Two weeks before her 19th birthday, Elizabeth Taylor wed Nicky Hilton, and MGM, for a change, didn't have to worry about a scandal for one of the studio's most valuable stars. Though she had appeared in a few films as a mature adult, Taylor was still perceived as a child star, and "Father of the Bride" seemed the right property to not only cash-in on the publicity of her marriage (which ultimately withered after two weeks), but help the studio deal with its own pains in acknowledging Taylor wasn't a kid anymore.
Based on Edward Streeter's popular novel (which originally began as a serial in Collier's), the Oscar-Nominated screenplay weaves myriad wedding preparation vignettes with dry, acidic narration from Spencer Tracy, playing the well-done lawyer pop, still paying off the mortgage for his white suburban paradise (with 'exotic' maid) when his only daughter becomes engaged to a lad named Buckley.
With the bride's family expected to foot every bill, the film spends a lot of time on the hell and sporadic joy as father and mother (played by former 40s hottie, Joan Bennett) try to keep calm as the chaos of wedding planning kicks into full gear. Along with veteran character actors Billie Burke and Leo G. Carroll, film fans will also recognize the skinny tyke playing Taylor's youngest brother - Rusty (Russ) Tamblyn.
Warner Bros' DVD offers a really nice black and white transfer, showing off the deep grays and dark blacks of John Alton's cinematography. A straightforward mono mix, "Father of the Bride" is very dialogue-heavy, with little music to quicken the pacing, though Adolph Deutsch's score bookends the film.
Included with the film are two newsreels (sadly, missing their original sound): "President Truman Meets Father of the Bride" has the U.S. President shaking hands with Taylor, Bennett, and an impressed Tracy; and "Wedding Bells for Movie Star Elizabeth Taylor" captures the real bride's arrival at the church (with gawking fans, and guest star Van Johnson among the invited) and emerging with new hubby Nicky Hilton. In addition to some production notes, the film's theatrical trailer rounds out the disc.
Shortly after her return from her real honeymoon, Taylor reunited with her main castmates and director Minnelli for the sequel, "Father's Little Dividend" (released on DVD by Madacy) before changing her image and impressing her critics in Paramount's "A Place In The Sun."
Between 1961-2, Myrna Fahey took over the Kay Banks role in a short-lived CBS TV series, and Streeter's novel was filmed and sequelized in 1991 and 1995, with Kimberly Williams as Banks. Streeter's later novel, "Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation," exploited the woes of a pre-National Lampoon vacationing family. The novel was film in 1962 by Twentieth Century-Fox, with uninvited guests wrecking Jimmy Stewart's summer bliss with wife Maureen O'Hara.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan