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Father of the Bride, a delightful comedy about the effects of an impending marriage on a middle-class American family, starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. It had been such a smash hit upon its release in 1950 that MGM released the sequel -- Father's Little Dividend (1951) -- a mere ten months after the original. In it, we find that the curmudgeonly patriarch, Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy), is still recovering from the shock of his daughter's wedding to Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor) and must now deal with becoming a grandfather.
MGM had registered the tentative title of Now I'm a Grandfather for the sequel while Father of the Bride was still in production, and since most of the cast and crew were under contract to MGM at the time, producer Pandro Berman was easily able to reassemble them for the speedy 23-day shoot. Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich teamed up again on the screenplay, which eventually was titled Father's Little Dividend. Although director Vincente Minnelli was in the midst of shooting his next film, An American in Paris (1951), Berman was adamant about having the same director helm the second film. So, Minnelli arranged to do Father's Little Dividend during a break during An American in Paris while he waited on sets to be completed for its famous ballet sequence.
Despite the success of Father of the Bride, Spencer Tracy wasn't keen on doing a sequel since he believed that they rarely lived up to the originals, and he wanted a bigger challenge than playing a role he had already done before. Tracy's paramour Katharine Hepburn, however, convinced him to change his mind with the argument that he owed it to the studio and that it made good business sense to do it.
Like the first shoot on Father of the Bride, Father's Little Dividend proved to be a pleasure for everyone involved. However, the offscreen lives of the key actors involved didn't always live up to the picture perfect world of the Banks and Dunstan families in the films. During the buzz surrounding Father of the Bride, all eyes had been on gorgeous ingenue Elizabeth Taylor as life imitated art and she became a real-life bride for the first time with a much publicized wedding to hotel heir Nicky Hilton. During the filming of Father's Little Dividend, however, Taylor's marriage was unraveling, and by the time the sequel was released, she had already filed for divorce.
When Father's Little Dividend became another big hit for the studio, there was talk of making a third installment, with hopes that the Banks family might become another cash cow for the studio in the same vein as the Andy Hardy family series. However, that never came to pass after actress Joan Bennett, who played Mrs. Banks, became embroiled in a scandal that had an adverse effect on her film career. Bennett's husband at the time, Walter Wanger, believed her to be having an affair with her long-time agent Jennings Lang. One night not long after Father's Little Dividend was released, Wanger confronted Bennett and Lang in a restaurant parking lot and shot Lang in the groin. Bennett's career never fully recovered after that, and as a result there were no more Father of the Bride movies.
Father of the Bride and Father's Little Dividend were both successfully re-made with comedian Steve Martin in the Spencer Tracy role and Diane Keaton as his ever-patient wife. The first one, bearing the same title, was released in 1991 and the sequel, Father of the Bride II, hit theaters in 1995.
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Screenplay: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich
Art Direction: Leonid Vasian, Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: John Alton
Editing: Ferris Webster
Music: Albert Sendrey
Principal Cast: Spencer Tracy (Stanley T. Banks), Joan Bennett (Ellie Banks), Elizabeth Taylor (Kay Dunstan), Don Taylor (Buckley Dunstan), Billie Burke (Mrs. Doris Dunstan), Russ Tamblyn (Tommy Banks), Moroni Olsen (Herbert Dunstan).
BW-82m. Closed captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume