Main Features No 67
Reviewing Father’s Little Dividend (1951)
This charming comic original sequel tells of Stanley Banks in the run up becoming a first time grandfather. This film was remade with Steve Martin as Father of the Bride Part II (1995).
FATHER’S LITTLE DIVIDEND TRAILER, ripper039, http://www.youtube.com and photos © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Today’s review is Father’s Little Dividend (1950), the sequel to Father of the Bride (1950). Father of the Bride introduced us to of the Banks’ family, and told of the announcement and preparations for the wedding of Stanley Banks’ only daughter. This successful movie was narrated by the grandfather to be himself, played by Spencer Tracy. The original film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor in a Lead Role for Tracy. It was remade with a cast including Steve Martin as George Banks (was Stanley), Diane Keaton as his wife and Kimberly Williams Paisley as his daughter.
Father’s Little Dividend is like International Velvet (1978), in that it can also be seen as a stand alone movie. The writers won a writer’s award. Director Vincente Minnelli was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures award for the film. Vincente Minnelli directed both movies, and directed Father’s Little Dividend in 22 days, while he waited for his An American in Paris (1951) sets to be built. The writers also won a writer’s award. Father’s Little Dividend reunited Tracy with the original cast of Joan Bennett playing his wife Ellie and a young Elizabeth Taylor playing his daughter, Kay. The cast playing Kay’s screen husband Buckley (Don Taylor) and screen in-laws, the Dunstans – Doris (Billie Burke) and Herbert (Moroni Olsen) also returned. The title is explained by Joan Bennett during the movie as that as grandparents they can enjoy all the perks but none of the responsibilities of having a grandchild, like a dividend.
The story starts in a similar way to the first movie with Banks sitting in his favourite armchair and next to him is a wedding photograph of his daughter. Then he talks to us via the fourth wall about how his life changed in the last year. We then flashbackwards to the previous year, Banks tells us of his optimism as everything is going well for him and his family. He meets his family at home and after he surprises his wife with a passionate kiss, she tells him they are visiting his daughter. On there he shares his happiness with his wife, saying they should take a holiday. On their arrival, they reunite with the Dunstans and believing the champagne is to celebrate a new work contract Banks is shocked when Kay announces her pregnancy.
While the others are happy for her, Banks is almost shell-shocked – he feels he is too young to be a grandfather – and upset for the couple – and their flat is too small and Kay is just a child herself. Ellie in contrast, is overjoyed and ecstatically wakes their sons, phones her friends and organises a baby shower. She even suggests the newlyweds move in with their family, and makes plans on how to rearrange their home to accommodate them and the baby.
However the in-laws at their next meeting have beaten them to it, and have even consulted their architect with the blueprints to prove it. Banks is upset for his wife at this time, but Kay turns them down. The newlyweds have now bought a house, and Ellie throws her energies into creating a home for her grandchild, but is upset that the Dunstans will organise the nursery with all the mod cons. Ironically decorating the room with characters from The Wizard of Oz (1939) which starred Burke as the Good Witch, and a nice wee in joke for her and Minnelli’s then wife Judy Garland. The two sets of in-laws then have a heated discussion on baby matters at length with conflicting views of what is good or bad advice for Kay’s pregnancy. Kay becomes upset by this, and during a further argument over a suitable names, she runs from the room. Afterwards she asks for her father, and they have a touching scene where he supports his daughter. However, two months later, he gets a phone call in the wee small hours asking if Kay is there. It’s Buckley, who tells Banks he and Kay have had a fight and she’s left him…
With the film’s initial scenes including Banks in his favourite armchair, it is a nice touch reminiscent of the first movie. It was also a nice touch, in these scenes as we connected with Banks when he spoke to us via the fourth wall. Both these attributes, used in the movies – and their remakes – were used to great effect. In watching the remake of Father of the Bride, my father was impressed they kept these touches in from the originals. It was also nice that the casting was the same in both movies which added to the characters development, and something sadly lost in many sequels. It was lovely to have a film from a father’s viewpoint of proceedings, and his feelings towards being a grandparent. The highlights included a nice, wee and amusing montage of his fellow grandparents.
The scenes between Taylor and Tracy need special mention. They were well written and performed sweetly by her and tenderly by him. The actors made these scenes so delightful, that you could almost feel the bond between the characters and their relationship. Tracy played his character convincingly, and you felt part of the movie, easily feeling each part of his transformation of shell-shocked to proud grandfather. So just to mention the remake, Father of the Bride (1991) is enjoyable and well cast, fun and continues the bonami from these movies. However despite the inclusion of some of the better attributes from Father’s Little Dividend, this remake’s sequel, Father of the Bride Part II (1995) has some new plotlines that you won’t be expecting.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Bonus Trailer: Reboot’s Trailer
1995: Father of the Bride 2 Trailer HQ, Only Previews, http://www.youtube.com
Vincente Minnelli Blogathon
This review was included as part of the the Vincente Minnelli Blogathon run by Love Letters to Old Hollywood.