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Proud father Stanley Banks remembers the day his daughter, Kay, got married. Starting when she announces her engagement through to the wedding itself, we learn of all the surprises and disasters along the way. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FATHER OF THE BRIDE tells the tale of how the once perfectly serene Banks household, led by genial would-be patriarch Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy), deals with the trials and tribulations that come with the wedding of the family's sweet daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) to her earnest suitor Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor). Pretty much anything that can cause a father's hair to gather even more grey streaks happens in the run-up to this wedding--first, the bills (as indicated in the tagline to the film) start pouring in... then he realises that his wife Ellie (a Joan Bennett almost unrecognisable from her role as Amy March in 1933's LITTLE WOMEN) never got the church wedding she wanted, so he gives in and splashes out for Kay. The guest lists swell beyond his expectations and financial means; the caterer belittles the planned menu *and* the Buckley home; and Kay fights with Buckley and (temporarily, but hair-raisingly) calls off the wedding. In fact, amidst the mess and chaos of the actual wedding itself, the father of the bride doesn't even get to kiss the bride goodbye.
All this might seem mighty familiar to anyone who's seen a 1991 film which, oddly enough, bears the same title, but stars Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and (in a hilarious turn as the effete wedding coordinator) Martin Short instead. The film is, of course, a remake, retaining a great deal of the original 1950 film's dialogue and situations, while updating it for modern times and developing the relationship of the characters further. For example, the two Banks brothers are eliminated for a younger baby brother for Annie (no longer Kay), played by Kieran Culkin. As I recall, the relationship between father and daughter is also better fleshed-out in the remake, as is that between the patriarch and matriarch of the family.
However, even though the 1991 remake is one of the most credible remakes of a classic film ever (I would willingly watch the remake--not something I can say for several other similarly presumptuous films), there are still some areas in which it falls far short of the original. Almost all of these areas have to do with the fact that the remake is lacking its own Spencer Tracy--it is his grasp of the role that makes the original film worth seeing to begin with; otherwise one could just as easily watch the remake and not lose very much in the translation. While Steve Martin does a great job as the title character, Spencer Tracy does a *defining* job. Diane Keaton just about every other scene from Martin (as does Kieran Culkin); Spencer Tracy dominates all the scenes he's in. He plays his role perfectly, with just the right amount of frustration, genuine bemusement, and abiding adoration for his only daughter.
One scene early on in the film captures exactly what Tracy contributes to his role (as he does to all his others): Stanley lies restless in bed, unable to sleep for worrying over Kay's announcement of her intent to marry Buckley. When he wakes Ellie up and starts complaining, watch Tracy as he keeps listing the different things there are to be worried about--he keeps fidgeting on the bed, almost lying back and then snapping upright again when a new horrifying thought enters his mind. The entire scene just rings of truth and you realise just what a great actor Spencer Tracy is, even in slight fare like FATHER OF THE BRIDE.
In the end, although FATHER OF THE BRIDE has a clever script and a generally good supporting cast (Taylor appears beautiful but rather blank most of the time), it is held together by the commanding performance given by Spencer Tracy, and for that reason, becomes a film worth watching. It might also be worth your while to catch the remake, if you haven't already. Both films are sweet and utterly likeable, and a fun way to spend an evening. :)
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