This evening, I watched nominee number four from the Best Picture shortlist of 1950...
Father of the Bride
Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
(based on the novel by Edward Streeter)
Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Taylor, Billie Burke
Father of the Bride opens with Stanley Banks (Tracy) sitting pensively in the aftermath of the wedding reception for his daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) and her beloved Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor). Stanley then recollects the trials and tribulations that led to this special day: the casually shocking engagement announcement, the not-too-formal talk with his soon-to-be son-in-law, the nerve-wracking first meeting with the in-laws, the chaotic wedding rehearsal. And while Stanley worries himself into a knot about the expense of the wedding preparations, his real anxiety stems from his inability to say goodbye to his only daughter.
1950 sure was a stellar year for witty dialogue. In Goodrich and Hackett's script of Father of the Bride, we have yet another Best Picture nominee filled with humour. Of course, that is entirely unsurprising in this case since it is clearly a comedy. Nonetheless, clever writing is always worth mentioning, especially when it contributes to such a pleasant viewing experience. And 'pleasant' is an apt way to describe this sweet and funny film. Just like the recently discussed King Solomon's Mines, Father of the Bride is also well aware of its own genre and is successful precisely because it is simple and straightforward.
With the release of the 1991 Steve Martin remake, the comparisons are inevitable, especially considering both were big hits at the box office. Having the benefit of a modern sensibility, the newer version might be considered more accessible to a modern audience. However, the original stands up very well. For a film from 1950, it doesn't feel as old-fashioned as it could. Plus, the original garnered three Oscar nominations - three more than the remake.
Spencer Tracy carries the film superbly. From the opening monologue, his casual style creates an incredibly affable character which makes it that much easier to take this journey with him. It also accentuates the 'aww' factor when Stanley recognises that he is losing his daughter. At eighteen, Elizabeth Taylor was already an experienced actress and she is charmingly sweet as daddy's little girl. And yes, that's Glinda the Good Witch, Billie Burke, as Buckley's mother.