Father of the Bride (1950): Review
Spencer Tracy is one of those rare actors who can do no wrong regardless of the role, or genre. And he proves it once again as the title character in Father of the Bride as a man who feels befuddled, under appreciated, and often the fool.
Father of the Bride is a solid representation of Tracy later in his career, when comedic parts came more often than before, and for good reason. When not winning Oscars for his straight dramatic roles Tracey was often seen in lighthearted turns opposite Katharine Hepburn (Pat and Mike, The Desk Set), and the chemistry was impeccable. This was particularly impressive because in dramas he could be very intense, but in comedies he was warm, kind and all heart. Basically, Tracy naturally projected the attributes anyone would long for in the ideal father, and director Vincente Minnelli (An American in Paris, Lust for Life) used that persona to great advantage when placing the distinguished actor in one undermining situation after another.
The film is all about a father who prepares for his daughter’s wedding and discovers that he’s losing his place in that daughter’s life, becoming less important to her every step of the way. Only an actor with a steadfast character of his own could keep the comedic character from becoming a gross caricature. Of course, it helps that Tracey can’t help but bring nobility to every scene regardless of the indignities placed upon him. He even pulls off some great physical comedy, first in a scene involving an old ill-fitting tuxedo, and then later in a scene where he’s opening some coke bottles. Both situations demonstrate his underutilized ability to be a great straight man, and his willingness to be the butt of a joke, making you long for more opportunities to see Tracey in a funny role.
Joan Bennett (Little Women, Scarlet Street) does a solid job as Tracy’s enthralled wife. Distracted by the details of planning her only daughter’s wedding she just can’t understand what her husband is upset about. And a young and pre-nuptial Elizabeth Taylor (A Place in the Sun, Giant) portrays the loveliest bride you’ll ever see in any Hollywood movie. With familiar situations and a happy outcome this is a film everyone will appreciate. But a special warning should be given to young fathers of little girls: Look sharp and take note, because your day as the most important man in your daughter’s life is coming to an end much sooner than you think!
Burt Reynolds, a huge admirer of Spencer Tracy’s once described him as “the universal man”, or a man with whom everyone could relate, and the kind of basic man anyone would be content to be. In Father of the Bride Tracy is just that and more as he surpasses the requirements of being a man and embraces the necessities of fatherhood. He’s honest, steadfast and true, and eventually learns to let go when the time comes - a terrific embodiment of the ultimate father.