Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weddings in Film ~ Big Wedding or Small Wedding? ~ The Catered Affair (1956)

My Weddings in Film series explores the different stages of getting married as seen through classic movies. The second film, The Catered Affair (1956), asks the question: Big wedding or small wedding?

Now that you've found the right person and you are engaged to be married, it's time to plan the wedding. But should it be a big catered affair or a small intimate gathering? This is a common dilemma among many families. While a rich family can throw money around for a lavish spectacle, poor and middle-class families are not at liberty to spend such money without putting a lot of thought into whether a big wedding would be worth the expense.

Sometimes it's not a matter of just choosing whether it should be a big or small wedding. There are other factors in play, including familial pressure and obligation as well as reputation and appearance of status. A couple can have the best intentions for a small wedding but things can quickly spiral out of control. 

For any bride or groom who expects the world to stop for their wedding, watching The Catered Affair (1956) should be a sobering experience. The movie stars Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine as Mr. and Mrs. Hurley. They live in a poor neighborhood and Mr. Hurley, a taxi driver, has been saving and scrimping for years to get enough money to buy cab and a medallion with his buddy Sam. This would be a step up for Mr. Hurley and could earn him and his family more money in the long run.

The story hits you upside the head at the very beginning. Just watching poor Mr. Hurley (Ernest Borgnine) get excited over his new cab and you know something is going to get in the way of his big dream.

Mr. and Mrs. Hurley's only daughter Jane (Debbie Reynolds) is recently engaged to Ralph (Rod Taylor). Both Jane and Ralph are perfectly content to go to their church and have a small wedding with no reception. Problem is, they have to get married within the next few days as Ralph will be able to borrow a car for a limited amount of time so they can go on a honeymoon. Everyone, including Mr. and Mrs. Hurley seem okay with this. But then people start getting ideas. Neighbors, friends, family and especially Uncle Jack (Barry Fitzgerald). At first they weren't even going to invite Uncle Jack, because even though he lives with them he's not immediate family. If they invite him, they'll have to invite all their aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Uncle Jack is terribly offended that he can't come and doesn't understand why they can't have a big wedding. This is where the problem really starts.

You can't help but feel terrible for all of the main characters. Should Mr. Hurley give up his money to give his only daughter a wedding with all the trimmings? Mrs. Hurley feels terrible that she didn't have a proper relationship with her daughter Jane. She wants to give Jane the wedding she herself never had. How can they make it up to a daughter whom they've neglected for years and who didn't even think to ask her parents for a catered affair?

Mrs. Hurley is determined, despite the protests from Mr. Hurley and Jane. to give her daughter the "real wedding" she deserves. This is where the costs start to mount up: food, limos, flowers, centerpieces, wedding dress, etc. It's too much! What's a poor family from the Bronx to do?

"Look, I want you to have this one fine thing, with all the trimmings. Something to remember when the bad days come and you are all wore out." - Bette Davis as Mrs. Hurley

This film just kills me! It made me more grateful for the wedding I'm about to have, which isn't small but isn't a big lavish affair either. This movie should be required viewing for all couples getting married! So do Jane and Ralph have a big catered affair? You'll just have to watch the movie to find out.

The Catered Affair (1956) is available on DVD-R through Warner Archive. 
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Movies selected are rented from Classicflix or purchased from Warner Archive, Classicflix or TCM. This series is not sponsored by Warner Archive.

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