Weddings are everything a daughter dreams of and a father dreads. With so many bridal shows today only building up the bride, I’m afraid of how many modern brides are forgetting about their fathers. The average wedding today is about $25, 000, a price that would bring Spencer Tracy’s Mr. Banks a swift heart attack. Though today’s weddings bend rules more and more, there are still those who keep to the tradition of letting the bride’s father foot the bill. Father of the Bride shows that there’s more stresses and sacrifices than money for the lovable patriarch.
The whole film keeps to the perspective of Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy) from first hearing about his only daughter’s new boyfriend, through the stressful planning and all the wedding festivities. Regularly, Stanley’s inner thoughts will enter over a scene, “You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. She looks up to you…” It’s important to understand what Stanley is going through, how he comprehends this wedding and his motives behind all his actions. No matter the price or the stress, one thing stays constant: he wants his daughter to be happy.
Most will remember the 1991 remake staring Steve Martin better than the original. The remake sticks closely to the original script but adds Martin’s brand of comedy and updates a some details into the 90’s. While I applaud keeping this lovable story alive for new generations, the idea of a sequel made me cringe, even as a child.
While I still love Martin and appreciate his interpretation, he’s no match for the wonderful Spencer Tracy. He runs the film as his character is pushed by a runaway wedding. On the surface, without aid of his internal thoughts, Tracy makes Stanley look like a cranky old man at times, “Orchestra? No you’ve got the wrong number.” When he is with his daughter, the hard surface melts away, he tries to make everything perfect for her and he becomes a big sweetheart. None of these moments are overtly sweet or “awww” inducing, but simply wonderful and heartwarming. This perfect balance between cheap, cranky, sweet and lovable earned Tracy an Oscar nomination for best actor.
The nightmare Stanley has the night before the wedding is partially designed by Salador Dali. After Dali’s hand in Spellbound, he was reluctant to work with another Hollywood film. The images are less intense than Dali’s usual work. In it, Stanley arrives late for the wedding, people glare and scowl at him and he sees the silhouettes of the couple and preacher. As he tries to go down the checkerboard aisle, the floor sinks beneath him, pulls him down ripping his pants and stretching his leg. He struggles futilely and is awakened when his daughter turns around and screams at the sight of him. This scene is only about a minute long, but the idea from the images are clear: Stanley is nervous and reluctant to admit that his daughter is grown up. I wonder how many brides father’s have had similar nightmares.
The original Father of the Bride is absolutely wonderful, charming and perfectly sweet. If you have a wedding in the near future, you must see this film, don’t settle for Steve Martin. And all you Bridezillas out there better thank your dads for putting up with all that you do. Though he doesn’t really need the praise, it’s nice to know that he’s appreciated through this hard transitional period that is a wedding.
“But she’s not a woman. She’s still a child. And she’s leaving us.”