The Catered Affair


1h 33m 1956
The Catered Affair

Brief Synopsis

A working-class mother fights to give her daughter a big wedding whether the girl wants it or not.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 22, 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Jun 1956
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the teleplay "The Catered Affair" by Paddy Chayefsky on Goodyear Television Playhouse (NBC, 22 May 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8,411ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

As New Yorker Tom Hurley completes his shift, his friend, Sam Leiter, tells him the cab they have been wanting to purchase is available at an affordable price. Thrilled that his dream of owning his own cab is about to come true, Tom returns to his cramped Bronx apartment to find his wife, grown children and brother-in-law just beginning their day. Daughter Jane remarks that as her fiancé, Ralph Halloran, has been asked to drive a car to California on the following Tuesday, she and Ralph have decided to get married beforehand and honeymoon on the way. Jane's mother Aggie wants to give her daughter a big wedding, but Jane insists that there be "no wedding reception, no nothin'," just a simple ceremony with immediate family. When Aggie breaks the news to her Irish-born brother Jack, who has lived in the Hurley apartment for the past twelve years, he is thoroughly delighted. Upon learning that he is not invited to the wedding, however, Uncle Jack indignantly exits the apartment. News of the impending marriage travels quickly, and at the fish market, Aggie is besieged with questions from curious friends and neighbors. Why the rush, they ask, is Jane in trouble? Ralph's parents, who live in a nicer part of town, also want a big wedding, and while having dinner at the Hurley apartment that evening, they reminisce about the grand affairs they staged for Ralph's sisters. Just then, Uncle Jack stumbles in and drunkenly announces that because the couple does not consider him part of the immediate family, he will be moving out in the morning. Embarrassed by Jack's behavior and ashamed of her family's sorry financial situation, Aggie insists that Jane have a large wedding, even though, as Tom reminds her, the expense will deplete their savings. Aggie's regrets about her own unceremonious wedding following her brother's offering money to Tom to marry her, and the disappointing years of marriage that followed it, trouble her so deeply that Jane finally consents to having a catered affair. Jane's best friend Alice, who is to be the matron of honor, meets mother and daughter at a bridal salon, but later, she shamefully confesses that her husband has lost his job and that she has no money for a dress. That afternoon, while interviewing the caterer at the Hotel Concourse Plaza, Tom repeatedly expresses horror at the cost of the food, flowers and limousines, and that night, Jane learns that Ralph's mother has invited twice as many guests as she had originally listed. On Sunday, Sam arrives to discuss the cab partnership, and as Jane listens, her father explains that he will be unable to participate. Uncle Jack announces that he has given a wedding invitation to his good friend, Mrs. Rafferty, and when Tom forbids this, Jack again threatens to move out. Aggie argues with Tom, and as the shouting reaches its peak, Jane exclaims that she is calling off the wedding. Later, Ralph and Jane meet Alice and her husband Bill, who have borrowed money in order to participate in the wedding. Touched, Jane explains that the wedding will be small, as originally planned. Meanwhile, Jack and Mrs. Rafferty decide that as he is moving out of the Hurley house anyway, they should marry and share an apartment. Realizing that when her son leaves for Fort Dix in the fall, she will be alone with her husband for the first time since they were married, Aggie bursts into tears. Tom protests that Aggie should have offered him sympathy rather than criticism for being unable to provide a better life for his children, and when she refuses to listen, he gets drunk and falls asleep. On the morning of the wedding, Aggie gazes at her sleeping husband, and when he finally awakens, she admits that she was wrong. The important thing, she declares, is that together, they witness their daughter's marriage. Aggie then telephones Sam, who drives the now happy couple to church in the new cab.

Photo Collections

The Catered Affair - Advertising Art
Here are a few pieces of advertising art prepared by MGM to publicize The Catered Affair (1956), starring Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, and Debbie Reynolds.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 22, 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Jun 1956
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the teleplay "The Catered Affair" by Paddy Chayefsky on Goodyear Television Playhouse (NBC, 22 May 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8,411ft (10 reels)

Articles

The Catered Affair


Like many Hollywood actresses, Bette Davis always dreamed of getting the glamour treatment at MGM. But she spent the bulk of her career at the more economy-minded Warner Bros. Not that they failed her in the glitz department. But MGM was Hollywood's House of Glamour, with such beauties as Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and Ava Gardner under contract. It wasn't until the fifties, when her career was in a temporary slump, that Davis finally got the MGM treatment. But by then the studio was more interested in gritty realism, and Davis wound up playing a Bronx housewife with a grown daughter in The Catered Affair (1956). That hardly set her back. Davis was always more interested in the role than the look. But it certainly was ironic that while using Lana Turner's old dressing room, she had a wardrobe of housedresses bought off the rack in Brooklyn. She even powdered her arms to make them look heavier.

