A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Father of the Bride, released in 1950, is a classic, beloved family comedy that clearly embraces the gender roles and values of its time. In beautiful black and white, Spencer Tracy holds fast to center stage as he undergoes the trials and tribulations of watching his cherished daughter grow up and commit to marriage while he takes on the responsibility for the wedding, a bash of escalating proportions with all the attending chaos and pleasure. Some of the mid-20th-century values accepted here include: the man as the family breadwinner and main emotional support; the wife as supportive and loving, while making sure her needs and desires are met; and the young woman's sole objective being to find "the one" and move into the next phase of her life -- marriage. An African-American housekeeper is devoted and well-loved. Social drinking is an intrinsic part of the upper-middle-class lifestyle portrayed here; in one scene, the father becomes a bit tipsy and falls asleep. A remake of this film, 1991's Father of the Bride, was a favorite in its time and serves as a wonderful companion piece to this earlier movie.
What's the story?
Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy) is confounded, concerned, and discombobulated when he realizes that his only daughter is about to get married in FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950). Kay (the incomparable young Elizabeth Taylor), springs the news upon her unsuspecting dad and delighted mom (Joan Bennett) at the dinner table on a very ordinary night. But this is not ordinary news. Stanley hasn't yet faced the fact that his "Kitten" has grown up. He's initially incredulous, then protective, then actually frightened at the thought of losing her to any number of loutish suitors. Who is this Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor), anyway? But things move quickly in the Banks household. First comes Buckley, then his family, and then, with great pomp and circumstance, the production of a small wedding that gets big, bigger, biggest and threatens to spiral out of comic control.
Is it any good?
Lustrous black-and-white film, sparkling performances, and relatable comic moments never overpower the heart of this classic movie -- a father's love for his emerging, now grown-up daughter. Old school in its values and gender roles, this 1950 movie looks back at an upper-middle-class, white, loving family whose challenges are definitely what are now called "first-world problems." And planning a wedding is always fodder for comedy -- twenty-first-century "destination" weddings and families willing to take out second mortgages are with us now. So, it's with great nostalgia that we look back at Stanley's shock when he discovers that he might have to "fork over" more than $3 per person for food and $85 for an orchestra. Spencer Tracy is in top form here; Elizabeth Taylor is at her most beautiful and most charming. Overall, the best way to enjoy Father of the Bride is to look fondly on times past like these with trousseaus and shopping sprees and evening gowns, even if it means overlooking the fact that a bride in 1950 didn't choose her own honeymoon, let alone her own future.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about all the differences between life in the 1950s as it is seen in Father of the Bride and life as it is now. Think about male-female roles, advances for women, and the basic family structure.
Given all of the above, which primary emotional experiences are the same across the generations?
Think about the fact that this film is in black and white. Filmmakers used textures, lighting, shading, and gradations of gray to help create mood and authenticity. It was clear that the sets and costumes in this movie were bright, colorful, and rich. Can a viewer who is accustomed to color in movies also learn to appreciate the subtlety of black-and-white film? What are some reasons that filmmakers today choose black and white for specific films?
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