with the beautiful woman in the painting and now a murder has happened, a murder he committed in self-defense, but a murder none-the less.  Robinson does a wonderful job portraying a middle-aged man, who despite having a wife and two children, a satisfying job, and good friends, is just a tad bit lonely.  He feels a tad bit vulnerable due to the fact that he is aging.

Joan Bennett is good as the femme fatale of this piece.  She is beautiful, she knows it, and she’s more than ready to make Professor Wanley her fall guy.  What her hard-boiled, hidden persona doesn’t expect is to develop true feelings for the professor.  I wouldn’t call it love, but she does care about him and starts to feel guilty for how she is manipulating him when the mastermind behind the money-making plot via blackmail, Heidt(Dan Duryea) enters the scene, demanding that they get more  money from the professor.

Heidt and Alice discussing getting $5000 from the Professor.

Heidt and Alice discussing getting $5000 from the Professor.

Duryea is so excellent as the real baddie of this film.  In real life, Dan Duryea was a very nice guy.   A married man with kids, acting was his talent and he supported his family with his skills.  For some reason, he made his mark as playing bad guys but instead of not taking those roles, he took them and ran with them.

Behind the scenes shot of Duryea and Robinson.

Behind the scenes shot of Duryea and Robinson.

The Woman in the Window airs from time to time on Turner Classic Movies and I’ve put the movie’s trailer here for viewing.  The film is available to buy through Amazon.  It was also available at one time on Netflix and may still be available.  Lastly, some kind soul has put the entire movie up on Youtube! For a great film noir with a twist of an ending, seek out The Woman in the Window.

TWITW ending hint