Starring: Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Bennett
Directed By: James Whale
Where I Watched it: VOD
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Description Provided By: Descriptive Video Service
Description Written By: Lisa Benjamin and Samantha Monahan
Narrated By: Margot Stage
The Plot: A middle class father (Tracy) finds his idyllic life upended when his daughter (Taylor) announces she’s planning to marry. And it’s a boy he swears he’s never met. As the wedding approaches, this father realizes he’s in over his head, and over budget, trying to give his daughter a wedding to remember.
What Works: Less of a comedy of errors than later adaptations, this is played pretty straight and I’m sure was very relatable to a wide audience. Tracy really does a great job portraying exactly the kind of hard working, nine-to-five individual you would find in 1950, and Joan Bennett compliments him by giving a performance very reminiscent of so many wives and mothers across television and film at the time that felt very accustomed to their home.
The trappings of these lifestyles and this time period are thrown in old fashioned terms, like how the mother has a garden club she’s a part of, or how even married couples weren’t allowed to be shown in the same bed on screen in 1950, so our bedroom scene features Tracy and Bennett in their two separate twin beds.
Elizabeth Taylor as Kay, the daughter, has this genuine “aw shucks” we see often portrayed even in films that aspire to throwback to this era. Her character feels like she’d be doing just fine in Pleasantville.
The film itself is somewhat limited in scope, as many things were set on soundstages and not on location. So, the less scene changes needed, the better. The ease of transition from room to room, or lack of extra random sequences ultimately give this film that MGM studio vibe of a day and age when actors signed contracts with studios, instead of having the freedom to move from project to project.
It was a pleasant time capsule to. Be sure.
What Doesn’t Work: Being not of this generation, and having already familiarized myself several times over with Steve Martin’s version, I found the lack of intentional comedy to be a weakness. Tracy plays this pretty straight, even when the film pushes into one of the movie’s very few sequences of comedy. It ended up putting this film in second place, even though this was first out of the gate. I can appreciate this film for what it is, and even overlook outdated concepts like the middle class family having a black housekeeper, which feels like something we started moving away from in the 50’s.
But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that this film is just fine. I’m not entirely sure why it needed a Best Picture nomination, as that seems like a bit of a stretch. I’m assuming 1950 was a slow year. But, this film isn’t bad. It’s good, I’m just not convinced this is the kind of level of untouchable classic that stood the test of time since it’s now been remade twice.
The Blind Perspective: This description is provided by (or rather paid for by) the Department Of Education in the version I found. Therefore, I feel like as a taxpayer, this should be something available to me somewhere. Why else would the department of education put audio description on a title if not to make it widely accessible? A private institution, like a film studio, shouldn’t be able to profit off of something made by tax dollars anyway.
But, what I assume was intended for Turner Classic Movies or something, actually is really nice audio description. There was a particular choice around making sure we understood what each of the main characters looked like, giving us as much description about everything from body type, to hairstyle, so we could have a visual as to what the main characters presented as throughout the movie, more so than I usually feel like I get out of a film. Very well done.
Final Thoughts: As I wait for the Andy Garcia remake, looking back at how Spencer Tracy started out as the original Father Of the Bride, earning himself an Oscar nomination, was a nice trip down memory lane. It won’t be my favorite version of this work, but I found it easy to take, and at 90 minutes, it’s a walk down memory lane that won’t take up much of your day.
Final Grade: B+