The Catered Affair started as a television drama by Paddy Chayefsky, the author of such realistic stories as Marty and The Bachelor Party. For the film version, MGM signed Marty's screen portrayer, Ernest Borgnine. Thelma Ritter had played the female lead, a broken-down housewife who fights to use the family savings to give her daughter the big wedding she'd never had. She was a big screen favorite at the time, but director Richard Brooks decided he wanted Davis, much to the displeasure of studio executives, who feared she'd be too much the diva for the simple character study. But Brooks had just scored a big hit directing the trail-blazing juvenile delinquency expose, Blackboard Jungle (1955), and he got his way. Once he'd pushed Davis on them as leading lady (and novelist Gore Vidal as screenwriter), he had to give in on something, so he accepted the studio's choice to play Davis's daughter, Debbie Reynolds.

Davis immediately impressed Brooks with her commitment to realism. She traveled to New York to study women in the slums and even worked to master the speech of Irish-American housewives. Brooks suggested she model her characterization on his mother, whom he described as suffering all the time. As he would later tell Davis biographer Charles Higham, "My mother would just put her hand on her heart and say constantly, 'You want to make me suffer? You want to do this to me?'" That was all Davis needed to hear. To Brooks' astonishment, she transformed herself into the image of a woman she had never met.

For her big emotional scene, in which she breaks into tears when her plans fall apart, Brooks asked her for deep, over-powering sobs. She informed him that she could give him what he wanted, but only once. Brooks spent two hours setting up the difficult shot, which tracked her through the entire apartment until she broke down in the bedroom. In preparation, Davis sat apart, concentrating on the role. When the time came, she took her place, signaled Brooks that she was ready, and got the scene in one take.

Davis also did everything she could to help her co-stars. She loved working with Borgnine and was particularly thrilled when he won the OscarÆ for Marty during filming. She took young Ray Stricklyn, who played her son, under her wing and helped him learn the ins and outs of the business. When she realized how unhappy Brooks was with Reynolds, whom he derisively referred to as "Debbie Dimples" and "Miss Hollywood," she devoted extra time to rehearsing with her and giving her points about screen acting (Reynolds had done mostly musicals at that time). As a result, Reynolds scored a personal triumph in the role, winning the National Board of Review's award for Best Supporting Actress.

The critics had mixed reactions to Davis. Though some thought she had suppressed her famous mannerisms to get inside the character, others said she looked like a grand dame slumming. As a result, the film did not do well at U.S. box offices. Things were different in England, however, where the critics hailed her performance. In later years, Davis would consider the film one of her proudest achievements. When she toured with a program of clips from her greatest films, the scene from The Catered Affair in which she informs Reynolds "You're going to have a wedding whether you like it or not!" always moved the audience to roars of approval.

Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Director: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Gore Vidal
Based on the Teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky
Cinematography: John Alton
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse
Music: Andre Previn
Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Mrs. Tom Hurley), Ernest Borgnine (Tom Hurley), Debbie Reynolds (Jane Hurley), Barry Fitzgerald (Uncle Jack Conlon), Rod Taylor (Ralph Halloran), Dorothy Stickney (Mrs. Rafferty), Ray Stricklyn (Eddie Hurley), Mae Clarke (Saleswoman).
BW-94m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning

