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Father of the Bride

When director Charles Shyer set out to remake the classic 1950 film Father of the Bride, he chose his wife Nancy Meyers to help him produce and rewrite the original screenplay (by another husband-and-wife team, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett). To take on Spencer Tracy's role (which earned the actor an Academy Award nomination), they picked comedian Steve Martin as George Stanley Banks. The name "George Banks" was chosen for David Tomlinson's character in Mary Poppins (1964) and the middle name Stanley had been Spencer Tracy's character. Diane Keaton was cast in Joan Bennett's role as Mrs. Banks and Kimberly Williams replaced first choice Phoebe Cates (who became pregnant) for Elizabeth Taylor's part as the bride whose upcoming wedding has her father's life in an uproar. George Newbern updated Don Taylor's role as her fiancé, and two actors, B.D. Wong and Martin Short were the wedding planners, which venerable character actor Leo G. Carroll played in the original. One member of the cast, Tom Irish, made his film debut as Ben Banks in the 1950 film and played the same character forty-one years later in the remake.

The film was shot at locations around Southern California, including the Trinity Baptist Church in Santa Monica, San Marino, Pasadena, and Melrose Place in West Hollywood. The five bedroom, four bathroom house in Alhambra that was used for the exterior shots was on the market in 2011 for over a million dollars. It still had the backyard arbor built for the film.

For Martin Short, shooting Father of the Bride was a happy experience. "Steve and I are old friends. Diane Keaton, you just fall in love with her. Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer are just spectacular." Not quite so happy to shoot was the scene of the two dogs forcing Steve Martin into the pool. Conan and Josie went up to Martin on cue but instead of menacing him, Conan walked around Martin and paid attention to Josie. After several takes, director Shyer had Martin fall into the pool and later got another set of dogs to do the scene right.

Father of the Bride was a film that Steve Martin had grown up with and considered to be a classic, which gave him big shoes to fill when he was given the role. He likened it to going from small comedy clubs to enormous stadiums, "[Y]ou go 'I can't do this,' until they introduce you. And you walk out and you do it." Having come of age in the 1960s, Martin saw this film as the first movie to acknowledge what everyone already knew - that the "hippie laurel-wreath standing-on-the-mountaintop marriage" ceremony was over and large, formal weddings were now the norm. For Martin, this was the first time "I looked at a movie I was in and liked myself."

Not everyone liked Martin. Although the film made over $89 million in the United States, critics were mixed in their reaction. Dan Webster of The Spokesman-Review felt that Martin was simply recycling his old schtick. "Who he is shows through every movie he makes, from his backwoods dufus in The Jerk (1979) to the stressed-out father in Parenthood (1989). Whether a film of his will appeal to you often depends on how much you like him, and such is the case with Father of the Bride." Lawrence Toppman of Knight-Ridder wrote that the film would "appeal to those who find romance in The Love Boat, humor in the gibberish-spouting foreigner on Perfect Strangers, and comfort in the belief that Daddy can make no gesture more fond than to spend $100,000 on his daughter's nuptials." However, Desson Howe of The Washington Post called the film "so funny it's sublime. The explanation is simple: it's all Steve Martin. The rest of the movie, alas, is regrets only."

Hallmark had no regrets in cashing in on the success of the film; they used Williams and Newbern in a series of commercials for bridal cards. The studio had enough faith in Martin at the box office to green-light a 1995 sequel Father of the Bride Part II, which did not live up to the success of the first film.

Life imitated art for Kimberly Williams when she became the real-life bride of country singer Brad Paisley in 2003. Steve Martin became a father for the first time in 2012 at the age of 67, when his wife gave birth to a baby girl, whose name he claimed on Late Show with David Letterman is Conquistador.

By Lorraine LoBianco

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Sources:

Benenson, Laurie Halper "Father of the Bride Scriptwriters and Life Partners, Too" The New York Times 27 Dec 91

Blank, Ed "Father of the Bride Finds Comic Niche" The Pittsburg Press 17 Dec 91.

Howe, Desson "Father of the Bride" The Washington Post 20 Dec 91.

"Steve Martin Named His Daughter 'Conquistador' To Avoid 'Those Weird Hollywood Names'" The Huffington Post 26 Apr 13.

Radloff, Jessica Guess What House We Visited? Father of the Bride! Check out the Pics!

"Father of the Bride House Up for Sale" WENN. 20 June 11.

Webster, Dan "Father of the Bride is For Die-Hard Steve Martin Fans Only" The Spokesman-Review 20 Dec 91

Willistein, Paul "A Wild and Crazy Old Guy Steve Martin is 'The Father of the Bride'" The Morning Call 20 Dec 91

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