Movie Article

Genre of the Month: Marital Arts

Weddings to remember -- ''The Philadelphia Story,'' ''Father of the Bride,'' and ''True Love'' are some of the movies that recreate the nuptial experience

The June wedding season is filled with emotion: There's the bliss at the prospect of becoming someone's lifelong partner, and the panic at becoming someone's lifelong partner. Hollywood conveys both the bliss and the panic-and all the emotions in between — in these fine films on the nuptial experience.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Few Hollywood comedies are as sophisticated or as funny as this film. Philip Barry's play gets the royal MGM treatment, with Katharine Hepburn as the Philadelphia blueblood about to wed for the second time, James Stewart and Ruth Hussey as unwelcome reporters at the occasion, and Cary Grant as the first husband who won't go away. George Cukor, the master of genteel entertainment, directs this wise comedy about the marital problems of the very rich. A+

Father of the Bride (1950)
The madness of wedding preparations sets the scene for a classic comedy of anxiety and aggravation. A young and radiant Elizabeth Taylor gets engaged to the man of her dreams and inadvertently unleashes a string of monetary and logistic headaches for her father. As the title character, Spencer Tracy is perfectly frazzled in this good-hearted send-up of the American middle-class way of getting married. A

Royal Wedding (1951)
Fred Astaire is a confirmed bachelor. His sister and hoofing partner, Jane Powell, is a confirmed flirt. Despite their slippery habits, they both manage to get themselves hitched while on tour in London during the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten. The whole experience is heady enough to send Astaire literally dancing on the ceiling. The movie is boy-meets-girl formula, but it overcomes the cliches thanks to Alan Jay Lerner's songs (with Burton Lane) and urbane script and Astaire's dancing B+

The Catered Affair (1956)
Prenuptial arrangements take on a desperate edge as a working-class Bronx family grapples with the demands of a wedding that's beyond their means. Bette Davis stars as a weary housewife determined to give her daughter (Debbie Reynolds) the grand affair she never had, even if it decimates her husband's meager life's savings. Ordinary people wrestling with mundane problems becomes compelling drama. B+

Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
An out-of-town wedding triggers . family and sexual squabbles on both sides of the matrimonial aisle. In the process, all sorts of human foibles are skewered. True to the spirit of the Renee Taylor-Joseph Bologna play, the movie features characters drawn with sharp insight. A great ensemble cast doesn't hurt either, including Beatrice Arthur, Gig Young, and Diane Keaton. A

True Love (1989)
Not every engagement deserves to be carried through to marriage, and this film might serve as a warning — or as simply a good evening in front of the VCR. A low-budget seriocomedy set in an Italian enclave of the Bronx, True Love concerns the final days before a wedding and the jittery groom's juvenile antics. Cowriter-director Nancy Savoca has a sure-handed grasp of her setting and characters. B+

Originally posted May 31, 1991 Published in issue #68 May 31, 1991 Order article reprints
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