by Frank Miller

The Catered Affair

The Catered Affair

Like many Hollywood actresses, Bette Davis always dreamed of getting the glamour treatment at MGM. But she spent the bulk of her career at the more economy-minded Warner Bros. Not that they failed her in the glitz department. But MGM was Hollywood's House of Glamour, with such beauties as Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and Ava Gardner under contract. It wasn't until the fifties, when her career was in a temporary slump, that Davis finally got the MGM treatment. But by then the studio was more interested in gritty realism, and Davis wound up playing a Bronx housewife with a grown daughter in The Catered Affair (1956). That hardly set her back. Davis was always more interested in the role than the look. But it certainly was ironic that while using Lana Turner's old dressing room, she had a wardrobe of housedresses bought off the rack in Brooklyn. She even powdered her arms to make them look heavier. The Catered Affair started as a television drama by Paddy Chayefsky, the author of such realistic stories as Marty and The Bachelor Party. For the film version, MGM signed Marty's screen portrayer, Ernest Borgnine. Thelma Ritter had played the female lead, a broken-down housewife who fights to use the family savings to give her daughter the big wedding she'd never had. She was a big screen favorite at the time, but director Richard Brooks decided he wanted Davis, much to the displeasure of studio executives, who feared she'd be too much the diva for the simple character study. But Brooks had just scored a big hit directing the trail-blazing juvenile delinquency expose, Blackboard Jungle (1955), and he got his way. Once he'd pushed Davis on them as leading lady (and novelist Gore Vidal as screenwriter), he had to give in on something, so he accepted the studio's choice to play Davis's daughter, Debbie Reynolds. Davis immediately impressed Brooks with her commitment to realism. She traveled to New York to study women in the slums and even worked to master the speech of Irish-American housewives. Brooks suggested she model her characterization on his mother, whom he described as suffering all the time. As he would later tell Davis biographer Charles Higham, "My mother would just put her hand on her heart and say constantly, 'You want to make me suffer? You want to do this to me?'" That was all Davis needed to hear. To Brooks' astonishment, she transformed herself into the image of a woman she had never met. For her big emotional scene, in which she breaks into tears when her plans fall apart, Brooks asked her for deep, over-powering sobs. She informed him that she could give him what he wanted, but only once. Brooks spent two hours setting up the difficult shot, which tracked her through the entire apartment until she broke down in the bedroom. In preparation, Davis sat apart, concentrating on the role. When the time came, she took her place, signaled Brooks that she was ready, and got the scene in one take. Davis also did everything she could to help her co-stars. She loved working with Borgnine and was particularly thrilled when he won the OscarÆ for Marty during filming. She took young Ray Stricklyn, who played her son, under her wing and helped him learn the ins and outs of the business. When she realized how unhappy Brooks was with Reynolds, whom he derisively referred to as "Debbie Dimples" and "Miss Hollywood," she devoted extra time to rehearsing with her and giving her points about screen acting (Reynolds had done mostly musicals at that time). As a result, Reynolds scored a personal triumph in the role, winning the National Board of Review's award for Best Supporting Actress. The critics had mixed reactions to Davis. Though some thought she had suppressed her famous mannerisms to get inside the character, others said she looked like a grand dame slumming. As a result, the film did not do well at U.S. box offices. Things were different in England, however, where the critics hailed her performance. In later years, Davis would consider the film one of her proudest achievements. When she toured with a program of clips from her greatest films, the scene from The Catered Affair in which she informs Reynolds "You're going to have a wedding whether you like it or not!" always moved the audience to roars of approval. Producer: Sam Zimbalist Director: Richard Brooks Screenplay: Gore Vidal Based on the Teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky Cinematography: John Alton Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse Music: Andre Previn Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Mrs. Tom Hurley), Ernest Borgnine (Tom Hurley), Debbie Reynolds (Jane Hurley), Barry Fitzgerald (Uncle Jack Conlon), Rod Taylor (Ralph Halloran), Dorothy Stickney (Mrs. Rafferty), Ray Stricklyn (Eddie Hurley), Mae Clarke (Saleswoman). BW-94m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning by Frank Miller

Quotes

You're going to have a big wedding whether you like it or not! And if you don't like it, you don't have to come!
- Agnes Hurley

Trivia

Notes

As noted in news items and in reviews, exteriors for the film were shot on location in New York City. Although Hollywood Reporter news items reported that Leslie Nielson was cast as "Debbie Reynolds' boyfriend," that role was taken over by Rod Taylor. Paddy Chayefsky's original television drama starred Thelma Ritter and Pat Henning and was directed by Robert Mulligan.
       In June 2007, it was announced in New York Times that a musical adaptation of Chayefsky's screenplay for A Catered Affair was being prepared for a September 2007 opening at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, with an eventual Broadway booking anticipated. John Bucchino wrote the score for the musical, with a book supplied by actor-writer Harvey Fierstein, who was to appear in the role of "Uncle Jack."

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1956 National Board of Review.

Winner of the Best Actress Award (Reynolds) by the 195 National Board of Review.

Released in United States Summer June 1956

Released in United States Summer June 1956